Trained for guerrilla warfare by Brig (later Maj Gen) Orde Wingate at Jhansi in 1942, British India’s 77th Brigade (The CHINDITS) was a “Long Range Penetration Group” with mixed success operating deep behind Japanese lines in Burma. It lost more than 1/3rd of their manpower and almost all their equipment. Famous author John Masters (Bhowani Junction, Bugles and a Tiger, Road Past Mandalay, etc) served in the Chindits as a Brigade Major (BM) of the III Brigade.
The father of Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG), the legendary Maj Gen Aboobakar Osman Mitha learnt his trade operating behind Japanese lines during the Burma campaign. Somewhat similar to the deep penetration of the Chindits, Operation Gibraltar was vehemently opposed in 1965 by another legendary Commander SSG (and a military strategist far ahead of his time). Col SG Mehdi (aged 90 this tough soldier lies in a coma today in Islamabad) labelled it a brilliant plan conceptually but being rushed into execution without detailed planning, adequate manpower, logistics or training. Another of our outstanding soldiers, Lt Gen Lehrasab Khan, participated as a young “volunteer” subaltern in “Operation Gibraltar”, he is a living witness to it becoming an unmitigated disaster as predicted by Col Mehdi.
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 2 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” are 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 that are 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” unquote. UK’s Chief of Defense Staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton says that re-forming 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 2 mind-set.
Called “Hybrid Warfare” Wikipedia Encyclopaedia says this new military strategy envisages attacks by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, improvised explosive devices and information warfare. By combining kinetic operations with subversive effort, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution. The flexible and complex dynamics of the battlespace requires a highly adaptable and resilient response. US Marine Corps Lt Col Bill Nemeth says hybrid warfare is a contemporary form of guerrilla warfare employing both modern technology and modern mobilization methods, involving four threats according to CSIS’ Nathan Frieir viz (1) traditional (2) irregular (3) catastrophic terrorism and (4) disruptive, exploiting modern technology to counteract military superiority to be fought on three decisive battlegrounds, to quote US Army Col Jack McCuen viz (1) within the conflict zone population (2) home front population and (3) international community by the enemy employing, according to Frank Hoffman, “complex combination of conventional weapons, irregular warfare, terrorism and criminal behavior in the battle space to achieve objectives,” unquote. Blending the full spectrum of modern conflict, Hybrid warfare’s no-holds barred approach is common with terrorism.
Carrying out extensive nuclear tests (Operation Shakti) at Pokhran in the Rajasthan Desert in 1998, India’s BJP government went to town advising Pakistan that it was in our own interest to recognize the nuclear writing on the wall and accept India’s hegemony in South Asia. A very different Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the one ruling Pakistan today went ahead with our own nuclear tests at Chagai, this “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)” has kept the peace in South Asia by restoring credible nuclear deterrence.
India insisted on wrongly blaming the 2008 Mumbai attacks on Pakistan’s official agencies, putting a dead stop to “Confidence Building Measures” (CBMs) between the two countries. War was only averted because the nuclear deterrence came into play. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (as opposed to the Afghan Taliban and being anti-Pakistan certainly not Pakistani), began being controlled by RAW through Afghan intelligence arm, the NDSI. The “International New York Times” quotes the Afghan Intelligence Chief Nabil, incidentally educated in Pakistan as a refugee during the Soviet occupation, candidly justifying using TTP against Pakistan in line with Chanakhya’s tenet, “an enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Nabil was referring specifically to TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s No 2 Latifullah Mehsud accompanied by NDSI agents when he was captured by US Special Forces while on his way to Kabul to meet Karzai.
The FT says “the war of the future will not necessarily be declared but will oversee as a sliding scale of aggression and violence”. “Smart Power” being a judicious mix of hard and soft power, India is using force-multiplying “smart power” in conducting “hybrid warfare” against us. With Modi’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval (very much a “state actor”) in the driving seat, “false-flag terrorism” has gone into overdrive and “Cold Start” has now become a distinct possibility. Being in self-denial we Pakistanis cannot see that we are already under siege being subjected to this new warfare by Modi’s Cardinal Richelieu not only using terrorism as a weapon of choice but subverting a section of our media (with inadvertent support of the corporate sector giving these subverted media entities advertisement in billions).
Defying the world in 1998 to preserve our integrity and our self-respect, why does this different Sharif circa 2015 now give the perception of his business interests superceding the national interest? Given that if our conventional fail-safe line is crossed we will have no choice but resort to tactical nuclear weapons, Zardari came out with his ridiculous “no first use of nuclear weapons” proposal.
While no one in his right mind wants war with India but we do need to respond effectively to this undeclared “hybrid warfare” being waged against us. The Armed Forces aside the media must exercise greater responsibility, above all our political leadership must match their glibly uttered public rhetoric with deeds of substance.
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org