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Understanding Hybrid Warfare

Gone are the days of fighting wars in the conventional manner; today’s strategy combines conventional warfare, irregular tactics and terrorist acts, including subverting the media by using the advertising power of financial institutions, and maybe of the State itself, other than violence, coercion and cyber warfare. Employing both modern technology and mobilization methods, variety of non-state actors are used, or a combination thereof. Wikipedia describes this new military strategy as “envisaging attacks by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, improvised explosive devices and information warfare.” Taken together this is called “Hybrid Warfare”. Combining kinetic operations with subversive effort, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution, India has successfully managed this in world perception. Pakistan’s breakup in 1971 was the successful execution of this type of warfare by India.

Subverting our ideology, culture and economy within and outside Pakistan by using proxies or outsourcing the task, is according to a well-crafted Indian game-plan. Using the Hindi phrase ‘kante se kanta nikalna’, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted what has been a home truth for nearly five decades, India’s penchant for employing/outsourcing of terrorists to catch/kill terrorists, “We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Duval attempted damage control by playing down Parrikar’s comment as “it could mean having skills, equipment, tactics, it can have many meanings.” The present architect of India’s “hybrid warfare” “seeking to inflict pain” (in his own words) on Pakistan, Ajit Duval well knows that Parrikar’s statement was a true reflection of how India perpetuates hegemony (or tries to) on the States on its periphery. Trying to tone down the controversy, Parrikar said he was “only in favour of targeted strikes based on intelligence and not covert operations undertaken by civilians or militia”; his U-turn was an afterthought. RAW (and other Indian intelligence agencies) have been targeting Pakistan with “false flag operations” since the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

An example of outsourcing of terrorists for deadly purpose, the Pakistan Naval Station Mehran was attacked in May 2011 by heavily armed gunmen targeting the P-3C Orion aircraft hangars and military personnel destroyed two aircraft while another was damaged. Has anyone ever really questioned why the terrorists walked past dozens of modern (and expensive) warplanes on the tarmac to focus on the P3C-Orions almost 1000 meters away? What earthly motive would the terrorists have destroying Pakistan’s naval eyes and ears capacity? Who other than India was interested in making our Navy temporarily blind and deaf?

The critical weapons used in Hybrid Warfare include “Media and Information Warfare”, attacking both Information Technology (IT) systems on which a military opponent may depend upon, controlling and manipulation of the information available to the civilian populace on both electronic and print media. This includes Command and Control, Intelligence-based Electronic and Psychological warfare, etc, etc. The enemy has been using both its media and our own to influence persons (bribe, compromise, coax or threaten) to achieve its designs. The ‘media reality’ dominates influence over conventional reality by creating perception, especially in political life. A number of media celebrities are, wittingly or otherwise, furthering the cause of India.

The Chief of Afghan NDSI Nabil, incidentally educated in Pakistan as a refugee during the Soviet occupation, candidly justified in a NYT interview using TTP against Pakistan in line with Chanakhya’s tenet, “an enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Training and administering NDSI personnel, RAW has been running almost all their operations till lately. TTP Chief Hakimullah No. 2 Latifullah accompanied by NDSI agents was captured by US Special Forces on his way to Kabul to meet Karzai. Karzai tried desperately to get the US to release him. To President Ashraf Ghani’s credit Latifullah was ultimately handed over by the US to Pakistan with his consent.

To quote my article “Hybrid Warfare” of Feb 04, 2015, “Smart Power” being a judicious mix of Hard and Soft Power, India is force-multiplying “smart power” in conducting “hybrid warfare” against us. With Modi’s Cardinal Richelieu NSA Ajit Doval (very much a “state actor”) in the driving seat, non-kinetic warfare in the form of “false-flag terrorism” has gone into overdrive while kinetic warfare “Cold Start” has now assumed a different dimension in making things hot for Pakistan. We Pakistanis live in self-denial about being subjected to siege under this new warfare, RAW has with impunity masterminded the spreading of misinformation by using its proxies, why do some in our society mirror the Indian media’s animosity towards our Armed Forces and the ISI?

Reviving the 77th Brigade as a new generation of “Facebook” warriors to wage complex and covert information and subversive campaigns, the British Army will use the irregular World War II concept in a variation adapted to fit modern warfare. These modern day CHINDITS according to The Financial Times (FT) will aim to achieve their objectives without violence, using a range of activities to make their adversaries do what they want them to do, a technique known as a “reflexive control”. Their weapons of choice will be social media campaigns on “Twitter” and “Facebook”, spreading disinformation and exposing truths, “false flag” incidents designed to fool people into believing they were carried out by someone else and intelligence gathering. Kremlin’s extensive use of cyber and information warfare blending conventional and irregular warfare is seen in Russia’s “little green men” using this new approach to warfare in Crimea and Ukraine.

FT comments that “the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be effected in ways not necessarily violent. Important lessons from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq will draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare”. Reforming 77th Brigade initiates the process of taking steps to escape the binary mindset of peace or war, operations or training. Hopefully, our military planners do not remain bogged down in their existing World War II mindset.

“Charity” begins at home, we must directly and/or indirectly attack those cells supporting RAW’s hybrid warfare within Pakistan. Those acting as proxies for RAW are as guilty as the terrorists killing and maiming innocents, they should be dealt with ruthlessly without mercy whatever their stature. Do we have the conviction and courage to physically counter the enemy’s evil intentions by delivering justice with a short shrift?

(Excerpts from a talk delivered at the National Defence University (NDU) recently by this writer) 

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