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What does it take to win in asymmetrical modern warfare?

CriticalThought

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Well it helps that China is either No.1 or No.2 innovator in the world right now. I hope that eventually some of this will rub off on Pakistan so we can make some innovations without China's help.
If the person commanding the army is mentally subjugated and psychologically defeated, then even having the biggest pile of arsenal in the world will be of no help. There is a mental and intellectual renaissance needed in the Pakistan Army top brass.
 

Aspen

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If the person commanding the army is mentally subjugated and psychologically defeated, then even having the biggest pile of arsenal in the world will be of no help. There is a mental and intellectual renaissance needed in the Pakistan Army top brass.
Completely agree
 

PanzerKiel

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iran is not that capable as you are assuming,they shot down own passenger plane due to poor capability and training and lack proper military training
We once strafed our own PN destroyer.... :sniper:

iran is not that capable as you are assuming,they shot down own passenger plane due to poor capability and training and lack proper military training
... My point is.... Well Fratricide, blue on blue, these things do happen....
 

Zarvan

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View attachment 641243
What does it take to win in asymmetrical modern warfare?

This article stems from my personal experience during service and subsequent interaction with members of officers of other nations, so please, take this as my personal observation rather than anything else.

Warfare is a brutal arena, believe me, what you see in the movies or the newspapers does not justify how it actually is. It is something that can only be appreciated if you’ve actually experienced it yourself otherwise it is something very difficult to understand and therefore appreciate. This is why you would often see service members roll their eyes when someone, like an academician or journalist, tries to lecture them about it. The ground realities are a completely different environment to exist.

In that regard, I build this article from an exchange I was a part of between a Pakistani army officer who had served in the two Battles of Swat, an American veteran who had served during the Battle of Fallujah, a war historian from the UK and yours truly. We were discussing the different performances of the Pakistani military in Swat and the American one in Fallujah. For those who do not know, Fallujah was a very difficult battle for the American and allied forces against the Iraqi insurgency (please, let’s keep the politics aside for a moment); however, Pakistan was successfully able to clear and hold Swat. On papers, it should not have been so.

The main contention?

The contention we agreed were thus: technology has changed the way that the military perceives and reacts to operational issues. Moreover, militaries of the world have become very politically sensitive; their operations need to cater to that aspect of the operations as well. For example, the British did not commit their full weight behind the Second Battle of Fallujah out of the fear of casualties on their sides fearing the ramifications politically (Mark, 2012). As we entered an era dominated by asymmetrical warfare it was important to take this into consideration as well on a level which was not there before.

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Why Fallujah and Swat?

As a very brief recap, let’s see why these two arenas (Fallujah and Swat) warrant comparison; both were urban battles, both had a conventional force fighting an unconventional one, both had one side enjoy a relatively high degree of air superiority, both had to cater to a civilian population caught in the middle and both had to be held with the military catering to a damaged infrastructure and both were highly politicized engagements.

Though it should be noted that Swat is a mountainous region where as Fallujah is mostly flat terrain therefore, Swat would be considered a much more difficult terrain in terms of operational planning and execution.

The key difference

The key difference in the way either force approached the battle is quite deep and needs some elaboration. Take into consideration how both these forces understand an operational issue, let’s say for instance, the Americans had lost an area and need to take it back or hold it and so have the Pakistanis faced a similar issue. The answer to this question would be quite different.

The Americans would want to have a complete domination in all dimensions such as reconnaissance of the area, drones patrolling the skies or a close air support system nearby to support the troops on ground in case the tides are turning and would prefer to go in on their terms when they are the strongest, supported by allied forces or artillery and so on. They would also prefer to monitor the area first as it is to be held and maintain a more concentrated presence.

The Pakistani forces know that they do not enjoy these privileges in a lot of areas and would take the approach of going in with infantry and paramilitary forces and setting up on ground presence such as check posts or build a garrison in the area once it is held with troops spread to monitor the area while keeping high tech expensive machinery such as helicopters in reserve.

The key difference on the operational level is because of the economies and political will backing each force.

The key to winning modern asymmetrical engagements

We finally come to what makes success in this arena. The answer is surprisingly low tech which caught many militaries by surprise when this nature of warfare came to the forefront. I would like to highlight that the militaries had evolved in the Cold War era where technological superiority usually meant victory. Therefore, conventional forces were focusing on getting the best systems possible.

In that focus the grunt on the ground was neglected; he was supposed to have better weapons, night capabilities, better armor, better equipment to face an enemy of made of a similar mentality.

However, warfare is also a clash of ideas: the system of Alexander the Great’s sarissa phalanx which dominated the world was defeated by the much more flexible Roman manipular system.

We saw the same thing here: a versatile infantry based army drilled to be adaptable to face a determined enemy proved to be better than an army which relies on its technological superiority against a similar enemy.

The American veteran was surprised to hear that Pakistan’s army has every regiment trained on infantry role and used its cavalry units (personnel only) on such a role in order to hold areas if the infantry units were still engaged in clearing further enemies. He remarked that at the time he was serving such incidents were extremely rare and would be considered unorthodox; perhaps the only US counterpart that would consider this acceptable would be the Marine Corps. However, Pakistani army officer’s often joke that they are a boot force (remarking that the infantarian mindset dominates the army).

This is why we were ready to interact with the enemy on his terms without significant support i.e. infantry vs infantry where it was needed. My senior from the Army remarked, ‘Sir, this is war, if it asks for blood, we will pay it but win.’ Where he got the response, ‘Oh, it’s a nightmare for us. You lose a platoon this will be huge!’ (As a side note please know that he’s talking about his career 2000-2010).
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Take away

The take away seems that we need to focus on the infantry. I find it quite poetic that the essence of the infantryman has not changed much in the evolution of warfare. It takes steel nerves, physical conditioning and yes, equipment but the mindset of a warrior who is ready to get up-close and personal to win.

This is the ever-changing yet never-changing nature of warfare.

References

Urban, Mark, Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq , St. Martin's Griffin , 2012, p.65

All view presented are of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the PDF management.
Great article !!!!!. Now what I agree with is that even in modern times and as technology has gotten really advance infantry still has the main role. Boots on the ground are still needed to win the war, you simply can't ignore infantry and for that very reason size of your Army also matters. And in land Forces infantry will always matter and no machine except for robots can replace it. Plus a strong Air Force is a key. And you can't win insurgency if you are considered hostile or enemy by vast majority of locals, you have to win hearts and minds. Yes it sounds cliche but that's the truth.

In USA case, they being the occupying force and being non Muslims was also a major difference. In Pakistan until TTP managed to successfully portray us as USA puppets and doing the operations on USA behalf they managed to get local support and grew stronger. The game was changed by Kiyani and Raheel Shareef after they successfully managed to portray TTP and other similar groups as Khawarij and tell their soldiers that what they were doing and the war they are fighting is Jihad and for sake of ALLAH that brought the much needed motivation among soldiers plus training them for Gureila warfare.

Finally for infantry it would be great to have the equipped with new Assault Rifles. :pakistan:

@jaibi @pan
 

jaibi

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Zarvan bahi, how have you been? It's good to see you here and I appreciate your feedback.

Agreed. Robots of that calibre are still some time away for now, so in the mean time rock solid infantry from an ops pov is the way to go. As far as your air force comment is concerned then it's true but with one addition, we also need CAS (close air support) equipment, it's something that I shall make another article about.
Great article !!!!!. Now what I agree with is that even in modern times and as technology has gotten really advance infantry still has the main role. Boots on the ground are still needed to win the war, you simply can't ignore infantry and for that very reason size of your Army also matters. And in land Forces infantry will always matter and no machine except for robots can replace it. Plus a strong Air Force is a key. And you can't win insurgency if you are considered hostile or enemy by vast majority of locals, you have to win hearts and minds. Yes it sounds cliche but that's the truth.
I deliberately did not go into the politics of the issue but the we faced the same problem as well as the US did with many locals opposing us based on sectarian lines. Your comments about winning hearts and minds is really hitting the spot here. Yes, we did it better than the US because we were able to leave our fortresses and mingle with the people as well. I'd share these experiences as well, soon but I'd like to get some interviews in for that, IA.
In USA case, they being the occupying force and being non Muslims was also a major difference. In Pakistan until TTP managed to successfully portray us as USA puppets and doing the operations on USA behalf they managed to get local support and grew stronger. The game was changed by Kiyani and Raheel Shareef after they successfully managed to portray TTP and other similar groups as Khawarij and tell their soldiers that what they were doing and the war they are fighting is Jihad and for sake of ALLAH that brought the much needed motivation among soldiers plus training them for Gureila warfare.

That's been taken care of with the expansion of LCBs Light Commando Battalions. You see, we also have to take care of the economics of the situation as well and it takes a whole logistics process to re-arm a regiment because they've been drilled with G3s for a long time. The deadliest weapon is the one you know how to use the best.
Finally for infantry it would be great to have the equipped with new Assault Rifles. :pakistan:

@jaibi @pan
 

Pakistani Fighter

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We once strafed our own PN destroyer.... :sniper:
PAF should regularly conduct exercises with PA and PN

Zarvan bahi, how have you been? It's good to see you here and I appreciate your feedback.

Agreed. Robots of that calibre are still some time away for now, so in the mean time rock solid infantry from an ops pov is the way to go. As far as your air force comment is concerned then it's true but with one addition, we also need CAS (close air support) equipment, it's something that I shall make another article about.


I deliberately did not go into the politics of the issue but the we faced the same problem as well as the US did with many locals opposing us based on sectarian lines. Your comments about winning hearts and minds is really hitting the spot here. Yes, we did it better than the US because we were able to leave our fortresses and mingle with the people as well. I'd share these experiences as well, soon but I'd like to get some interviews in for that, IA.
Were you part of Pakistan Army?
 

jaibi

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Guilty as charged, sir :)
There is lot to unpackage here further for me. Let me get to it later. Lot I agree with, some is half/half, other stuff I disagree.
This is the point I made too that comparison for comparison's sake can be done everywhere and there are certainly strategic lessons there; however, we were looking at it more from a tactical level. Let me explain: theories that we hold to be true such as for example, the Americans relied heavily on APCs in both Afg and Iraq for mobility as well as air lifts. That's the way they think and the militancy was able to hit them hard with it. The American military isn't drilled to march the way that Asiatic militaries are. In Pakistan and even India, we heavily drill our troops to be able to move via marching, indeed, a lot of the exercises serve no other purpose than to be mobile as low tech as possible. This helped us in our COIN ops because the IEDs were easier to spot with footmen accompanying the vehicles. There's a great article on it by none other than C. Fair about it, I'll link it up as well. These theories can be the difference between life and death and we need to make contemporary comparisons for it. You need to learn from the ground up to be effective on the field.
I disagree very much for example that France/Algeria was a different time period and era (as much as say Persians or Mongols) that voids it for comparison here.
Again, these wars have happened quite some time ago and the academic treatment of it rarely justifies the field experience there. This is why you can't study and be a soldier you've to be trained. This is one thing that comes from doing rather than learning. We can compare things at a strategic level and even inspire tactics but again they've to be tested. Tactically, it's always better to be focused on contemporary battles.
Recently I came across that Charles De Gaulle son is still alive (retired Admiral) today for example....it kindled a huge deal of stuff I read long time ago on the Algerian wars. Friend I know here in Canada is also descendent of a pied-noir. It was the pied-noirs that kept France as early-ramped and intensely vice-locked with Algeria as long as it did....as opposed to assymetry warfare where you are a fresh arrival so to speak. Whole situation unfolds differently imo....even at tactical levels.
Agreed. no one has to stop learning but focus on what exactly can be learnt, that's my point.
There is thus lot of stuff we can learn and apply to more recent wars for sure (in my opinion)...and I feel my basic premise stands.
Sure but that's not how those who fought it and are designing future tactics/strategies think about it and well, they're the ones who really matter here. They'll live or die. They'll win or lose. Not civilians. I think that needs to be respected.
Yes Pakistan might not have been fully a complete sovereign in the area (Swat) relatively speaking, and yes the US military is very power-projection oriented....I factored both in and I still say a lot weighs heavily on local vs foreign chasm..... stuff that is not immediately apparent, like how soldiers break bread in recuperation after a hard days fighting...day after day in deployment....how that wears on them with time...as things get stretched....as they feel unwanted in an area. That is when purpose and morale really play a big part.
Vietnam is a contemporary example too and we'd love to have him here as well :)
I talked to one that served in Iraq at length about this....how stuff wore him down and others...the effects of that....he referenced his dad in Vietnam a lot too. Let me see if I can bring him here one day to talk to you guys here.
Let's wait and see?
I don't think it would be something a Pak soldier would experience much on relatively home turf (and the equivalents worldwide like that).
Precisely but even if it's complicated in order to fight you've to learn and do the deeds. That's why the subject is more like a mixture of being an art and a science. The wars on paper are very different than the ones on the field.
Then there would be other things a Pak soldier would experience unknown to a more foreign deployment too. It gets complicated the more you look into each conflict....tactically and strategically.
Of course, it's always fun to develop ideas further!
I am in no way saying you are fully wrong or fully right (or what the level of that is), but we must also treat things carefully for cross-comparison. Even in chess, some tactics and strategies only come about in a particular type of game opening and middle game choice....even though the pieces are the same, move the same, work together the same.... and to layman it all looks generally the same...and even results can be the same. But there are significant details that matter past it that make it different etc.
Yes, brother.
PAF should regularly conduct exercises with PA and PN


Were you part of Pakistan Army?
 

Nilgiri

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Guilty as charged, sir :)


This is the point I made too that comparison for comparison's sake can be done everywhere and there are certainly strategic lessons there; however, we were looking at it more from a tactical level. Let me explain: theories that we hold to be true such as for example, the Americans relied heavily on APCs in both Afg and Iraq for mobility as well as air lifts. That's the way they think and the militancy was able to hit them hard with it. The American military isn't drilled to march the way that Asiatic militaries are. In Pakistan and even India, we heavily drill our troops to be able to move via marching, indeed, a lot of the exercises serve no other purpose than to be mobile as low tech as possible. This helped us in our COIN ops because the IEDs were easier to spot with footmen accompanying the vehicles. There's a great article on it by none other than C. Fair about it, I'll link it up as well. These theories can be the difference between life and death and we need to make contemporary comparisons for it. You need to learn from the ground up to be effective on the field.

Again, these wars have happened quite some time ago and the academic treatment of it rarely justifies the field experience there. This is why you can't study and be a soldier you've to be trained. This is one thing that comes from doing rather than learning. We can compare things at a strategic level and even inspire tactics but again they've to be tested. Tactically, it's always better to be focused on contemporary battles.

Agreed. no one has to stop learning but focus on what exactly can be learnt, that's my point.

Sure but that's not how those who fought it and are designing future tactics/strategies think about it and well, they're the ones who really matter here. They'll live or die. They'll win or lose. Not civilians. I think that needs to be respected.


Vietnam is a contemporary example too and we'd love to have him here as well :)


Let's wait and see?


Precisely but even if it's complicated in order to fight you've to learn and do the deeds. That's why the subject is more like a mixture of being an art and a science. The wars on paper are very different than the ones on the field.


Of course, it's always fun to develop ideas further!


Yes, brother.
Its a very interesting thread and discussion here, thank you buddy. Good points are being made.
 

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