Vangaurd Books have done a great service by republishing the book Tribal Fighting in NWFP by General Sir Andrew Skeen. This was first published in 1932 and surprisingly is still extremely relevant, particularly as the US and Pakistan army are testing their mettle against the tribes. General Skeen served in the British Indian Army rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff. He saw active service on the Frontier from Mastuj to Kalat and has written a remarkable book on his experiences and his recommendations for updating the 1925 Manual of Operations in the North West Frontier of India. The book has also been reissued to the Pakistan army and would provide valuable guidance on how to reduce casualties, while operating in FATA. This seems to be absolutely necessary since under the previous command the army exhibited a remarkable degree of ineptitude, lack of professionalism and callousness towards loss of life, which one had come to expect from the author of the Kargil debacle. The result was that in a few years of fighting the army lost more troops than it had in the wars with India. Moreover, the incident of the capture of a convoy of 300 personnel by 30 tribesmen showed the deterioration in the professionalism of our forces. Luckily no such incidents have been reported from the recent operations in Swat and Waziristan, and the army seems to be recovering its balance. Hopefully, this book will play an important role in educating the platoon and company commanders, as it seems that the army would have to undertake operations in almost all the agencies of FATA as the situation is getting out of control of the Frontier Corps. The last time this had happened was in 1937 when 61,000 men were involved and before that in 1919-20 when 83,000 men were engaged. The British always respected the fighting qualities of the tribes and invariably placed the Mehsuds as the best, followed by the Wazirs. They were compared to the wolf pack and the panthers. The Afridis normally came third. General Skeen has however placed the Mamunds as second, but has called the tribes the finest individual fighters in the east, really formidable enemies, to despise whom means sure trouble. While praising the tribesmens mobility and cunning, he adds that the army can only redress the place by discipline and fire power. Modern arms had slowly been arriving in the tribal areas through the Gulf and Afghanistan, but the British always had the edge with machine guns, heavy artillery, armoured vehicles and aircraft to which the tribesmen did not have any answer. Unfortunately, due to the Afghan Jihad the tribes now have access to Kalashnikovs as the basic weapon and also the 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm machine guns. The RPG-7 has also reduced the effectiveness of armour, particularly in the hills and at ranges of less than 500 metres. Our army therefore has a much more difficult task in restoring the balance. Two-thirds of the book covers employment of piquets. This means that the campaign takes the form of a series of marches, each followed by halts, during which supplies are filled up, sick evacuated and permanent piquets established behind and in front of the halting place to secure their communications. The vanguard moves in accord with the progress of the flanked piquets. Details are given on the setting up of the piquets, their defence and withdrawal tactics. While the US has managed to completely dispense with this practice due to its total dominance of the air and its capability to provide 24 hour coverage of the battlefield through the drones, the Pakistan army is constrained by its lack of similar resources. At one time during the campaign in Waziristan the army was down to only two functional Cobra attack helicopters. We do not therefore have the luxury of dispensing with the piquets which are quite a time-consuming manoeuvre and also require considerable manpower. However, failure to undertake what is one of the steps in frontier warfare leads to debacles like the one with the convoy. General Skeen also recognises the grey areas in frontier fighting and the importance of the political officer, who is always with the column in the capacity of staff officer for political affairs. He will have a lot of work with those of the enemy who want to be friends and these must have free access to him. The spy or jasoos is a quaint institution, whose conception of his duty is to take as much news to his friends the enemy as he does to his enemies the troops. In fact a most bitter compliant was lodged by hostile sections that they had been denied the privilege and the emoluments of having some of their own men employed as spies. The basic aim of the campaign is to restore civilian control as soon as possible and it is most unfortunate that our civil bureaucracy has become so dysfunctional that it has still been unable to take control of the Swat Valley, despite the pacification by the army. The result has been that the army has had to be involved in development work as well, which is quite an inefficient way of restoring peaceful conditions. The importance of the frontier militias (FC) is also highlighted. Their training and equipment fits them for rapid movement over the roughest ground, and they are of great value for long raids into tribal territory by night or day, for ambushes, and for patrolling the bigger hills outside the piquets of a column. Khassadars should be regarded with respect and suspicion. If their own tribe is not in the fighting and they have not been intimidated by another they can be of great use in bringing in information. General Skeen was quite sceptical about air power and noted that any tribe that has the will to resist will never be coerced by air action alone. The British were very careful about collateral damage through air bombing and had instituted a system of dropping leaflets before bombing any built up areas. We need to be as sensitive as the British since the objective is not to destroy the tribe, but to put them in a more conducive frame of mind to negotiate with the political authorities. The writer is a retired ambassador.