Strategic depth concept


Mirza Aslam Beg

ON July 02, 2017, Raza Rumi Editor Daily Times, in his editorial column, commented on the concept of ‘Strategic Depth’, wrongly attributed to me. I sent the rejoinder to him, and he was kind enough to publish it in the July 04 issue of Daily Times. The Rejoinder, in full, is forwarded, which explains my concept of ‘Strategic Depth’ of unity between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, which still remains a dream to be realised.
The Rejoinder: General Beg explains his view of strategic depth doctrine. In an op-ed article “Myths that need to be buried for good” printed in Daily Times on July 2 (Sunday), Raza Rumi has attributed the introduction of concept of ‘Strategic Depth’ to me. The relevant section in the article reads: “Another myth pertains to the burial of the ‘strategic depth’ doctrine famously propounded by former Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg.”
Regretfully, I have never proposed such a defeatist concept of withdrawal to ‘Afghanistan for territorial depth, against Indian military ingress”. For me, this is unthinkable because my mission has been: “Defend all territories of Pakistan and develop counter offensive capability to carry the war into the enemy territory.” Thus, the Offensive-Defensive Concept has been developed based on our real military capability and a system of forces.
Yet, I admit that I did talk about the concept of Strategic Depth, in a different context altogether, on August 25, 1988, when I first addressed my officers at the General Headquarters (GHQ) as the Chief of Army Staff. I spoke verbatim and every word was recorded by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). From the recorded speech, I quote:
“It is a matter of great satisfaction that in this hour of struggle, we are not alone. The entire nation is with us… The second positive note which has emerged is the heroic struggle on the north-western borders… The days of hegemony of super powers are over and now we will witness the dawn of the supremacy of Islam. The triumph of democracy is in sight… The three countries — Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan — are emerging free, strong and resilient, and are moving towards a common destiny, to unite together to form the bastion of power — the Strategic Depth of the Muslim World. It’s a vision which must be converted into a reality.”
So many impediments have since been created to prevent that dream from being realized. Mr Rumi has also opined that: “After three decades, the doctrine has reversed and we have turned into the ‘depth’ for others and a target of groups that call themselves the Pakistani Taliban. Now these groups have found sanctuaries in Afghanistan and we keep on complaining about that to the world.”
Whereas the facts speak otherwise. After the retreat of the Soviets in 1989, General Zia supported the Americans, denying the Mujahedeen — the victors — power sharing in Afghanistan. After General Zia, both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif treated Afghanistan as a back-burner issue. General Pervez Musharraf crossed all limits to join the Americans in their war on Afghanistan. Following the ‘do-more’ directives, he started military offensives in Waziristan, Swat, Dir and Bajaur. Following in his footsteps, General Raheel Sharif started Operation Zarb-i-Azb which demolished the support base of the Afghan freedom movement. We are now facing the fall-out effects of this ‘do-more’ strategy. What else should Pakistan do to disconnect itself from Afghan affairs, and why?
The 45 million Pakhtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line are divided between Pakistan (60 percent) and Afghanistan (40 percent). 10% of these reside in Karachi, the heart of Pakistan. During the last three decades, they have humbled and defeated the mightiest of the mighty of the world. Our Pakhtuns have supported Afghan Pakhtuns in their struggle for freedom, and will continue to do so till the Afghans win their freedom. What means do we have to divide and separate the Pakhtun nation? For the last 125 years, the Durand Line has failed to achieve that purpose. Use of force has proved disastrous for Pakistan. Don’t you think, it is about time now for us to reflect on the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who aimed at uniting the Pakhtun nation — by pulling-out troops from the borders and giving identity to the Pakhtuns as a nation, that extends beyond the Durand Line to Hindukush Mountains, to Amu Darya.
— The writer, a retired 4-star General, is former COAS, Pakistan Army.
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