Strategic depth
Strategic depth is a term in military literature that broadly refers to the distances between the front line
Front line
A front line is the farthest-most forward position of an armed force's personnel and equipment - generally in respect of maritime or land forces. Forward Line of Own Troops , or Forward Edge of Battle Area are technical terms used by all branches of the armed services...

s or battle sectors and the combatants’ industrial core areas, capital cities, heartlands, and other key centers of population or military production. The key precepts any military commander must consider when dealing with strategic depth are how vulnerable these assets are to a quick, preemptive attack or to a methodical offensive and whether a country can withdraw into its own territory, absorb an initial thrust, and allow the subsequent offensive to culminate short of its goal and far from its source of power.

Commanders must be able to plan for both eventualities, and have measures and resources in place on both tactical and strategic levels to counter any and all stages of a minor or major enemy attack. These measures do not need to be limited to purely military assets, either - the ability to reinforce civilian infrastructure or make it flexible enough to withstand or evade assault is very valuable in times of war. The issue was the trade-off between space and time as witnessed by Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

’s failure to defeat the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in 1942. In the face of a German invasion, the Soviet military retreating
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

 from Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 in June 1941 to the outskirts of Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 in December 1941 allowed the Soviet Union to move its industrial base to the east of the Ural Mountains
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

. Thus the industries that had been moved could build the resources needed for the Soviet counter-attack.

The term is also the title of the main publication of Ahmet Davutoğlu
Ahmet Davutoglu
Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu is a Turkish political scientist, an academic and an ambassador. On May 1, 2009, he was named Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey after being the chief advisor to the Prime Minister of Republic of Turkey.-Life and career:...

 in drafting the new foreign policy of Turkey.

In reference to Pakistan

The Pakistani military establishment
Establishment (Pakistan)
The Establishment is a term used commonly by Pakistani political scientists and also by political scholars and analysts around the world for the powerful military-dominant oligarchy in Pakistan...

 has been accused of forming a policy that seeks to control Afghanistan, a policy often referred to by the media as "strategic depth". This is given as the reason why Pakistan has supported certain factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The current Pakistani military leader has denied these claims.

Accusations against the Pakistani military

The term "strategic depth" has been used in reference to Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

's utilization and contact with Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 following the neighboring country's Soviet invasion, to prevent encirclement from a hostile India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and a USSR-supported Afghanistan. Some sources state that the policy to control Afghanistan was formulated by General Mirza Aslam Beg
Mirza Aslam Beg
General Mirza Aslam Beg, SBt, HI, NI, afwc, psc , is a retired four-star general who was the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army succeeding General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, after the latter died in an air crash on 17 August 1988...

, and an Indian source claims this was continued as an active policy by the Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

 until the policy was "de jure abolished in 1998 and de facto abolished in 2001."

It has been speculated that the Pakistani military's "strategic depth" policy is either military or non-military in nature. The military version would state that the Pakistani military wishes to use Afghan territory as a "strategic rallying point" where they can, in the event of a successful Indian attack, retreat to and re-group for a counter-attack. The non-military version would be based on the idea that Pakistan can improve relations with other Islamic countries such as Iran and Turkey, developing improved economic and cultural ties with them and thus making them into strong allies against India.

View of the Pakistani military

General Ashfaq P. Kayani, currently the chief of the Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

 and previously the chief of the ISI
ISI or Isi may refer to:* İsi, a village and municipality in the Masally Rayon of Azerbaijan-Organizations:* Bureau of Indian Standards, previously the Indian Standards Institute, the national Standards Body of India...

, has repeatedly stated to the media that the Pakistan Army's "strategic depth" policy with regards to Afghanistan is not to "control" Afghanistan but to ensure a "peaceful, friendly and stable" relationship with Afghanistan. This policy therefore aims to ensure that Pakistan will not be threatened with long-term security problems on its Western border with Afghanistan. According to Kayani, a 'talibanised' Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interests.

According to Ejaz Haider, a Pakistani journalist, there is a confusion in the media regarding the policy on using Afghan territory to as a fallback area for Pakistani military assets. Haider blames General Mirza Aslam Beg for proposing this when he was the chief of the Pakistan Army, stating that this concept "was unpopular even when he was the chief and it has never been entertained by serious military planners. No one thinks of placing military and other assets in Afghanistan and thus acquiring strategic depth." Haider states that such a concept has always been impossible "for a host of reasons" and strategic depth is better used to describe achieving security through improving relationships with the governments of neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan and India.

Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani, who served as director-general of the ISI from 1990-92, has rubbished claims in the media regarding Pakistan intending to use Afghan territory as "strategic depth". He also denies accusations that the Pakistani military has tried to "install a friendly government in Kabul" in order to "secure this depth". He gives the Soviet Union as an example, stating that "after the Saur Revolution, the Soviets executed an installed president every three months in pursuit of that objective" and these policies later resulted in the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. He argues that the notion of Pakistan using Afghan territory for its own purposes is a "distortion of a concept or of history" and is being used to vilify Pakistan.

See also

  • Culminating point
    Culminating point
    The culminating point in military strategy is the point at which a military force no longer is able to perform its operations.On the offensive, the culminating point marks the time when the attacking force can no longer continue its advance, because of supply problems, the opposing force, or the...

  • Defence in depth
    Defence in depth
    Defence in depth is a military strategy; it seeks to delay rather than prevent the advance of an attacker, buying time and causing additional casualties by yielding space...

  • Military strategy
    Military strategy
    Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

  • Loss of Strength Gradient
    Loss of Strength Gradient
    The Loss of Strength Gradient was devised by Kenneth Boulding in 1962. He argued that the amount of a nation’s military power that could be brought to bear in any part of the world depended on geographic distance. The Loss of Strength Gradient demonstrated, in graphical form, that the further away...

  • Deep Battle
  • Strategic defence
    Strategic defence
    A Strategic defence is a type of military planning doctrine and a set of combat activities used for the purpose of deterring, resisting and repelling a strategic offensive, conducted as either a territorial or airspace invasion, or a naval offensive to interrupt shipping lane traffic as a form of...

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