Tuesday October 03, 2023

Hybrid war

April 22, 2018

First generation warfare was about uniformed soldiers fighting wars with ‘massed manpower using line and column tactics’. This was back in the 18th century. Second generation warfare used ‘rifled muskets and breach-loaders’, ending the line and column tactics. This was back in the 19th century. Third generation warfare is about three things: ‘speed, stealth and surprise’, in order to ‘bypass the enemy’s lines and collapse their forces from the rear’. The weapons of the third generation war are: fighter aircrafts, tanks and artillery.

In 2004, John Perkins in ‘Confessions of an economic hit man’ admitted that “We (economic hitmen) work very much like some of the hitmen for the mafia-because like them, we are looking for a favour, except we do it on a large level with governments and countries.”

In 2006, the US Army War College and the Canadian Land Forces Doctrine and Training Centre got together at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. Two conclusions were drawn at the strategic gathering. One: “Time honoured concepts of national security and the classical military means to attain it, while still necessary, are no longer sufficient.” Two: “War has changed. New organising principles require a new paradigm that facilitates change from a singular military approach to a multidimensional, multi-organisational… approach to deal more effectively with the contemporary global security reality.”

Pakistan is in the midst of a ‘hybrid war’. A war is being waged; the weapons of war have changed. In essence, Pakistan is under an eight dimensional attack: (i) economic warfare; (ii) foreign support of domestic unrest; (iii) information warfare propaganda; (iv) diplomatic onslaught; (v) cyber attacks; (vi) offensive from irregular forces; (vii) operations by Special Forces; and (viii) regular military operations.

The principal objective behind economic warfare is to weaken the target country’s economy so that the target country is unable to allocate sufficient resources to its armed forces. Debt is being used as a weapon of war. International trade is being used as a weapon of war. ‘Unsound economic projects’ are also the new weapons of war.

The 27-kilometre Orange Line, the light rail rapid transit system, is expected to cost Rs162 billion. The estimated break-even is Rs175 per ticket. At Rs20 a ticket, the Orange Line will lose Rs40 million a day or Rs14 billion a year every year. The Government of Pakistan, for instance, has guaranteed an annual Return on Equity (ROE) of 34.49 percent for the Thar Coal Block-I Power Generation Company. The project cost is estimated at $767 million, of which $575 million is debt. The interest rate used as the reference is the Inter Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR) of 0.45 percent plus 450 basis points.

The Nandipur Power Project has gone from $329 million to $847 million. Neelum-Jhelum has gone from Rs15 billion to Rs414 billion. The New Islamabad Airport has gone from Rs37 billion to over Rs105 billion.

This ‘hybrid attack’ on Pakistan has three dimensions: economic, political and societal. To be certain, our internal fault lines are being exploited – supported and financed – from across the borders. To be sure, to weaken the state, critical institutions are being attacked. Yes, there isn’t any physical damage because hybrid warfare aims at ‘degrading the morale and well-being of a nation’s citizens’.

Tanks, as weapons of war, are out. Unsound economic projects, as weapons of war, are in. Rifled muskets, as weapons of war, are out. Debt, as a weapon of war, is in. A hybrid war is being waged on Pakistan. There is no visible bloodshed because the weapons of war have changed. Are we prepared?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh