Analysis Inside the Special Forces’ identity crisis

randomradio

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First, the civilians should have got out of the way. There was no need for Doval to get brownie points by taking unilateral action (deciding which team to deploy and picking the NSG); there was no need for him to be there at all. Can you imagine Kissinger for instance, sitting in a Vietnamese base waiting for a raid into Cambodia to be completed? There is some deep insecurity in the man that drives him to take prominent positions (out of harm's way) whenever there is a photo opportunity.

Second, there is no reason to believe that the Army would have mobilised large numbers; nobody said so, nobody did so. This was not the Republic Day parade, after all. Pushing masses of people into a situation and hoping that numbers will overwhelm the hostiles is a typically civilian manoeuvre, one that a policeman used to bundobust duty would automatically take. On the other hand, it was the Army, when left to do it right by its own seniors and by New Delhi, that got it right in Black Thunder; a look at the numbers there will be instructive.

Third, you are completely right in suggesting that keeping a low profile and enticing the hostiles to make their move was the correct thing to do. But that did not preclude precautionary measures: guarding the military assets, cautioning the family members and throwing a discreet ring around them (not necessarily of uniformed personnel), giving the hostiles clearly demarcated room to manoeuvre by placing defensive pickets in locations that automatically encourage the hostiles to go where they are wanted to go.



You are right here. The worrying thing about the point of entry is that it should never have been achievable to enter in the first place. That is not an NSG or an SF problem; that is purely a base administration problem. While there is no harm in letting re-employed reservists take up watch-and-ward duties, there needed to have been periodic inspections of intrusion-reporting electronic equipment and of the vulnerability of the perimeter defences. There was also need for the Garudas to be involved as a reaction team located on the airbase itself at all times. What else should an air force special force be doing? That the hostiles got through tells its own tale.

By the time the battle broke out, it was too late for anything but sharpening the pencils for the post-mortem.

Again I repeat: the NSG were not trained for this kind of role, and they were out of place. The overwhelming impression is that they were involved solely because they were under the direct control of the civilian authorities.



There were very many variations possible. Not even one was tried.

An army column is 50 men, hardly a number that would arouse suspicion. The two special forces teams would have barely numbered 10 men each. That's no more than 120 or 130 men in total. The NSG were 130 followed by 80 more. And 30 Garuds were already present. And once the operation started, the army numbers swelled.

I think you are looking for problems where problems didn't exist.

The problem was the vegetation was working for the enemy. So the attackers were well prepared while both the army and NSG were completely unfamiliar with the terrain. I have no military expertise in CI operations, but I see this as a problem for the Garuds and the base DSC who failed to anticipate all the possible hiding spots within the vegetation.
 
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bonobashi

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An army column is 50 men, hardly a number that would arouse suspicion.

A 'column' is not a standard formation, it is an ad hoc grouping. Thank you for a dazzling display of technical knowledge, but a column can be from platoon (30 riflemen) to battalion (400 to 500) strength. For your further information, attacking in column was a practice of the French revolutionary armies, that lacked skill and precision in line formation and manoeuvre, and compensated by putting enthusiastic revolutionary soldiers in column. Very simply, a column is a formation that has more length than width.

The two special forces teams would have barely numbered 10 men each. That's no more than 120 or 130 men in total. The NSG were 130 followed by 80 more. And 30 Garuds were already present. And once the operation started, the army numbers swelled.

Who told you this? How did you conclude that there are standard numbers for 'teams'? And how does your arithmetic take two (2) teams of 10 each and get 120 or 130 men? How, too, did your numbers justify anything? Who told you the army numbers swelled during the operation? If they did, who was in command, or did everybody just shoot in a general direction hoping they'd hit a hostile?

Have you even a foggy clue as to how close quarters battle takes place, or how detachments, the correct term for an irregular body of soldiers, operate under orders?

I think you are looking for problems where problems didn't exist.

Not so. The problem is that I am WASTING time talking to a rank amateur who makes up wise ones as he goes along.

The problem was the vegetation was working for the enemy. So the attackers were well prepared while both the army and NSG were completely unfamiliar with the terrain. I have no military expertise in CI operations, but I see this as a problem for the Garuds and the base DSC who failed to anticipate all the possible hiding spots within the vegetation.

The attackers knew how to get about within the vegetation and the defenders didn't?

Do you think before you write?

When I put people on my ignore list, it is almost always due to their irredeemable stupidity. It is small now, on this forum, but shows signs of growth.
 
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randomradio

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A 'column' is not a standard formation, it is an ad hoc grouping. Thank you for a dazzling display of technical knowledge, but a column can be from platoon (30 riflemen) to battalion (400 to 500) strength. For your further information, attacking in column was a practice of the French revolutionary armies, that lacked skill and precision in line formation and manoeuvre, and compensated by putting enthusiastic revolutionary soldiers in column. Very simply, a column is a formation that has more length than width.



Who told you this? How did you conclude that there are standard numbers for 'teams'? And how does your arithmetic take two (2) teams of 10 each and get 120 or 130 men? How, too, did your numbers justify anything? Who told you the army numbers swelled during the operation? If they did, who was in command, or did everybody just shoot in a general direction hoping they'd hit a hostile?

Have you even a foggy clue as to how close quarters battle takes place, or how detachments, the correct term for an irregular body of soldiers, operate under orders?

Not so. The problem is that I am WASTING time talking to a rank amateur who makes up wise ones as he goes along.

I may be a "rank amateur" and can learn, but you seem to have difficulty reading.

"An army column is 50 men, hardly a number that would arouse suspicion. The two special forces teams would have barely numbered 10 men each. That's no more than 120 or 130 men in total."

(50*2) + (10*2) = 120. I ventured towards 130 in order to bring the SF teams to 15 each. The Ghataks are about 20 strong in each battalion after all. It was easier to say a "section" for the special forces, but I didn't know I have to give the exact breakup of the forces here. If that were the case why don't you give us all a detailed description of the events?

A column in the media and civilian circles generally refers to a group of soldiers smaller than a company, but larger than a platoon. So it's not 32 men, but it's not 120 men either.

Did you want me to say the army deployed 100 men in two columns each then? It doesn't change the actual flow of the discussion regardless of whether the army deployed 50 men each or 100 men each. I hope discussions are led more by common sense than irrational berating over semantics and technicalities.

The attackers knew how to get about within the vegetation and the defenders didn't?

6 men walking through thick vegetation vs 130 men, or even 300 men. Hmm....

Common sense says the attacker has the initiative. Or are you saying all our forces should have been hiding in the grass, lighting their peace pipes, waiting for Custer to ride in?

But I suppose it's too bad that Doval isn't a Hogwarts qualified battle field radar with accurate information on enemy positions, since those are the standards you espouse from him due to your irrational hatred for anything to do with him.

Give it up. In hindsight everything could be done better. The army is being salty that they did not run the mission. And if the incident had led to a hostage situation, the army was incapable of handling it.

Do you think before you write?

Likewise.
 

RATHORE

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I may be a "rank amateur" and can learn, but you seem to have difficulty reading.

"An army column is 50 men, hardly a number that would arouse suspicion. The two special forces teams would have barely numbered 10 men each. That's no more than 120 or 130 men in total."

(50*2) + (10*2) = 120. I ventured towards 130 in order to bring the SF teams to 15 each. The Ghataks are about 20 strong in each battalion after all. It was easier to say a "section" for the special forces, but I didn't know I have to give the exact breakup of the forces here. If that were the case why don't you give us all a detailed description of the events?

A column in the media and civilian circles generally refers to a group of soldiers smaller than a company, but larger than a platoon. So it's not 32 men, but it's not 120 men either.

Did you want me to say the army deployed 100 men in two columns each then? It doesn't change the actual flow of the discussion regardless of whether the army deployed 50 men each or 100 men each. I hope discussions are led more by common sense than irrational berating over semantics and technicalities.



6 men walking through thick vegetation vs 130 men, or even 300 men. Hmm....

Common sense says the attacker has the initiative. Or are you saying all our forces should have been hiding in the grass, lighting their peace pipes, waiting for Custer to ride in?

But I suppose it's too bad that Doval isn't a Hogwarts qualified battle field radar with accurate information on enemy positions, since those are the standards you espouse from him due to your irrational hatred for anything to do with him.

Give it up. In hindsight everything could be done better. The army is being salty that they did not run the mission. And if the incident had led to a hostage situation, the army was incapable of handling it.



Likewise.

Don't mind Joe, he's bitter, condescending, and never misses a chance to ruin the level of discource with his insults and general backhandedness. Then he quickly switches to moral grandstanding and preaches on and on about how the level of discourse apparently isn't high enough for his standards. All without a hint of irony at that.
 

Hellfire

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In the process, they unlearned a lot of what they were meant to do — force multipliers on steroids to politico-military ends.

Strange

Two Indian Army / Special Forces operations seared the national conscience in the recent past. While the raid in Myanmar, in 2015, was greeted with aplomb and the 56" chest first flexed, the big question lingered — would India, could India, pull this off against her Western foe? India answered with “surgical strikes” in late September ’16. Terror launch pads across the LoC were destroyed and Uri stood avenged.

Not the first time. And no, we have never used SF (as we know them today, the 1,2,3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 21) for the tasks usually associated with SEAL Team 6 etc. Hitting terror camps across LC is something that normal infantry units' commando platoon (renamed Ghatak) has usually been doing in the height of Kashmir insurgency, as has been done by PARA (SF) units as they sought to 'train' their men.




An enigmatic new insignia popped up on a soldier’s uniform a few years ago which sent defence enthusiasts and experts alike into a tizzy. The insignia, worn above the service patches, above the left pocket, belongs to servicemen of the SG — Special Group. Tenanted mostly by men from the Para (SF) battalions of the Indian Army there are also Tibetans and a few Marine Commandos to be found within their ranks.

Incorrect and incomplete information, as should be the case, for Special Group. The force is based on recognition of 'talent' from infantry, arms, PARA (SF) (recommendations), from other SFF units and cross section of trained manpower from other Special Forces. And there is a thorough vetting of the individual. Of course, the same is also not gender biased. I think that is more than enough.

The side of SG that is seen and spoken of in general media is the assault team designated for CI grid. Basically counter intelligence and counter insurgency operations.
The side which is not seen ... is not seen. And that is the truly Rambo stuff.

The Special Group’s two battalions (1200–1500 personnel), are a part of the shadowy Establishment-22 or the Special Frontier Force, SFF, which is under the operational command of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). By virtue of not being under the Ministry of Defence, the SFF, let alone the SG, are seldom discussed in the Parliament. Almost all their missions, to date, are classified. As are their ranks.

No, no, no and no. There are no 02 battalions of SG. Period.

And it is quite well known, that the SFF (VIKAS Regiments) are under Cabinet Secretariat (with an IG, a Major General rank officer of IA, heading it). The SG operates directly under the control of the PM. Period.

A parallel to the Special Group inside the National Security Guards (NSG), under the Ministry of Home Affairs, are the 51st and 52nd Special Action Groups (SAG).

Noooo. There is no parallel. Anywhere. Except, another shady outfit named **** by me for obvious reasons, who are the real dark shadows. This group has existed forever, and it is not made of 'exclusive SF' members either.


The 52nd SAG successfully executed Operation Ashwamedh in 1993, rescuing 141 passengers from a hijacked plane at Amritsar with 0 casualties. The 51st SAG executed Operation Black Thunder in 1988, at the Golden Temple, the very place which birthed the NSG four years ago.

Col Thapa was the CO if I remember.


What sets Special Group (SG) apart is their exclusive use by the intelligence agencies of this country.

Each and every member is trained for a region. That is all I will say. No further comments.



While it is clear that the proverbial “tip of the spear”, across all the aforementioned forces, is provided by the Army’s Para (SF) battalions, the mandate of these forces is very different. After years of target-specific training, the reflexes of the soldier can’t be un-trained in the few hours it takes for the soldier to be air-dropped to the mission-site. The use, and misuse, of these forces is what frames the debate around the special forces doctrine in this country and their future deployment.

Again, incorrect. The precise mandate of operations for the Special Forces is to work in small teams to disrupt C3I2 of enemy in rear areas, near proximity. The airborne forces, on the other hand, are expected to act like the 'tip of spear' in order to create potential breaches for the forces to exploit - it may be by direct action at the front lines or in rear areas of the enemy. They will be a body of troops and not small teams. There is a very subtle but strong difference.


The next leg in understanding the “identity crisis” of the Special Forces, lies in understanding the gross over-use of the Para (SF) battalions and the proliferation of the coveted “Maroon Beret” across the Kashmir valley and the North East. Special Forces were envisioned, and christened, to bring about strategic change — not tactical. The Special Forces are meant to be force-multipliers on steroids owing to their tactical flexibility, mastery over a wide range of advanced weaponry and strategic mobility.

While occasionally deploying them to clear Army bases, for lack of better alternatives, is just about acceptable, sending them in to clear buildings in the middle of towns and COIN (Counter-Insurgency) operations on the LoC is plain wrong. Deploying the Para (SF) on countless, and endless, such defensive missions has led to an alarming rise in Special Forces casualties, along with blunting their readiness for “strategic, politico-military missions”. Combing and clearing missions can easily be carried out by the “Ghatak Platoons” of the regular Infantry battalions.


No two views over the rest in general and specifics will cause publication of data which need not be.

However, the Ghataks were ideally meant to do what the SFs are now being done to achieve. NSG at Pathankot was a laugh. They had no business to fly in 52 SAG there. And everyone wants a piece of action ---- so the mess.