Pakistani Security Forces

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Pakistan's security forces are composed of a regular military, several paramilitary organizations that will report to a new National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Inter-Services Intelligence, and police organizations. The structure reflects a concern with very different threats: major conventional and potentially nuclear warfare with India, guerrilla movements in disputed or tribal territories, and counterterrorism in the main provinces of the country.

Since 1947, according to Ahmed Rashid, no American administration has fully appreciated the importance, to stability in the region, of the Kashmir dispute and the broader India-Pakistan dispute. U.S. intelligence was quite aware that al-Qaeda and the Taliban had been training fighters in Kashmir since 1997, but the jihad in Central and South Asia did not rise to US Presidential level. Rashid calls the George W. Bush Administration naive to assume that the 9-11 Attacks would make the two countries deescalate their tension to form a common front against al-Qaeda. [1] If Pakistani forces have not been as attentive to counterterrorism as other countries might desire, this is a major reason. Whether the West wants the rivalry or not, it is real, and has to be dealt with along with other regional security issues.

It has developed into a national security state, for which the national interest is defined as:[2]

  • Keeping archenemy India at bay
  • Developing nuclear weapons
  • Having a friendly government in Afghanistan

In this context,two dynamics dominate Pakistani politics: those between the military and civil society, and those between Islam and the state.

Regular military

The conventional forces comprise an Army (includes National Guard), Navy (includes Marines and Maritime Security Agency), and Pakistan Air Force (Pakistan Fiza'ya). [3]

Regular military

Unquestionably, the primary concern of the regular military forces is war with India; there have been numerous engagements. Pakistani forces also, however, participate in a number of United Nations peace operations.

From a command and control standpoint, the Air Force has moved to three regional commands, and the Army may be doing so. [4] The Army does not publish its order of battle.

There has been a continuing "trust gap" between the Pakistani military and the US, due to various US arms cutoffs and supplies of arms to its enemies. This began with US arms supplies to India during its war with China in 1962, and cutting off arms to both India and Pakistan during their 1965 and 1971 wars. Since the bulk of Indian foreign arms were Soviet, this was more damaging to Pakistan. [5] Even deeper resentment goes into the complex situation relating to nuclear nonproliferation, especially the 1985 Pressler Amendment. During the [[Afghanistan War (1978-92), the US suspended its counterproliferation policies in exchange for Pakistani help in Afghanistan. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the balance changed, even though India had been the first of the two countries to introduce nuclear weapons.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

There is a Pakistani National Command Authority, responsible for both development and employment. Employment is under the Head of the Government, supported by the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Chairman), Minister of Defence, Minister for Interior, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), Services Chiefs, Director General Strategic Plans Division (Secretary) and Technical Advisors/others as required by the Chairman.[6]

Gravity bombs were available before missiles. [7] Probable delivery aircraft include the Chinese A-5 FANTAN, French Mirage III, and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon. The latter have not been upgraded to current standards and were blocked for delivery for years, a continuing source of tension between Pakistan and the US.

Pakistan's Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) is responsible for ballistic missile. [4]


Counterinsurgency strategists, who think in population-centric rather than enemy-centric terms, are looking at strengthening the Pakistani security forces to operate in a more effective way. This hardly represents a consensus within the Pakistani government, when President Asif Ali Zardari said, in May 2009, Pakistan needed to develop its capabilities and required more military aid,[8]. Also in May, Pakistani Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani said "[E]xcept for very specialized weapons and equipment and [advanced] technology, no generalized foreign training is required," [9] and outside input would be counterproductive.

This is a major conflict for U.S. policymakers. C. Christine Fair of the RAND Corporation said "Pakistan's army does not want to become a counterinsurgency force." [10]


Paramilitary forces are of varying quality. The most effective are the Pakistan Ranger commands in Punjab and Sind Provinces; the Frontier Corps in the Northwest Frontier Province and Balochistan Province are less so. [11]

A new development is having them report to a National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), to be headed inspector general of police, Tariq Pervez. President Zardari asked for funding for NACTA on March 28, 2009; the assumption is that there will be considerable foreign assistance, and incentive pay for the counterterrorism personnel.[12]


Pakistan is facing a grave threat from a variety of insurgent and terrorist groups. So far, the army has been the principal U.S. partner in contending with a variety of insurgent and terrorist threats in the tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, and elsewhere.[13]


Peace operations

There has been a small UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) since 1949.

US presence

During the Afghanistan War (2001-), major combat phase, US aircraft overflew Pakistan, and there was significant covert basing there. 1100 combat search and rescue, communications, airbase repair, and aircraft were there. [[United States Central Command}} aircraft flew 57,800 sorties from Pakistani basis. The US had effective control of the port at Karachi and the island of Pasni. As a quid pro quo, Colin Powell resisted any public criticism of Musharraf or the ISI.[1]

It is hardly secret that the US is using drones for targeted killings in areas of Pakistan. Whether or not there are any special operations troops on the ground, or even working with Pakistani intelligence, is a matter of speculation only; this would be even more sensitive, with respect to Pakistani sovereignty, than the overflights.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ahmed Rashid (2006), Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, Viking, ISBN 9780670019700, pp. 109-110 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Rashid-Descent" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Rashid, Descent, p. 33
  3. Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan, Military, The World Factbook
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pakistan Army Order of Battle, Globalsecurity Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GS-Army" defined multiple times with different content
  5. C. Christine Fair (April 2009), "Time for Sober Realism: Renegotiating U.S. Relations with Pakistan", The Washington Quarterly, DOI:10.1080/01636600902775680, pp. 155-159
  6. Associated Press of Pakistan:, 3 February 2000
  7. Pakistan Aircraft: Potential Special Weapons Delivery Systems, Globalsecurity
  8. "War to be extended beyond Swat, says Zardari", The News (Pakistan), May 18, 2009
  9. "Counter-insurgency training facilities developed: Kayani", Daily Times (Pakistan), May 17, 2009
  10. Realigning Pakistan's Security Forces, Council on Foreign Relations, June 18, 2009
  11. Hassan Abbas (April, 2009), ISPU: Police and Law Enforcement Reform in Pakistan, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
  12. "Pakistan’s Zardari hails US Strategy Review", Reuters, March 28, 2009
  13. C. Christine Fair (May 5, 2009), From Strategy to Implementation: The Future of the U.S.-Pakistan Relationship, House Foreign Affairs Committee, CT-330pp. 4-6