Perimeters of Security

The basic principle of net-centric warfare must be applied here.

Afghanistan can be aptly de­scribed as Terrorism Central of the world. Most major terrorist activities emanate from here. Some of the most ferocious, violent terror­ist groups have found safe ha­vens in this country, courtesy of the TTA government. The regional strategic environ­ment thus remains perpetual­ly vitiated and on edge.

Of late, the ISK, in particular, has demonstrated a remarkable enhance­ment in its capacities, and capabilities and ominously in its strategic reach. It and other Afghanistan-based terrorist groups have carried out heinous terror­ist attacks in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood; Pakistan, Iran, Tajiki­stan, Turkey as well, and now in an ex­tra-regional power, Russia too! To man­age a terrorist attack, many thousands of kilometers away, reflects detailed planning, friction-free execution, enor­mous resources, and a very strong com­mand and control system. (Did the IS/ISK really carry out the attack in Mos­cow or is it the designated fall guy pro­viding plausible deniability to its osten­sible masters?).

ISK’s choice of targets is extremely fas­cinating and raises enigmatic questions. What is the ultimate end state that the ISK seeks? Is it an Islamic State in Kho­rasan? If so, then are all its terrorist ac­tivities geared to achieve that “glorious objective”? Where do Turkey and Rus­sia fit into all this? Where does the ISK get all the resources, the organization, the administrative and management ca­pacities from? Who provides all the lo­gistics, the communication wherewithal, the funding, the manpower, the sophis­ticated military technologies, modern weaponry, and force multipliers (like the Night Vision Devices, laser range find­ers, etc)? Who dictates/directs the plan­ning, choice of targets, timings, coordi­nation of terrorist attacks, and so on? Who provides all the intelligence, infor­mation, material, financial, and moral support necessary for such complex ter­rorist activities? Where does this sud­den audacity and confidence emerge from? Is there a common denominator in the choice of these targets - especially Chinese (BRI-CPEC) projects in Pakistan and others in Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Russia etc? It all clearly points to inti­mate backing by some much larger, far superior organisation(s), like hostile in­telligence agencies. The choice of targets (or the lack of them in certain countries), the timings, etc point towards external control, manipulation, and dictation/di­rection. All terrorist attacks have direct or indirect implications in the evolv­ing regional, extra-regional geopolitical, geostrategic, and geoeconomic dimen­sions! Clearly, the ISK and other terror­ist groups like the TTP, JuA, IMU, ETIM, etc, and their affiliates are mere tools employed to achieve specific foreign pol­icy objectives of certain sub-regional, re­gional, and global powers.

Furthermore, the TTP and the BRAS too have now become even more active in Pakistan. They have recently attacked military installations in Gwadar and Tur­bat and have also carried out a suicide bombing of a convoy carrying Chinese workers in Bisham. Pakistan thus con­tinues to face an ever-increasing, savage terrorist threat from its West and must take proactive measures to not only fore­stall these attacks but also to eliminate their bases/sources.

To that end, Pakistan must determine its perimeters of security on its west­ern borders and act to neutralise all threats that reside therein and/or em­anate from there. Of necessity, they will include territories across our borders too. At the strategic and operational lev­els, well-defined perimeters of security thus become imperative and must en­compass all known locations of ISK, TTP, and others of their ilk.

The basic principle of net-centric war­fare must be applied here. We must seek and identify targets through sensors, and provide the necessary information/intelligence to the HQs which must de­tail shooters to engage them at a place and time of our choosing. To that end, the sensors could be human and elec­tronic intelligence, satellite imagery, high/medium altitude long endurance drones, aerial reconnaissance, etc. All hostile elements within the perimeter must be identified, recognised, and ear­marked for relentless surveillance, re­connaissance, and neutralisation, as and when required. Their locations, train­ing grounds, ammunition dumps, weap­ons magazines, etc must remain under constant observation too. Any move­ments from those known locations to­wards our borders must be tracked, fol­lowed, and engaged, pre-emptively, if needed. If hostile groups enter Pakistan, then they must be engaged at the ear­liest, neutralised and/or forced to dis­perse. The vertical dimension must be brought in - drones, both combat and re­connaissance, gunship and transport he­licopters, and PAF whenever required, must be part of our tactical and opera­tional plans. The operational level thus assumes immense importance. It must have a real-time intelligence picture of its entire perimeter of security and must disseminate the required information/intelligence downwards, as required. Furthermore, it can then engage the ter­rorists pre-emptively or as necessary. Pakistan’s Armed Forces, in particular our PAF, have demonstrated the neces­sary capabilities and capacities on more occasions than one!

At the tactical/check post level, the same methodology can be applied with­in the resources available. In more in­stances than less, the terrorists have attacked check posts or military instal­lations - essentially static targets. Such targets can be observed, surveillance, reconnaissance carried out and proper raids planned in detail. This yields the initiative to the terrorists who decide the time, place, direction and mode of attack on them. Pakistan’s military must be­come more dynamic, wrest the initiative again and start dominating the AOR. It must move across the AOR in force (mo­bile patrolling) to project aggressive­ness and power. The vertical dimension must of necessity be introduced into the battle. Our first responders, our quick reaction forces/reserves must all be air-mobile and enabled to reach the scene of a terrorist activity instantly. Our sol­diers must have better equipment - bet­ter mobility preferably armoured, better night vision devices, better communica­tion systems, longer range, heavier cali­bre weapons, indirect fire through mor­tars, etc. Our forces must dominate their AOR, retain the initiative and deal with the terrorists from a clear position of ad­vantage and strength!

Imran Malik
The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

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