Pakistan changes air force security doctrine to counter militancy (Lead)

March 27th, 2010 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, March 27 (DPA) The Pakistan Air Force (PAF), traditionally trained to defend the air space against India, has modified its security doctrine to counter the home-grown Taliban insurgency, the PAF chief said Saturday.
Air Chief Marshall Rao Qamar Suleman, in a rare media briefing at the air headquarters in Islamabad, said the “concept of security has changed for Pakistan due to threat posed by internal militancy”.

Traditionally, Pakistan has defined its operational strategy with reference to India, with which it has fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

But the local threat from the Islamic rebels has forced a policy shift and the national security planners lately are scrambling to match the militants’ guerrilla tactics through integrated ground and air offensives.

The air force, for the first time, was tested during the Swat operation last spring where it successfully targeted some of the Taliban’s key hideouts with minimum collateral damage.

Later, the army employed jet aircraft for weeks to soften key positions before launching ground operations in South Waziristan, a key militant region, in mid-October.

The efforts of PAF were acknowledged by the US and in addition to other equipment, the US has decided to provided latest F-16 jets to increase strike capability.

Suleman said the delivery of 18 of the newest F-16 jets “will start from June and completed by the end of the year”.

These will add to the already existing 50 F-16s in Pakistan’s over 300-strong air fleet.

The PAF also launched a mega command level exercise called High Mark 2010 two weeks ago in testing its capability in the war on terrorism.

The exercise, ending first week of May, will test the capability to fight simultaneously a traditional aerial war on the eastern border and carry out punitive strikes against militants at western border along Afghanistan, said Suleman.

The Pakistani air chief’s announcement to change security doctrine shows greater confidence about defending against India while coinciding with increasing cooperation between Pakistan and the US, defence analysts say.

The Pakistan-US strategic dialogue ended Thursday with a pledge to improve overall cooperation.

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