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Hybrid Threats & Warfare in South Asia

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Since ancient times, security has been one of the most important concerns of humans. Humans have always felt insecure due to either wild animals or tribes who would come at night and assault them to loot their animals, women, and children. Today, after ages, human is still not secure. Potent armies and nuclear weapons did provide some sense of security in terms of consolidating physical boundaries, but technology has also changed the entire shape of warfare. Proxy wars and hybrid threats are the terms of modern times. One thing that can be said that the prosperity and the development of a nation in today’s world is conditional to its ability to counter hybrid threats.

Hybrid warfare is one of the most talked about type of warfare in current time. It is also known as “Grey Zone conflict” or “low intensity conflict”. Hybrid warfare is the way to achieve the objectives or interests without using force. It is the combination of regular forces, irregular forces, proxy wars, criminal networks, terrorist activities, political organization, and insurgent groups to carry out the blend of traditional and non-traditional act of war. It is supported by political pressure, economic pressure, information influence and cyber operations.

Hybrid warfare is surrounded by the public opinion.  It is basically not to defeat the enemy or adversary, but it is meant to demoralize the enemy. In fact, it is a way to achieve objectives without fighting. It was emerged in the early period of the 21st century. It has been used in context of non-state actors since many years.Labelling warfare as hybrid warfare does not change the core objectives of war. Its goal is to exploit the threat or use organized form of violence in your advantage to gain victory over an opponent. Instruments that were used in a warfare will not be going to be used in a hybrid warfare which complicates the problem. Regardless of how the threat is labelled, strategists must decide how best to address the methods employed by their adversaries, whether state or non-state actors. Usually, the best strategies involve the coordination and direction of all the effective instruments of state power, no matter how the world will define the threat.

South Asia was faced with a hybrid challenge long before Western theorists coined the term. The LTTE is, in many ways, an early example of hybrid threat; it had state-like military capability by having an army, navy, and air force; it tried to use illegal organisations to help support the guerrilla movement; it also had a complex media network around the globe. It took decades for the Sri Lankan government to transform its own fighting strategy into a hybrid one as well, before the LTTE could be defeated.

Dr. Ashfaque Hasan khan (Dean of social sciences at NUST, Islamabad) said that the pace of hybrid warfare has become rapid since the last four to five years. Furthermore, the people of Pakistan has not yet realized about this warfare because this warfare has the beauty of deception and misinformation.Pakistan is facing the economic pressure and political instabilities; both are the big influencing instrument of hybrid warfare. The kind of impact that this war imply depends on the strength of the aggressor. Pakistan has on several occasions given ample information to the Indian authorities of Indian clandestine funding for a variety of terrorist activities. Former United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has also suggested that India is using Afghan soil to fund Pakistan’s problems.These Indian infiltrations in Pakistan are a prominent feature of hybrid warfare as Webster G. Tarpley, a prominent US based analyst revealed that “the chosen strategy is to massively export the Afghan civil war into Pakistan and beyond, fracturing Pakistan along ethnic lines.”

At the external stage, the 2001 bombing on the Indian Parliament, Mumbai mayhem in 2008, the 2016 attack at Pathankot and the 2019 Pulwama incident were all blamed on Pakistan in a strongly clear and immediate way, although these allegations were mainly based on circumstantial facts.This narrative was further strengthened by the political power of India around the world to mark Pakistan as a state that supports terrorism and to portray itself as its target as part of its own hybrid war policy.As a result, Pakistan is being forced to fight this hybrid warfare by better preparedness and a coordinated policy, as this ‘new normal’ continues to challenge Pakistan’s national security.Pakistan is being forced into this warfare as this is clear as how Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving Indian military officer, was accused of treason within Pakistan and caught supportingterrorism in Baluchistan. In addition, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), a militant organisation known for decades to be supported by India, was also allegedly involved in an attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi back in November 2018.Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, the chief of the military’s media wing stated that India is engaged in a ‘fifth generation warfare’ and trying to block Pakistan’s path to development, primarily by targeting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and trying to deform the Pakistan’s image in front of International arena. He also stated, “Unfortunately, it’s a major onslaught, it’s a major part of the fifth-generation warfare. Pakistan is being subjected to […] hybrid applications in a massive way and we are aware of that.” In response to India’s Hybrid warfare, Pakistan submitted a dossier and try to bring attention of the whole world on Indian-state sponsored terrorism in Pakistan.

Keeping in view the vastness of the hybrid threats no army alone has the wherewithal to counter them. In most cases states find themselves short of capacity to counter such threats. Since anything and everything comes under the ambit of hybrid threats either directly or indirectly, countering them is only possible through a national resolve and commitment. This resolve and commitment must be reflected in every aspect of life of its citizens.Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist stated, “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions” and this is the age of Hybrid warfare.

I am Daniyal Talat. I have done my Masters in Defense & Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. I am working as a Program Coordinator in the School of Inclusion.

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The Proxy War of Libya: Unravelling the Complexities

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The African continent has been infamous for its desolate conditions and impoverished lifestyle for years. The violence has not spared the region either since the extremely unstable Middle-East has set the vendetta throughout the region, verging Africa in the east. Whether it comes to the spreading influence of ISIS under the flag of Boko Haram; a terrorist organisation operating in Chad and North-eastern Nigeria, or the rampant corruption scandals and ream of military cops in Zimbabwe, the region rivals the instability of its eastern neighbour. However, one conflict stands out in Northern Africa, in terms of high-stake involvement of foreign powers and policies that have riven the country, not unlike Syria in the Middle-East. Libya is one instance in Africa that has faced the civil war for almost a decade yet involves not only local powers but is also a focal point that has caused the NATO powers to be at odds.

Libya, officially recognised as the ‘State of Libya’, is a war-torn country in the Northern periphery of the African continent. The country is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the North, Egypt lies to its East and Sudan and Tunisia border in the Southeast and Northwest respectively. Apparent from the topography, Libya stands as an epicentre to the countries ridden with conflicts, stands the ground that was the central root of the infamous Arab Spring uprisings taking a rebellious storm right off its borders in Tunisia back in 2011. While the NATO-led campaign garnered success in overthrowing the notorious dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and thus bringing the draconian regime to an end, it failed to account for the brewing rebels and militias in pockets throughout the state of Libya.

Over the following years, weaponry and ammunition was widely pervaded across the region in spite of strict embargo placed. The pilling artillery and unregulated rebels cycled the instability in the country leading to the successive governments to fail and eventually split the country in two dominant positions: The UN-recognised Government National Accord (GNA), led by Tripoli-based leader and prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by the tailing ally and successor to Gaddafi, General Khalifa Haftar.

While both GNA and LNA vied for the control on Libya, foreign powers involved rather similar to the labyrinth of stakes in Syria, each state split over the side supporting their part of the story and ultimately serving their arching purpose of interference in the region. Despite of the ruling regime of Al-Sarraj since the controversial election win of GNA in 2016, Haftar-led LNA controls an expansive territory and has been launching offensive attacks against the GNA alliance. GNA enjoys the support of US, Turkey, Qatar and Italy; each serving either ideological support or military backing to secure the elected government of Libya. Meanwhile, LNA is backed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France. While the western powers see GNA as an economically stabilising solution to the Libyan crisis, Russia and France eye Haftar as a key ally to expand influence in the African region and reap control of the oil-rich resources under control of Haftar’s troops in the oil-crescent territory.

The Turkish regime, on the other hand, eye Libya as a direct answer to the Russian influence in the Syrian war that has been pushing the Kurdish alliance stronger along and within the southern borders of Turkey. This has led to recent clashes and direct escalation in the proxy war waged in Syria. Turkey plans to incentivise the leveraging position against Russia in Libya by deploying military advisory to Tripoli to strengthen their position against the Russian-backed Haftar to ultimately deter the alliance from spreading far in the African region.

The power split in Libya was exacerbated in 2017 following the Gulf crisis that led to the boycott of Qatar by the Arab quartet led by Saudi Arabia. Libya stood as a battle ground for both strategic and military positions to one up the other alliance in external power games while the internal matters of Libya are long forgotten and population left clueless and desperate for welfare. Since then, the vested interests in Libya have side-lined yet the peace process has been encouraged by both UN and Merkel-led ‘Berlin process’ in support to the UN efforts to restore peace in Libya. However, the strained relations and foreign demarcation is still apparent even though no escalation has been in action for months.

Now the ceasefires have been in talks for a while and except for a few skirmishes, the powers have been curbed since June 2020. The silence could imply room for diplomatic efforts to push a much-awaited resolve to this complex proxy war. With the recent turn of events in the global political canvas, wheels of the betterment might turn in favour of Libya. Saudi Arabia has recently joined hands with Qatar, opening all borders to the estranged ally and resuming diplomatic relations. Turkey is eying the coveted spot in the European Union since the UK exit. The US in redefining its policies under the revitalising administration of Joseph Biden while Russia deals with the tensed relations with the Gulf since the oil price war shattered the mutual understanding shared for years. The core players of the Libyan Proxy war are dormant and may remain passive due to external complexities to handle. Yet, with regional powers like Egypt threatening invasions in Libya and both GNA and LNA showing no interest in negotiation, a conclusive end to the Libyan crisis is still farfetched.

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Pakistan Army’s Ranking improved

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According to data issued by the group on its official website, Pakistan Army has been ranked the 10th most powerful in the world out of 133 countries on the Global Firepower index 2021.Especially the Special Services Group (SSG) is among the best in the world.  Just behind; 1- United States PwrIndx: 0.0721,  2- Russia PwrIndx: 0.0796, 3- China PwrIndx: 0.0858, 4- India PwrIndx: 0.1214, 5- Japan PwrIndx: 0.1435, 6- South Korea PwrIndx: 0.1621, 7- France PwrIndx: 0.1691, 8- United Kingdom PwrIndx: 0.2008, 9- Brazil PwrIndx: 0.2037, 10- Pakistan PwrIndx: 0.2083.

Global Firepower (GFP) list relies on more than 50 factors to determine a nation’s Power Index (‘PwrIndx’) score with categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography.

Our unique, in-house formula allows for smaller, more technologically-advanced, nations to compete with larger, lesser-developed ones. In the form of bonuses and penalties, special modifiers are applied to further refine the annual list. Color arrows indicate a year-over-year trend comparison.

The geopolitical environment, especially the regional security situation, is quite hostile. Pakistan is bordering India, a typical adversary and has not accepted Pakistan’s independence from the core of heart, and always trying to damage Pakistan. The Kashmir issue is a long standing issue between the two rivals. On the other hand, the Afghan situation is a permanent security threat for Pakistan. Bordering Iran means always facing a danger of aggression from the US or Israel on Iran, resulting in vulnerabilities in Pakistan. The Middle East is a hot burning region and posing instability in the region. The growing tension between China and the US is also a source of a major headache for Pakistan.

Under such a scenario, Pakistan has to be very conscious regarding its security and sovereignty. Although Pakistan’s ailing economy is not supporting its defense needs, it may not compromise strategic issues for its survival. Pakistan focuses on the quality of its forces instead of quantity. The tough training makes a real difference—the utilization of Science and Technology-enabled Pakistan to maintain its supremacy.

Pakistan is situated at a crucial location – the entrance point to the oil-rich Arabian Gulf is just on the major trading route for energy. Pakistan is at the conjunction of Africa, Europe, Eurasia, Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and China. Pakistan is a pivotal state and always focus of world powers.

During the cold war era, Pakistan sided with the US and protected the region’s American interests. The US military establishment knows well that as long as Pakistan stands with the US, it can achieve all its strategic goals in the region. However, It was the American choice to give more importance to India and ignore Pakistan.

Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and struggling for the promotion of peace globally. Pakistan always raises its voice at the UN and other international forums for oppressed ones and against any injustice. Pakistan. In the history of seven decades, Pakistan was never involved in any aggression against any country. Pakistan’s official stance is, “We are partner for peace with any country, any nation, or individuals.” Pakistan is a partner and supporter of any peace-initiative in any part of the world. 

However, Pakistan is always prepared to protect its territorial integrity and will not allow any aggressor to harm our sovereignty at any cost. Pakistan is determined for its independence and geographical integrity.

Pakistan is no threat to any country or nation. Neither have any intention of expansion. But always ready to give a tough time to any aggressor.

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Israel continues its air strikes against Syria after Biden’s inauguration: What’s next?

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A family of four, including two children, died as a result of an alleged Israeli air strike on Hama in northwestern Syria on Friday, January 22, Syrian media said. In addition, four people were injured and three civilian houses were destroyed.

According to a military source quoted by Syrian outlets, Israel launched an air strike at 4 a.m. on Friday from the direction of Lebanese city of Tripoli against some targets on the outskirts of Hama city.

“Syrian air defense systems confronted an Israeli air aggression and shot down most of the hostile missiles,” the source said.

The Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that there were loud sounds of explosions in the area.

In turn, the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on alleged strikes resulted in the death of Syrian citizens.

Over the past time, Israel significantly stepped up its aerial bombardment. This incident was the fifth in a series of Israeli air attacks on targets in Syria in the past month and the first after the inauguration of the U.S. President Joe Biden. Foreign analysts and military experts said that Tel Aviv intensified air strikes on Syria, taking advantage of the vacuum of power in the United States on the eve of Biden taking office as president.

While the Donald Trump administration turned a blind eye on such aggression, a change of power in the United States could remarkably limit Israel in conducting of military operations against Syria and Iran-affiliated armed groups located there. As it was stated during his presidential campaign, Joe Biden intends to pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy towards Iran. In particular, he unequivocally advocated the resumption of the nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In this regard, Tel Aviv’s unilateral actions against Iranian interests in Syria could harm Washington’s plans to reduce tensions with Tehran.

By continuing air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, Israel obviously sent a massage to the United States that Tel Aviv will consistently run anti-Iran policy, even if it will be in conflict with the interests of the Joe Biden administration. On the other hand, such Israeli behavior threatens to worsen relations with the United States, its main ally.

In the nearest future, the US reaction on the Israeli belligerent approach toward Iran will likely determine whether the relations between Tehran, Tel Aviv and Washington will get better or the escalation will continue.

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