In the post-Cold War era the earliest sufferer of war by proxy was India; in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989. The progenitor of this was the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion and occupation, right through the 1980s. The United States and its ally Saudi Arabia had concerns about the southward Soviet expansion. They thus merged their resources and employed Pakistan as a front, launched a disparate army of transnational mercenaries from various Islamic nations into Afghanistan in a classic irregular war, duly funded and provisioned by them. It helped defeat and drive out the Soviet Army after almost a decade of vicious bloodletting. The lessons learnt from there and the availability of rump elements of the mercenaries at the end of the war came in handy for Pakistan in launching its proxy effort in Kashmir in 1989; Bosnia was the other region where the remaining elements moved to fight a proxy war without identified sponsors.
Another nation which has used the same principles in employing proxies to gain strategic advantage or neutralise its adversaries has been Iran; in fact in a far more refined way.
As the unending drama involving the US-Iran standoff in the Middle East unfolds, the feasibility of Iran falling back on its carefully crafted strategy involving the use of proxies is likely to emerge. How proxies fit into the genre of modern warfare is an important aspect to analyse to assess the emerging threats in the Middle East.
Weaker nations choose to fight through proxies who are not exactly unorganised and undisciplined elements, but its their ability to fight quasi-guerrilla style which adds to their effectiveness. They owe allegiance to the sponsor state which caters for their higher leadership, the technical aspects of intelligence, supply chains of wherewithal, finances and ideological motivation; all ingredients of a classic irregular war.
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