Civil-military ties & efforts to counter militancy

Multi-faceted response cannot be performed independently either by a civilian government or by a military organisation


Faisal Ali Raja July 10, 2022

The counter-militant actions and their implementation, in physical and nonphysical spaces, are closely related to the nature of civil-military relationship. The interactive mechanism between the civilian government and its military counterpart determines the fate of any counter-militancy measure in a country. The problem crops up when a state starts actions against militants and confronts with the reality that these measures may not be initiated in a uni-dimensional manner.

The multi-faceted response cannot be performed independently either by a civilian government or by a military organisation. Moreover, how these actions are defined capture the essence of their ultimate success or failure. The more narrowly these actions are delineated the more difficult it will be for the state apparatus to eliminate or minimise the militant threat. Hence the decision-making process must deal with militancy in a combined, conjoint and collective manner.

The civil-military friction makes counter-militant actions inconsistent, limited and at times incompatible with the changing threat environment. Since these measures include public pacification and service delivery issues, which are beyond the scope and capacity of a military force, the local government must step in to complement the military gains in disturbed regions. There are three main types of civil-military relationship models.

In the first, a total military dominated set-up, the military thinking is seeped into the civilian apparatus which follows it without providing its sincere input in the fight against militancy. Such a mechanism results in militarisation of the civilian actions and the focus remains on the kinetic measures. The structural developments in civilian institutions are limited, and initiatives are driven by military demand. Once the civilian institutions stop seeing themselves as bona fide part of the process, they become a mechanical cog of militarised machinery. The counter-actions against militancy may gain short-term successes but miss the long-term strategic objectives.

In the second scenario, the military remains a dominant force but the civilian setup manages to gain ground on multiple fronts through strength of constitutional process and robustness of political dispensation in the country. It is a flip-flop model in which the civilian set-up manages to diversify the counter-militant actions especially those that minimise the threat to military organisation. These actions are maintained under the overall military tutelage which pushes the civilian departments at will when a critical incident happens. The civilian government makes headway in certain areas; nonetheless, the disturbed regions remain under the military’s close watch. A certain militancy level is acceptable in it which is both sustainable and bearable. However the arrangement can be changed at any time leaving the selective civilian counter-militancy efforts in limbo.

The last model is based on civilian control. Under such a system, institutional stability and sustainability, with special focus on rooting out the causes of militancy, remains on the forefront. All measures are conceived and led by civilian government but its execution is supervised by a hybrid mechanism. Thus, the country tries to find the solution to militancy through engaging regional countries and initiating a broad-based socio-political dialogue with disgruntled elements along with improving public service delivery in disturbed areas and regions. The regional approach against militancy is encouraged and supported in such a set-up which provides an expanded platform in the fight against militancy. The security policies do not bite the dust in the ministries or divisions but are implemented through a proper system of central and provincial governments. The military, as a result, loses its absolute monopoly of control over security.

Hence, nature of civil-military relationship translates into a proportionate kind of state equilibrium to formulate, initiate and implement response against militancy. An equivocal relationship reciprocates into an unclear action against militancy and vice versa.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2022.

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