Small Wars Journal

Sleeping with the Enemy

Share this Post

Sleeping with the Enemy:

Pakistan's Military Industrial Complex and Existential Crises of National Identity

by Patrick J Christian

Download the Full Article: Sleeping with the Enemy

In a May 2011 Wall Street Journal article, reporter Bret Stephens suggests that Pakistan is undergoing existential crises of national identity. The truth of this observation is sobering because Pakistan is at the heart of two very different, but deadly conflicts; an inter-state contest of nuclear will with India and an intra-state conflict in Afghanistan. Understanding Pakistan's existential crises of identity may well be the only way that the international community will keep these two separate conflicts from spiraling out of control into the next multi-continent war.

In a recent visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen emphasized the need for Pakistan to subordinate religious fundamentalism and identity defining border disputes to international rules of law as conditions for American assistance and economic support. What both US policy makers and Bret Stephens miss is that Pakistan's conflict with India and involvement in the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan are only the most visible threats facing the South West Asia region. In many ways, the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the Pastho's homelands constitute the seeds for the next regional multi-state war. The Punjabi and Mujahir identity conflict with India is a visible issue that deeply affects the mindset of the Punjabi dominated military officer corps. The fact that Pakistan's military is almost completely populated by ethnic Punjabi's who collectively constitute a closed and powerful politico-socioeconomic order is far less visible. What has become in effect a military class within the democratic state of Pakistan is rejected as essentially foreign by key segments of Pakistani society. In Balochistan, the Pakistani military is battling a decades old insurgency with more US funded weaponry and material than is used to fight the Pakistani Taliban. Historic Balochistan includes 45% of Pakistan's national territory and most of its natural resources, plus significant chunks of Iran and Afghanistan; factors that create the conditions for a regional multi-state war. The Pashtun people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are intricately caught up in competing objectives of ethnic nationalism and universal Islamic fundamentalism and their struggles have a disproportionate affect on both countries' chances of security and stabilization.

Download the Full Article: Sleeping with the Enemy

Patrick J Christian is a doctoral student at NSU Department of Conflict Analysis & Resolution with an emphasis on psycho-cultural identity and ethnic based conflict. He received his master's degree from Gonzaga Jesuit University in Spokane, Washington in cross-cultural organizational leadership and his baccalaureate from University of South Florida in international relations, history and pre-law. Patrick has extensive experience in the practice and research of intra-state violence, civil war and tribal conflict. He has led field teams conducting combat advisory missions, tribal engagement and counterinsurgency operations in Caquetá, Putumayo and Los Amazonas Colombia; Puerto Francisco Orellana in Ecuador; Darfur Sudan; Bilate and Ogadin regions of Ethiopia; and Baghdad and Taji Iraq. He has served as the Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Ethiopian Special Operations Department, and the Colombian Army's 6th COLAR Division as well as served as the United States Representative to the African Union Ceasefire Commission in Darfur Sudan. Patrick has trained US Army Special Forces, US Navy SEALs, and USMC Advisory Groups in combat advising, tribal engagement and psycho-historiographical profiling of tribes in conflict. His articles on combat advising, tribal engagement and conflict analysis and resolution have appeared in Special Warfare Quarterly and the Small Wars Journal. In 2011, BrownWalker Press published his first book, a Combat Advisor's Guide to Tribal Engagement, available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble booksellers.

About the Author(s)



Mon, 08/01/2011 - 4:38pm

The last anonymous comment is obviously mine..

Anonymous (not verified)

Mon, 08/01/2011 - 3:09pm

On a quick read, it seems like a good article. My own thoughts are that Pakistan can only survive if it (probably quietly and surreptitiously) dumps a lot of "two-nation-theory" baggage and becomes "just another country". That may or may not be doable. I have to run, but you can see my thoughts in several of the following links:…

And yes, the US would either have to be smarter than they have been in the past, or get out of the way of coming disasters asap.

carl (not verified)

Sun, 07/31/2011 - 10:52pm

The content of this article is pretty good too. The author's prime point being that the Pakistan military/industry complex's primary goal is the maintenance of it's own power, privilege and prestige. This may not be possible any longer and this structure of privilege may come down with a violent crash and we would do well to distance ourselves from the Pak Army lest we be damaged in the fall.

Omar, if you are out there, I am interested in what you think of this article.

Hamid Hussain (not verified)

Fri, 07/29/2011 - 2:06pm

Dear Pat;

In any military operation, situational awaremenss is a key asset and basic knowledge about the tribes and clans inhabiting the area of operations can be very helpful. My commnents were more in broader sense looking at the end state of the conflict. One thing that is often overlooked is that tribal and clan interest is very narrow. It is very difficult if not impossible to comprehend all aspects of tribal dynamics even for an insider. It has its limitations and example is Pakistan army's experience in tribal areas. Some Pakistani officers are from tribal backgrounds but looks can be deceiving. In addition, in practical terms, these officers can confuse rather than clarify the picture. Two examples will suffice; A senior officer commanding the Corps involved in the operations was Lt General Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai. He was picked assuming his tribal background would give him an advantage. However, had had spent his whole life away from tribal dynamcis and was woefully ignorant about tribes. In fact, another senior officer who was not even a Pushtun had much more grasp about all the tribes in his area of operation. Second example is of a senior intelligence officer of tribal background responsible for keeping an eye on the tribal areas. He was from one of the tribes inhabiting the conflict region. This fact invariably had an impact on his analysis and recommendations. On the other hand, no matter how fair he was in his dealings, rival tribe members didn't see him as an officer of Pakistan army but simply member of the rival tribe.

British relied on specialists where one officer spent several years and in some cases decades dealing with only one tribe. When needed the specialist was consulted not only for his knowledge but close personal relationship with key tribal players. This approach is not feasible for U.S. army as our interests are constrained by time, however it may pay dividends for Pakistan or Afghanistan armies as it is likley that these armies will be fighting some levels of insurgencies for at least a generation. I think Pakistan's paramilitary force; Frontier Corps is working on this model.

"The significance of the bigger tribes doesnt escape me. But if it was easy as talking to five or six sheiks to put a stop to violence, wed have done it. Were not that dense". A senior U.S. official in Baghdad, 2003


Patrick Christian (not verified)

Thu, 07/28/2011 - 11:30am

Dear Hamid; very succinct, especially the part about allowing oneself to become a part of the inner psychological group identity of the tribe - always a losing proposition for tribal engagement and ethnographic field work. Another way to explain psycho-historiography is to compare it to psycho-biographies, but for a clan, village, or tribe. If done reasonably well, such work can lead to predictive analysis that is greatly helpful in combat advising missions. v/r Patrick.

Hamid Hussain (not verified)

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 8:18pm

Let me take a shot at the definition of 'psycho-historiographic profiling of tribes' Col. Gian. This is part and parcel of now very fashionable COIN doctrine. This is not new but essentially an old wine in new bottle. British were very good at it in the bygone era of expansion of empire.

'historiographic profiling' means to know what is the traditional area of inhabitation of the tribe and to know the geneology of the tribe or clan i.e. original head, family tree and branches of the tribe and how they cooperate and fight among themsleves. Major source of this information is still old British gazettes about a century old. Many old narratives are not relavant anymore in many areas but the zeal of 'new converts' is unabating.

'Psycho' part deals with who killed his cousin and who grabbed other clan's land that led to a tribal feud. Practical application in the field means how you use these fissures to advance your own objectives. Downside is that you also become like a tribe inserting yourslef into the tribal conflict and making other people's war your own. Some practical headaches; U.S. Colonel allows himself to become honorary member of a tribe in Iraq thinking he has pulled a coup. This also means that he will be seen as an enemy by the tribe's adversaries and his soldiers will be now ambushed by other tribes/clans who were so far neutral. Your tribal ally wants to deal with a matter in tribal manner in your presence i.e. execute a young female who planned to elope with her lover. Your tribel ally in Kandahar also has a twelve year old 'lover boy' and these young boys are used either with or without their consent. You have now become a tribesman yourself over there as back home you can be charged with being an accomplice in murder or child molestation.

These measures may have some tactical advantages for a time being as essentially you are pushing tribes to shoot at each other rather than at you but in the long run you spread the conflict horizontally.

One of the old master of this art T. E. Lawrence after much reflection said that 'The everlasting battle stripped from us care of our own lives or of others.


gian p gentile (not verified)

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 12:12pm

in the author's bio it has it that he has trained special operating forces in this:

"psycho-historiographical profiling of tribes in conflict"

for the life of me, i cant figure out what this exactly means. Does anybody know?