Implications of hybrid war

Hybrid Warfare has been defined in variety of ways, one suggested by London School of Economics defines it as a ‘Military Strategy that blends and employs conventional warfare, irregular warfare, Cyber warfare and subversion and blurs the formal distinction between war and peace’. In nut shell it is a combination of Non Kinetic Warfare and Kinetic operation. A classic hybrid War would make it very difficult to attribute or blame the aggressor as it hides behind layers of disinformation and deceit; ISIS is a recent example, where despite circumstantial evidence, affected countries like Syria and Iraq have been unable to even trace the roots of this terrorist entity.

There is also a need to define Non Kinetic Warfare , which will generally form more than 70% of the Hybrid War. Waqar K Kauravi has defined it as an “Orchestrated and strategic build-up of colossus of informational, psychological, diplomatic, economic, social, cyber and legal tools of hegemony and simultaneous/synchronized application of this colossus with intensity, targeting the existing or perceived fault lines in the targeted state or people with the objective of developing paralysis and internal implosion of the inner front to dismantle existing structures of governance and organized defence, and, creating permanent fissures to usher in strategic chaos and enhance the strategic agenda of the offensive and hegemonic power, with a view to facilitate the use of Kinetic Warfare if desired”.

While it may be challenging to sift a simple definition of Hybrid War and Non Kinetic Warfare, it can be understood through case studies like Iraq and Libya.

Iraq was subjected to a series of short and intense wars to achieve an end state where Hybrid War could be fully applied. Iraqi fault lines existed in the sectarian and geographical division of the state, while it was Shia-Sunni fault line in the South, it was Arab-Kurd fault line in the North. With fall of Saddam Hussain the power axis from Central Iraq shifted to two poles in north and south, this was augmented by dismantling of structures of governance like police, judiciary, executive and Iraqi Army. The state of Iraq became dysfunctional as fault lines based on sect, caste, ethnicity or tribalism imploded, trisecting it into three entities.

Post Saddam management of Iraq was engineered in a manner that it became a test lab for sectarian violence, giving birth to Shia and Sunni militias, who later morphed into entities like ISIS. A state in disarray would always draw regional and extra regional powers into its borders, no wonder; Iraq became a battle ground between an emerging Iran and the Arab states across the Gulf.

Alleged Russian interference, to make US presidential elections controversial has added a new chapter in Hybrid Warfare. Similarly Cambridge Analytica scandal and use of social media platforms for mass appeal and mind control in US elections as well as Brexit campaign has highlighted the strategic reach of Hybrid War, and how this new form of warfare is being deliberately used by political parties and hostile agencies to affect perceptions in general public and take political advantage.

If one looks at collapse of Gaddafi regime in Libya, one thing becomes prominent; a state losing monopoly on information would soon lose monopoly on violence (police and Army).Libya was targeted along the fault line of Cyrenaica vs Tripolitania and power axis was shift towards Cyrenaica by design. People may have forgotten that Col Gaddafi took powers from Senussi Monarchy based in Cyrenaica and kept the power centered on Tripolitania, so when the chips were down, the chaos was ushered through Cyrenaica (Benghazi) based anarchist groups through sensitivities of tribal warfare and grievances against the regime. As the state lost monopoly on information, it gradually melted and lost monopoly over violence (police and Army).Gradually governance structures were demolished to usher in strategic chaos and Gaddafi regime collapsed. Did someone check with the western powers, what happened to those fancy slogans and ideas about Arab Spring and democracy? Why is Libya a graveyard of governance and a hot bed of terrorism? Typical answer, sorry, we did not think that Libyans will be that chaotic and naïve, move on to the next target, Syria, Iran etc etc.

It has been observed that strategic chaos ushered in by hybrid war against states generally draws disproportionate support from liberal and leftist forces and intellectuals, through sophisticated media campaigns and narratives targeting the sensitivities of fault lines. These campaigns are supported by foreign funding and diplomatic support.

It may also be of interest to analyze the role of NGOs and liberal left in Libya, Iraq, Syria and even Iran during times of crises and conflicts. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been active against the Syrian regime since start of the civil war and is headed by Osama Suleiman. Interestingly this NGO is managed by very few people; however works round the clock with churning of massive data. Similarly, Libya was also handed over to liberal leaders after the civil war in 2011; however it has slid into chaos. Last year protests in Iran were also led by NGOs and liberals, mostly from exile in the West.

In case for Pakistan, all major fault lines like interprovincial sensitivities, ethnic divisions, sectarian issues, class gap and civil military relations have been subjected to Hybrid War since 2001, at time it was combined with kinetic warfare through terror proxies like TTP,BLA BRA and sabotage by foreign sponsored agents. Pakistani states’ resilience and ability of LEAs to crush the terrorist enterprise supported by Indian and Afghan based surrogates has frustrated the powers that be. Realignment of strategic power play in the region and emergence of Eurasian colossus under China and Russian federation is not being digested fully by the western powers and India, so, intensity of Hybrid War is expected to grow in the next five years

Pakistan is also meandering through post conflict management stage and the state institutions should be careful in dealing with spoilers of peace. Sri Lanka suffered from same phenomenon after it defeated Tamil Tigers in 2009. The moment Sri Lankan Army took control of the area previously controlled by the Tamil Tigers, including their de facto capital Kilinochchi and its military base in Mullaitivu forest, the government was put on the defensive. Fall of Prabhakran and discovery of trove of Indian RAW assets in Jaffna Peninsula had exposed Indian involvement; a sophisticated campaign on missing persons and human rights violations blaming Sri Lankan Army was launched by Tamil diaspora in the west and Indian government. Instead of celebrating victory, the Sri Lankan government had to justify the civil war it won against the terrorist LTTE.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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