Civil Military Relation and Stabilization in Federally Administered Areas (FATA)


The importance of civil military relations assumes seminal importance in ensuring the success of all phases of a counter insurgency campaign. In the true tradition of the Clausewitzian dictum that war is the continuation of policy and vice versa; Pakistan Army has been employed as a matter of policy in counter insurgency operations in the erstwhile tribal areas. They have also been used in the stabilization operations to bring about normality in the insurgency ridden areas. In all phases of the conflict cycle, the military has worked hand in glove with its civilian counterparts.
The civil-military coordination (CIMIC) in the insurgency ridden areas has taken place within the framework of the established ground rules of an organized counter insurgency campaign. It would not be unfair to say that the return to normality in the erstwhile FATA has only been possible because of a well-knit CIMIC architecture.
This paper briefly touches upon the salient points of the CIMIC aspect of the counter and post-insurgency part of the operations in the conflict zones and highlights the importance of this aspect of dealing with insurgencies.

Keywords: Conflict, Civil Military Coordination (CIMIC), internally displaced people (IDPs), FATA, post-conflict phase.

*This essay has been developed on the thoughts expressed during the joint Pak Army and British Army session on Stabilization Operations held in the UK in March 2018.

List of Acronyms
Full Name                                                                   Acronym
1 Al Qaeda                                                                      AQ
2 Civil Armed Forces                                                    CAF
3 Civil Military Coordination                                     CIMIC
4 Central Intelligence Agency                                    CIA
5 Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees                CAR
6 Federally Administered Tribal Areas                   FATA
7 Government of Pakistan                                         GoP
8 International Committee of the Red Cross           ICRC
9 International Non-Governmental Organization INGO
10 Internally Displaced People                                   IDP
11 Karakorum Highway                                               KKH
12 Khyber Pukhtunkhwa                                            KP
13 Ministry of Defense                                                MoD
14 Ministry of Interior                                                MoI
15 National Database Registration Authority        NADRA
16 National Disaster Management Authority        NDMA
17 Non-Governmental Organization                       NGO
18 North Waziristan Agency                                     NWA
19 Osama bin Laden                                                   OBL
20 Provincial Disaster Management Authority    PDMA
21 Standard Operating Procedure                           SOP
22 States & Frontier Regions                                     SAFRON
23 South Waziristan Agency                                     SWA
24 Temporary Displaced People                              TDP
25 UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations UNDPKO
26 UN High Commissioner for Refugees               UNHCR
27 World Food Program                                           WFP

Conflicts take place because of a variety of reasons. Usually it is the result of misrule and poor governance. The situation is aggravated, when external elements find the situation ripe to add fuel to fire. In case of Pakistan, the conflict that has raged in its tribal areas can be traced to the Afghan Jihad in the last century against the Soviet forces. The United States found it an ideal opportunity to defeat its Cold War rival by sponsoring guerrilla war that pitched Afghan Mujahidin grounded in Islamic ideals against the godless Soviet empire. The Afghan guerrillas were equipped with weapons purchased by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with Saudi money to fight a long drawn war to weaken the overstretched Soviet Red Army in the rugged and inhospitable land famously dubbed as the graveyard of empires (Bearden, November/December 2001). After ten years of extremely expensive and futile campaigning, the Soviet Motor Rifle Divisions withdrew across the Amu River in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed soon after. Today the Americans are confronted with almost a similar situation in Afghanistan, as they seek a face saving exit out of the country. A clearly ascendant Taliban sniff victory after nearly eighteen years of a mindless war that also engulfed the bordering tribal areas of Pakistan.
After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and left the warring Afghan warlords to their own devices in 1989, a new force in the shape of Taliban or religious students moved in to occupy the space created by the prevailing anarchy. The Taliban imposed a primitive roughshod order to establish order out of chaos. At first they took hold of the countryside and finally were able to capture Kabul in 1996. The Taliban, out of tribal traditions of hospitality, played host to the Al Qaeda (AQ), an organization led by Arab ideologues like the Saudi Osama bin Laden (OBL) and the Egyptian Dr. Ayman Alzwahiri to fight American imperialism. The world history took a turn for the worse, when AQ cohorts were blamed for 9/11 attacks on the symbols of American power and prestige i.e. the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York and the military headquarter – the Pentagon in Washington DC (The 9/11 Commission Report, 2004). These attacks and what happened in their aftermath is now history but suffice is to say it triggered a chain of events that brought about more death and destruction to this area than the 3000 that perished in the Twin Towers. Facts and figures also prove that the damage done in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the American retaliation has been greater than that caused by the Soviet invasion and the civil war that followed it. In Pakistan alone, the death toll has been more than 70,000.
For Pakistan, there was no escaping the war in Afghanistan. Under intense pressure from Bush administration, Government of Pakistan (GoP) under General Musharraf gave up on the Taliban and sided with the US government (Yamin, 2015). The price that it paid for this U turn was enormous, in terms of lives and revenues lost. The multinational ‘holy’ warriors, who were once lionized as heroes for fighting against the Soviets and were willingly allowed the use of Pakistani tribal areas as launch pads, were now sworn enemies. The snapping of this relationship was brutal and abrupt. As the conflict spread into settled areas like Swat, the government was forced to adopt a kinetic approach. For the first time in country’s history, army was sent into the tribal areas to launch a series of military operations. Prior to army’s intervention, law and order had been the preserve of the civil armed forces in the tribal areas. A series of military operations were launched to flush out and eliminate the insurgents. Since, these maneuvers were conducted on the country’s own territory, both civilian and military agencies joined hands to first evacuate and subsequently rehabilitate those living in the tribal areas. This was no mean feat and is far from over.

Military as the First Responder
The military in Pakistan is constitutionally duty bound to come to the aid of civil power, when asked to do so ( The employment of military in civilian affairs is always a political decision. The time and duration of employment and its return to the barracks is the prerogative of the political leadership. Since the Army is configured to respond to emergencies, its services are requisitioned in all cases of natural and man made disasters. The Army is also called in for nation building tasks such as constructing strategic highways. The construction of the 1300 km long Karakorum Highway (KKH), over one of the most mountainous regions of the world, is a major example of the involvement of military engineers in a nation building task (www.beltroadinitiativecom/karakoram-highway/). In short, it is not unusual in Pakistan for soldiers to operate alongside civilian agencies over extended period of times. Therefore, they understand quite well, the working of the civil government. As part of their annual training they learn such law enforcement duties as crowd control. Each field formation has standard contingencies for managing flood and earthquake relief. Regular liaison with civil agencies such as National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is carried out in peacetime for possible deployment on flood or other emergency duties.
Although Pakistan Army has been handling refugees ever since the partition of India, which saw the largest exodus of mankind in contemporary history; the military operations in Swat and the erstwhile tribal areas has provided it a different kind of experience in handling internally displaced people (IDPs). The evacuation and subsequent rehabilitation of the IDPs from the troubled areas of Swat district in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) province and the former tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan Agencies (NWA and SWA) was done in close collaboration with the civil administration. The relief and rehabilitation work also involved close cooperation with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
As a safety precaution, the areas, where the military operations were launched were first cleared of non-combatants before the army moved in. In case of Swat, which is a settled district of KP a massive evacuation of civilian population was conducted and nearly 3 million people were moved from their towns and villages to camps located in the KP. After Operation Rah-i-Rast had been successfully concluded, the IDPs were quickly moved back, so they could resume their daily lives  (ZubairTorwali, 2012). The main reason for its success was well oiled CIMIC machinery.
Civilian / Foreign Disaster Management Agencies
A number of civilian agencies have the mandate to respond to disasters. In this regard the first and foremost agency is the NDMA and its provincial affiliates – the Provincial Disaster Management Agencies (PDMAs). The office of the Director General of the NDMA is located in the prime minister’s secretariat to provide him easy access to the chief executive of the country. The warehouses of the NDMA are located all over the country with immediate disaster relief goods. Details about the mandate of the NDMA are available on their website (
The refugees and displaced people are handled by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions or SAFRON ( The office of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) was created under the auspices of this Ministry. This was done to streamline the handling of Afghan refugees, who had started pouring across the international border in 1979 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A second and third wave of refugees came into Pakistan after the American invasion of Afghanistan. Although a number of Afghan refugee camps have been disbanded, 43 of these still exist. A very large Afghan refugee population lives outside these camps (
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) monitors aliens that come into the country. The task of registering them is the responsibility of the National Database Registration Authority or NADRA ( This agency registers refugees and IDPs and issue them relevant identity documents. ATM cards are also issued to the IDPs to draw the compensation that the government offers to them to resume their livelihood. The MoI cedes control of the civil armed forces (CAF) and the police to the Army in times of an emergency. This is only a temporary measure and the paramilitaries and police revert to the control of the civilian provincial and federal authorities once the operational requirement is no longer there.
A number of foreign agencies are also involved in disaster relief management. This includes the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) ( The management of refugees is a difficult process. The UNHCR not only provide relief and rehabilitation to the refugees but also helps in their repatriation to their home country, once the situation normalizes in the conflict zone. To begin with, the UNHCR identifies genuine refugees and provides them with identity documents. Government agencies then assign them to various refugee camps. Sometimes the stay of the refugees in host countries is prolonged. To make the best use of their time, the UNHCR opens schools and vocational training centers for them, as has been the case of the Afghan refugees. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (ICRC) has among other things opened hospitals to tend to the sick and the wounded ( The World Food Program (WFP) ferries in food items, when the world considers it necessary to send in food aid ( Other UN agencies also chip in where necessary. Some international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) with credible credentials are also allowed to join in the relief effort. In case of the earthquake that took place in 2005, NATO forces along with men, materiel and helicopters also lent a hand in the relief operations. These forces became part of Operation Lifeline that was managed by the Pakistan Army (Pakistan: The complexities of delivering aid, 2006). All these operations become part of the overall CIMIC effort to alleviate misery and help those in need of dire help.

CIMIC procedures and architecture is flexible. It takes the shape as per the developing situation. Usually, once the government calls in the Army, it informs the civil agencies the number of soldiers that have been placed at their disposal. It can be anywhere from a platoon size force to a full-fledged brigade or even a division or more. Traditionally, the military commander is supposed to link up with the civilian agencies in the theater of operation. The military force is equipped with fast means of transportation such as light aircraft and helicopters and all-purpose four wheel drive vehicles and the necessary communication equipment (long range wireless sets) that communicate with their own elements already deployed in the area. Irrespective of who contacts whom, a CIMIC HQ quickly takes shape. It is the government’s decision to establish a chain of command. In case the military commander has the necessary wherewithal and authority, which is invariably the case, he is placed in command. But this is not the rule, a civilian with sufficient authority can be placed on top of the relief and rehabilitation effort. In any case the command shifts from the military to the civilian authorities, whenever the situation is considered safe and appropriate. NATO has a joint publication that lays out the rules for CIMIC (AJP 9 – NATO CIMIC is available at This is a 57 page document that clearly lays down the principles of CIMIC and provides an unambiguous framework for civilian and military forces working together in a disaster struck area. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) has also produced a document giving the policy guidelines for CIMIC in a conflict zone ( /DPKO%20UN-CIMIC%20(2010).pdf).
In Pakistan enough institutional experience exists to provide the army and the civil authorities, the plans and procedures of collaborating together in the best possible manner. The Army in particular has contingency schemes down to the unit level to provide the basic information and guidelines of the likely situations to accept in the units/formation’s area of responsibility (AOR) and how best to react to these. The experiences in Swat and the erstwhile tribal areas has further burnished the credentials of the military to work in tandem with civilian agencies in the conflict zones.
The recent events have shown that the Army together with the civilians not only planned the evacuation of local populations to safe areas but also organized and managed camps for what are now referred to as Temporarily Displaced People (TDPs). These displaced people were also successfully relocated to their homes and hearths once the danger was over. In the post-conflict phase, the transition from military to civil administration has always been difficult because the putative civilian structures had broken down and in certain cases are still convalescing from the setbacks of a violent breakdown. In most cases the civilian administrators are not confident to take over, once the situation has returned to normal. This, nonetheless, has to be done. Police, prison and judicial system has to be revived. New people have to be recruited and trained to take-over from where the previous lot has left and turn a new leaf. Once the army leaves the police and other law enforcement agencies have to occupy the void quickly and efficiently so that there is not relapse to violence. The return to civilian control is important for the local masses to return the areas that they had left with confidence. In Swat, the army handed over the control to the civilian authorities in a ceremony held in Mingora on October 22, 2018 (Yusofzai, 2018). As per reports, the civilian authorities have so far been successful in reasserting control, though a large army presence still remains in the valley.

A CIMIC Document
It is of importance that the lessons learnt during the operations are properly recorded and preserved. Archiving can be a long and tedious work but once the records are complete, the Ministry of Defense (MoD), Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of SAFRON and the Planning Commission can have the joint ownership of this document. The findings can even be presented in the parliament and comments invited from the legislators to be included in the final paper. A doctrine on CIMIC can be developed as part of the National Security Policy. The joint CIMIC document should be scrutinized and updated from time to time. For the time being, a CIMIC pamphlet should be written for future guidance. This should include the following points:
1. Planning & Preparation. Whereas, past meteorological records and future weather patterns can help predict natural disasters like floods and typhoons, it is very difficult to determine, where and how an insurgency is likely to break out. It is quite true many times the state of affairs are so obviously bad that a crisis is only begging to unfold. It is unfortunate, however, that the decision makers continue to ignore such a situation at their own and the nation’s peril. Experience tells us that when a bad situation is allowed to fester for long, it just explodes one day and by that time it is too late to control or contains it. It is time that dispassionate analysis is made of how and why things have gone wrong in the past and how this state of affairs can be avoided in the future. Experts in the field of academia and from among the practitioners can be invited to formulate a policy on how to predict and prevent a man made disaster. In this digital age a software for predicting such events can be developed. Pentagon is known to use such software (Shactman, 2011). The group of experts (GE) tasked with monitoring crises, should be provided support and inputs from relevant ministries and organizations. These experts should meet regularly to update their advice to the government regarding preparations for any unforeseen eventuality. This group should also identify critical infrastructure that must be protected at all cost to prevent a breakdown of essential command and control elements.
2. Rehearsals. Traditionally, the military rehearses all operational contingencies during peacetime. This practice should also include civilian agencies for better preparedness to handle man-made disasters that can cause dislocation of own citizens. Presently, the only rehearsals that soldiers are made to undergo concern riot control procedures and how to take over the situation from the civilian authorities such as the district magistrate and the police. After having experienced refugee inflows and rehabilitation of IDPs in the past three to four decades, it is time that relief and rehabilitation of uprooted people due to conflict should also be practiced as part of the CIMIC apparatus.
3. Reconnaissance. Joint reconnaissance of restive areas should be carried out on a regular basis. One can argue, who decides, which are or areas are restive and which are peaceful? In my opinion, the internal security matrix should be part of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) prepared by the MoI. The NISP for the next five years i.e. 2018-2023 is available at Additional briefing should be obtained from civil and military intelligence agencies before embarking on this venture. This exercise will be undertaken with the view to obtain the latest information on how things appear on ground and would help the first responders both civilian and military to prepare suitable contingencies.
4. Coordination. Peacetime coordination with civil agencies including the district administration, police, relevant ministries, NGOs and INGOs can save a lot of botheration and waste of time trying to find out at the eleventh hour, where to go and whom to contact an emergency. It would be a good idea to frequently exchange mobile phone numbers, email and postal addresses to save time. An upto date directory can be useful to all concerned officials. It will also be a good idea to establish direct hotlines among concerned agencies.

Rules of CIMIC
CIMIC should not be taken lightly. Good inter agency liaison can become the single most important feature in ensuring the success of an operation involving the civilian and military organizations. Based on common experiences, some cardinal rules must be observed under all circumstances.
The first and the foremost rule of CIMIC is to know your opposite number. A successful CIMIC operation requires close cooperation and coordination among the military and civilian authorities at all levels. This begins at the top most bureaucratic level and goes down to that of the foot soldier. The civilian and military partners should not only know and understand the rank structure of their respective service, they should know them by name. A telephone directory of concerned personnel should be exchanged at the appropriate levels. Each side should be well aware of how the other is equipped, geared and mandated to handle a crisis. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) must be known and understood in adequate detail.
Second rule of CIMIC is to know your area. Military units and commanders get rotated very often for operational reasons. Many times they are not familiar with their new area of responsibility. Sometimes they may be required to operate outside the are, where they are stationed. Therefore, it is necessary that they not only intimately know their operational area but also the one, where they may be employed jointly with civilian agencies to handle an internal security threat.
Third rule of CIMIC is to know your job. There are differences in executing a military manoeuvre from an internal crisis. In case of a military action, the commander and staff may understand when and how to call for an airstrike but they may not exactly know how to call and collaborate with the police or the civil administration. The division of labour must be understood. The mandate of the other party should not be under or over estimated. The magnitude of an internal disaster can vary and would require proportionate response for each situation. The military man knows that it must have a superiority of three to one to succeed in an attack but these manpower ratios may not match for internal security operations. Threat assessment and manpower requirements need to be calculated to the nth degree. Plans to raise additional forces in times of emergency must be catered for.
Fourth rule of CIMIC is to mind your language. For the military and civilian agencies to be on one page, they must know they must have a fair understanding of each other’s ay of speaking and method of communication. Ideally, the Army, police, sundry law enforcement agencies and district administration should have a common language. This is not impossible but for the time being a common jargon can be developed, so everyone understand the meaning and import of each word used during operations.
Fifth rule is to believe in each other. This is perhaps the most important rule. Sometimes due to mutual suspicions and crosscutting interests, civil and military agencies can operate at cross purposes to each other. Important operational intelligence may be withheld if there is a trust deficit. The top officials must inspire confidence in each other and also instruct their subordinates to believe in each other. The interests of the other services should not be violated and all information must be shared in good faith.

CIMIC is an imperfect science. It must be honed through mutual interaction and practice. Sharing of experiences can be a good way of creating an association of trust. An internal security matter involves bringing together different institutions of the state. All those involved must understand that whatever, they are doing together is in the interest of the nation. All members of the CIMIC team must learn to operate together and the aim should be not personal glory or the aggrandizement of a particular service.
Bearden, Milton. Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires. Foreign Affairs. November-December, 2001.
Constitution of Pakistan.
Commissionerate of Afghan Refugees.
Karakoram Highway. www.beltroadinitiativecom/karakoram-highway/
NISP (2018-2023).
Pakistan: The complexities of delivering aid. Relief Web.
Policy Guidelines on CIMIC produced by UNDPKO.
Shachtman, Noah. Pentagon’s Prediction Software failed to spot Egypt’s Unrest. 2011.
The 9/11 Commission Report. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States of America, 2004.
Yamin, Tughral. Examining Pakistan’s Strategic Decision to Support the US War on Terror. Journal of Strategic Studies. 2015.
Yusofzai, Shahabullah. Army hands over administrative powers to civil authorities in Swat. The Express Tribune. October 22, 2018.

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