Counter-insurgency or Conventional Military in Swat?

In the Financial Times David Kilcullen, one of the architects of the changes in our Iraq strategy, is quoted on the bleak situation in Pakistan:

“The Pakistani military has really no capability for what we would call counter- insurgency,” he said. “What they are doing in the Swat valley is a conventional offensive against the main- force Taliban . . . They need a more sophisticated approach and they need training and assistance, which they are currently refusing.” Mr Kilcullen said of the Pakistani military: “They will move into Swat, they will fight the Taliban, there will be half a million refugees, there will be immense dislocation. I’m not sure that, looking back on this in six months, we will see any improvement.”

He added that Pakistan “has a long history of doing the minimum necessary” to keep western aid flowing into the country. “I hope we will see something different out of this offensive but I remain to be convinced.”

The article continues by noting that if Pakistan faces an existential challenge the political class there certainly isn’t behaving as though that’s the case.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    You can’t do COIN unless you are capable of winning the hearts and minds of the population:

    Hearts: The population must be convinced that our success is in their long-term interests.

    Minds: The population must be convinced that we actually are going to win, and we (or a transition force) will permanently protect their interests.

    Is the Punjabi dominated military/government capable of either of these things?

    Link to SWJ Blog

  2. DC Loser says:

    I don’t think it’s even close to an existential threat. There is a lot of internal political dynamic playing out between the professional Army and the elected political class. I think the Army actually enjoys seeing the politicians squirm as the Taliban closes in on Islamabad. I agree they are doing the minimum in containing the Taliban threat in the meantime in order to extract more concessions from the politicians. We have yet to see the Army being serious about this.

  3. Triumph says:

    Counter-insurgency or Conventional Military in Swat?

    Where does “nuke the hell out of Swat” fall on the counter-insurgency/conventional battle continuum?

  4. davod says:

    “Punjabi dominated military”

    It is my understanding that the Pakistani military mirrors the make of the country which is – Punjabi 44.68%, Pashtun (Pathan) 15.42%, Sindhi 14.1%, Sariaki 8.38%, Muhagirs 7.57%, Balochi 3.57%, other 6.28% (CIA Worldfactbook)

    WRT to counter-insurgency forces. Maybe the professional force has the same disdain for special forces we used to have. I wonder if the ISI is tasked with this job, and if so, they may be on the wrong side.

    Loyalty to State or religion is probably another factor. Will the troops fight against the Taliban or Jihadists.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    davod, my understanding is that the bulk of the officer corps in the Pakistani army remains Punjabi.