New Army Chief: Challenges and Choices
(The article below constitutes a good analysis of the challenge in making the right decision in selecting the next COAS. However, the same analysis makes me reach somewhat different conclusion. General Haroon Aslam may be appointed the next Chief of Joint Services Staff, General Rashad Mahmood the next COAS, and General Tariq Khan promoted to four start rank and appointed the Governor of KPK to oversee the political initiatives and operations in FATA and KPK. + Usman Khalid+)
The clock is ticking on the choice of selecting the new army chief but the pendulum strikes every hour with new warnings, those of IEDs, suicide bombers, targeted bullets and rockets. Nothing has changed on the ground since the last All Parties Conference (APC). A GOC and Field Commander martyred, the massacre at a mosque-like Peshawar church and plans to break into main Adiala Jail after the Bannu and DI Khan successful jailbreaks. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is raising the ante in an elaborate bid to nerve out an already brutalised nation and its leadership.
Moreover, the Taliban want all their battle-hardened boys (some 4,750) in Pakistani jails freed and the army to lose all ground in FATA by withdrawing every soldier from the Sacred Land as Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Yield all ground as CBMs and get ready for serious stuff at the negotiating table like Islamic Shariah nizam in all of FATA and PATA and even whole of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and parts of southern Punjab. Karachi may be on the table as well and, in fact, the whole of Pakistan may be an opening demand.
The die is apparently cast and as Pakistan arrives at the crossroads of her future, the prime minister has to make some tough, prudent and futuristic choices. Pakistan has changed a huge lot since 1999. It is time for daring and clear headed decisions now.
The choice of the next chief of army staff (COAS), due any time next month. It appears that Lt. General Rashad Mahmood, the current Chief of General Staff (CGS) is the front runner while Lt. General Tariq Khan, Corps Commander, One Corps, Mangla, may be the dark horse based on the challenges at hand.
Between them Lt. General Rashad a ‘safe; option that maintains the status quo. He could also be the choice of the outgoing General Ashfaq Kayani, who groomed him. He has served as the military secretary to President Rafiq Tarar (friend of Mian Sharif, the late father of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) as a Brigadier in 1999. He comes from Lahore and is a Punjabi, served as the Corps Commander, Lahore. He currently holds the second most important post of the CGS at GHQ. The CGS is the operational secretary of the COAS and oversees both Military Intelligence (MI) and Military Operations (MO). He also served ISI as a two star general.
Lt. General Tariq Khan, on the other hand, is the son of the Khan of Tank (a neighbouring area of Waziristan), a Pathan, a fighting general, a morale boosting and galvanising commander for troops, some of whom are totally not resolved to fight their Muslim brethren in the shape of the Taliban. Reputed as an ultimate soldier, Lt. General Khan has delivered in counter-insurgency operations as General Officer
Commanding, 14 Division in Wana (South Waziristan) and has served as Inspector General Frontier Constabulary (IGFC) in KP until 2010. He has delivered on active service in command of combat formations engaging the Taliban for at least six years. Being a local, he fully understands the dynamics of the insurgency – the area, local culture and the psyche of the ‘Taliban’. Whether fighting them out or bringing them to the table for a peace deal, he could be a better option. He is currently heading Pakistan’s Strike Corps at Mangla, which also gives him the added advantage of experience in dealing with the threat from the eastern borders.
Besides, being the recipient of the US Legion of Merit, Lt. General Tariq Khan is best suited to deal with the Pentagon during the critical time of US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. This battle-hardened general can help spur a battle-fatigued army in the fight against militancy by boosting their morale as a frontline commander.
Lt. General Khan is reputed in the army circles as blunt and rash, which has some truth, but he also is a man of action and knows his enemies well. He seems to be a pragmatic choice to head a fighting army over other choices that may have been acceptable in a peacetime transition. Being a soldier to the core, he may assert in military strategy and operational matters but is likely to keep away from politics. Besides, if chosen, he will leave behind his legacy by choosing bright officers in the army’s top hierarchy.
Building operational consensus and bringing everyone on one page did become obvious when Lt. General Tariq Khan took over as the IGFC in KP. Until that point the Governor House, Headquarters 11 Corps, the PM Secretariat, KP Police Headquarters and Headquarters FC KP were all looking in different directions. It was Lt. General Khan who convinced the GHQ, Headquarters 11 Corps and Governor House KP to allow the newly elected ANP leadership to try out the option of dialogue with the Malakand Division Taliban. He already had conveyed that the dialogue would never succeed but let the newly elected ANP government get a moral victory and also show the real face of the terrorists to the public, who were still in doubt about the real motives of the Taliban. History proved that it was the best decision of the then
political leadership of KP. Then during the conduct of military operations in Swat, Bajaur, South Waziristan, Dir, Buner , Mohmand, Orakzai, Kurram and Hangu district, he proved to be the binding factor among the Governor House KP, CM House KP, Headquarters 11 Corps, Police and Frontier Constabulary.
The Pakistan’s army has already declared the internal security threats to be their number one challenge to security in Pakistan. We all know that the dialogue with the Taliban can fail and decisive military operations may have to be conducted. Thus, General Tariq Khan is considered as the hope of success in the war on terrorism. He also enjoys the support of the local population not only because he is a Pashtun commander; he is considered by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as the main successful general during the conduct of military operations against the militants.
The PML-N leadership needs to learn from its experience in superseding a Pashtun General Ali Kuli Khan and promoting Pervez Musharraf. It can reverse the discredit by promoting Lt. General Tariq Khan to four star rank. Beside lasting political advantage, the promotion would help eliminate insurgency from KP, Karachi and Balochistan as General Khan can handle the security situation of the country. The PML-N is strong in Punjab and it needs lasting support in the other three provinces.
General Khan is a general does not only have sound credentials as combat commander, he is always direct and forthright in his advice. His input in decision making on matters of security and defence of the country would be very valuable. He would express his views and give sincere advice to the chief executive and will try to convince him or get convinced.
Beside dealing with militancy and handling the security situation of the country, General Khan has the ability and the resolve to take radical decisions to bring about changes to improve professionalism in a leaner Army and clean up the military intelligence and ISI set up.
Keeping the present situation in mind the best option is to promote the general from KP/FATA, which is the centre of Taliban activities and from where most of their activities are generated throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Two more generals, Lt. General Haroon and Lt. General Raheel Sharif, are also in the run. General Haroon is the senior most and has a good record of service. He could be a good choice as Chief of Joint Services. General Raheel could be the next CGS. These appointments would be in line with the statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not to ignore seniority in making promotions. Suggestions might be made to the PM to appoint the CNS or the CAS as the Chief of Joint Staff. But both have been promoted recently and would prefer to stay in their present jobs rather than take up a relatively less hands on appointment.
In as much as the prime minster is concerned, in selecting the new army chief he has to keep the following in view alongside his on the record statement on seniority and merit to be the criteria in his judgment.
1. The new COAS must have the resolve and professional competence to deal with internal threats from domestic militancy and asymmetrical warfare in the short to medium term, evolving and implementing a cohesive strategy to push back the terrorist onslaught on the state. The Army has recognised growing militancy in the country was posing a more serious threat to the country’s national security.
2. The upcoming drawdown of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan towards the end of 2014, would change the security situation on the Western front in ways that are yet unpredictable. Pakistan should be able to influence the situation which would require close co-operation with the US to assemble a ruling coalition that is friendly to Pakistan.
3. The main threat to Pakistan continues to be from India. If it sees Pakistan to be weak or its leaders lacking in resolve, the danger of another round of Indo-Pakistan War. India is also eager to maintain a presence in Afghanistan and secure its l of C through Iran. Pakistan needs to develop military to military links with Iran and keep under close watch the “not so friendly” forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan also needs to evolve a strategy to fight a limited war with India as visualised under the “Cold Start Doctrine”. Pakistan has to be able to respond to jingoism of the Indian Press which may exacerbate if BJP came to power after the elections in India early in 2014 and sporadic genocide of Muslims. A major terror attacks on India, initiated by any of its several insurgencies, could also lead to war in order to “teach Pakistan a lesson”. The inevitable threat to India’s stake in Afghanistan and its Cold Start Doctrine to destroy targets in Pakistan in a 72 hours surprise attacks by conventional forces continue to be the main security concern of Pakistan.
4. Pakistan’s long term security positioning towards the US and the future of Pak-US military relations needs to be carefully managed.
The army’s role in domestic politics and its alleged ‘grip’ on matters of security and foreign affairs has now become a prop of Indian propaganda the themes of which are adopted by paid agents in the Pakistani press. In the name of gradually squeezing the army out of politics, space may be created for “secular-Liberal subversion” to be carried out with impunity. That would inevitable invite a response from its nemesis and the “Mullah-Military Alliance” being viewed as the last ditch defence of Pakistan. That would heighten the tensions which have given strength to internal threat of militancy.
It is rumoured that the outgoing COAS may be made a full time member of the National Security Council and Lt. General Rashad moving onto the prestigious post of the JCGS and General Tariq Khan taking the mantle as COAS. If that happened, Pakistan’s security establishment would be ready to deal with all the above challenges.
The Prime Minister clearly appreciates the challenge in the light of the poor choice he made in appointing General Musharraf as the COAS. His choice must be someone with proven leadership qualities, a vision, professional competence and ideas to improve operational strategy and preparedness that serves the Army and the country well for the crucial next decade