Academic journal article Military Review

Bridging the Gap between Policing and Counterinsurgency in Pakistan

Academic journal article Military Review

Bridging the Gap between Policing and Counterinsurgency in Pakistan

Article excerpt

Counterinsurgency (COIN) best practices integrate an important role for the police. As Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, sums up: "The primary frontline COIN force is often the police--not the military" because "the primary COIN objective is to enable local institutions" (1) The national military forces may suppress insurgents in some countries, but "the task of restoring public order invariably involves careful and sustained police work" (2) Yet, the police have played a limited COIN role in Pakistan's recent campaigns in the semiautonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. An experienced Pakistani military official described the police as "a weak link in Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts" (3) Over half of Pakistan's territory is not policed, which facilitates not only the proliferation of terrorism but also the graduation from terrorist organizations --characterized by clandestine groups using violence against civilians--to more powerful insurgent organizations that control territory and threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state. (4)

Drawing on evidence from four case studies, we argue that the police can and should play a larger COIN function. The police are particularly useful for consolidating a state's legitimate authority through the reestablishment of law and order in areas previously contested or dominated by insurgents. Policing is also a key to preventing terrorist acts in areas of limited state authority from erupting in the first place, as well as from turning into a full-fledged insurgency. Even in areas where the state exercises considerable power, terrorism may be a looming threat. (5)

Police in Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency

Counterterrorism (CT) is "activities and operations to neutralize terrorists and their organizations and networks in order to render them incapable of using violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies to achieve their goals" (6)

Successful CT keeps terrorist organizations from graduating to insurgent groups. While terrorism is widely seen as a weapon of small, clandestine organizations, insurgent organizations tend to be better trained and equipped to maintain control over territory. Successful insurgents create an alternative government structure, especially in semiungoverned areas where the writ of state is weak. (7)

COIN's scope is broader than that of CT. Per Joint Publication 3-24, Counterinsurgency, COIN is "the blend of comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes" (8) Insurgents usually start their campaign as terrorists and subsequently gain territory, size, and influence. They may continue to use terrorism as a tactic, especially in government-controlled areas. In the areas under their influence, insurgent groups often use symmetrical warfare. A successful COIN strategy recaptures territory from insurgents, thereby downgrading them to terrorists, which may result in increased use of terrorism as a tactic.

Most experts argue that the police should be used after the more heavily armed military establishes some level of territorial control. (9) The police are less capable than the military when it comes to defeating insurgents in direct combat, but they have some moral, practical, and tactical advantages over militaries. These can be leveraged to bring areas where the state exercises some territorial control back to normalcy. However, the military may still be necessary for maintaining control and keeping the insurgents from recapturing an area.

Police forces recruited from local populations offer the cultural and political advantages of governance by people coethnic with the general population. This may provide legitimacy for the government and help counter the insurgents' rhetoric that frames the conflict in "us versus them" terms. Practically, when the police recruit locally, this employment opportunity also provides an alternative to joining the insurgents for those who might otherwise do so out of economic necessity or security concerns. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.