By : (K. H Zia) – The writer is a retired naval officer
Much has been written about the appropriateness of General Sharif’s acceptance to set up and lead an ‘Islamic Army’ belonging to 39 Muslim states. In so far as his acceptance goes it is a non-issue. A few years ago General Ahmed Shuja Pasha ex. DG ISI did the same when he became head of UAE’s security agency. If no one raised an eyebrow then, there appears no valid reason to raise any objection now.
However the issue is more complicated with far greater complications and ramifications than just the general’s appointment. The proposed alliance of the Islamic states is apparently doing to be based on the NATO model. The latter has a charter and a political setup that formulates its policies and overseas their implementation. There is no comparable organization evident that will supervise and direct General Sharif’s efforts. It is like having an army without any visible controlling body or political oversight.
Secondly, the mission of the proposed army will be apparently to deal with terrorism. Strange though it seems there is no internationally agreed or accepted definition of terrorism. Given this, it is legitimate to ask which terrorists will this new army be fighting? Will it be Hamas, Houthis, PKK, Taliban, Al-Nusra, ISIS, Jundullah, Hizbollah, Balochi separatists or some other? More importantly, who will decide who among these are terrorists? What happens if there is no agreement on the issue among the 39 participating states?
Raising a new army is a time consuming process. It may take twenty years or more to put an effective force in place. NATO does not have a standing army of its own. It relies on contributions from its member states. It means having interchangeable weapons systems, common language, doctrines, procedures, communications, logistics and training, etc. This too is not something that can be achieved overnight. It is indeed a test of will, determination and commitment to put together a multi-national force that is operationally effective.
Given the state of the military make up, non-standardised equipments, absence of a common language or background of joint operations to name just a few of the difficulties involved, the proposal can only be described as a non-starter. The only option left is to raise a new army with already trained manpower from whatever sources are available. In that case quite unlike NATO it will operate more as a mercenary force along the lines of the French Foreign Legion.
If that be the case, it will not operate as joint Islamic force but per force will carry out the orders of whosoever foots its bill. It is for the participating nations to decide if the proposition is acceptable to them with all its implications and ramifications. It is not something any country should wade into without proper thought and deliberation. The time to pause and ponder is now before the die is cast.