EMPLOYMENT OF SPECIAL FORCES IN SUB CONVENTIONAL OPERATIONS

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1. Proxy war is a format of warfare, which includes all types of unconventional methods for continuation of policy or it can be better defined as the format of warfare, less conventional and open nuclear warfare. This would imply that the proxy war could include the threat to use Weapons of Mass Destruction or threat to use biological and chemical agents in indirect attacks.

2. Merely contesting the external manifestations of the proxy war will not make it go away, since the environment in which it has bred still exists. This environment needs to be changed. Once this is achieved, proxy war would disappear by itself unless it redefines itself to an open confrontation. This is so because the supportive conditions those were available earlier would no longer be available. Therefore, the causes for disenchanment and revolt need to be addressed first. The cure has to commence from within. The remedy thus, has to focus primarily on the strategy that needs to e evolved to tackle low intensity conflicts in the country. Proxy wars and other such adjuncts to it would then automatically fall in place in the conflict resolution process. Most Proxy Wars/LICs in the country are a direct consequence of the neglect of social, cultural and economic aspirations of the people. The burden of guilt is upon us all.1

Counter Insurgency

3. Special Forces as the name connotes are outfits which are raised, exclusively trained and maintained for carrying out special tasks as and when the need arises. They are characterized by independent and small team ethos with high survival skills and the aptitude to operate reliably with split second precision in close quarter combat situations.

4. Though small in number, they are manned by volunteers who go through a system of selection that ensures that only 'the best and the brightest' are chosen. Being trained in the use of a variety of weapons and explosives, coupled with high mobility for infiltration/exfiltration, they remain highly motivated to outwit of the enemy; thus they are capable of operating in all types of terrain. The use of Special Forces both for conventional operations as well as to counter threat of terrorism and insurgency calls for very dedicated and thorough training, planning and preparation.

5. The use of conventional forces to counter the threat of terrorism and insurgency invariably results in collateral damage and invites adverse reaction. Hence reliance has to be placed on the use of specially trained forces for such operations which would be able to carry out 'target specific surgical strikes' with minimum collateral damage. Special Forces, by virtue of their organization, equipment and training are ideally suited for such tasks.

6. Parameter for Employment. There are a number of factors that impinge on the effective functioning of SF in Counter Insurgency operations. Their employment within their operational capabilities should be governed by the following parameters:-

Task/Mission Analysis.

Ground Holding Task.

Special Skill.

Small Team Concept.

Security of Plans.

Minimum Force.

Covert Missions.

Turnover and Training.

(j) Technological Advancements.

(k) Coordination with other Agencies.

(l) Administration.

7. Training. Special Forces should be provided the following training aids for realistic training in CI ops:-

Electronic combat shooting course.

Indoor shooting range.

Jungle lane shooting range.

Long range for training of snipers.

Demolition area.

Multiple obstacle course with obstacles designed to represent the requirements of CI environment.

Buildings and equipment for abseiling and intervention training.

Drop platform for slithering and rappelling training.

(j) Cut-away models of weapons and equipment including those used by militants.

(k) Language laboratory.2

Transnational Terrorism

8. Transnational Terrorism is instigated by individuals and small groups, some independent, other in governmental employ. Transnational terrorism even so is unique. Participants operate freely in what most dictionaries define as "peacetime". Popular sympathy and support are not essential. Most importantly, transnational terrorism is accurately called the "great equalizer". The mere prospect of hit-and-run raiders playing hide-and-seek without regard for national or regional boundaries can put heavily armed countries and their exclaves in a virtual state of siege. Success seems contagious.

9. Transnational terrorists armed with small nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons would have tremendous coercive power. Even a well handled hoax could pay of handsomely. State sponsorship and support can telescope the time it takes terrorists to become proficient and affords flexibility for those in business. Foreign benefactors who provide safe havens along with expertise and funds further complicate problems for counter terror strategists.3

Counter Terrorism

10. The first major counter-terrorism response to the 11 September attacks was the US-led overthrow of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in late 2001. That essentially military effort was distinguished by the central role played by primarily American Special Operations Forces (SOF). In Afghanistan, American SOF led and coordinated indigenous anti-Taliban Northern Alliance fighters, which minimized any adverse political impact among Afghans from the presence of larger numbers of regular foreign troops. They also acted as forward observers, facilitating more accurate air strikes. The admirable performance of SOF in such a successful operation thus appeared to argue for an increasingly prominent role for them in what the US government soon dubbed the "Global War on Terror" (GWOT).4

11. Under the umbrella of Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), civil militia and intelligence units were created to protect the hamlets from guerrilla incursions. This was seen as preferable to the forcible relocation of the population or the creation of free-fire zones. With them came CIA 'Counter-Terror' or Provincial Reconnaissance Teams, those task was to destroy the Viet-Cong infrastructure in hamlets listed by the Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) as being under their control. The programme was named after a Vietnamese mythical bird which could fly anywhere and was given the compromise English translation: Phoenix. Phoenix was partly responsible for its own demise. The programme was indiscriminate. Names came from denunciations, were revealed in interrogations or picked up at checkpoints of from defectors.

12. Counter-Terror operations against non-military terrorist personnel alienate public opinion and drive a stake into the heart of hard won, counter-insurgency doctrines. Currently, the Peruvian army is hindering US efforts in the drugs was. Quiet apart from a reluctance to take part in operations against the traffickers, the United Nations holds military counter-terror teams responsible for the 'disappearance' of 10,000 Peruvians in a 'human rights abuse unequalled in the world today'. In a show of contempt, the military twice attempted to murder the head of the government commission investigating the 'disappeared'. Army terror, coca cultivation and the terrorist' strict social order are winning recruits for the Shining Path. The war in Peru may well be lost for the want of discrimination.5

13. SOF activity along these lines could improve the ability of counter-terrorism allies and partners, or indeed that of the country delivering the assistance, to deny terrorists access to and freedom of action in the territory in question. But the likelihood that jihadists will continue to operate mainly in cities in which civilian agencies retain primary authority over security, coupled with the negative effects that the Western application of military force can have on Muslim perceptions and the "war of ideas", suggests that the primary utility of SOF in the domain of counter-terrorism will probably remain limited.

Defensive Counter Terrorism

14. The deaths of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics impressed upon the West the need for highly-trained personnel to respond to terrorist incidents. As many terrorist groups were attempting to blackmail governments by seizing hostages, these units were primarily tasked as Hostage Rescue Units (HRUs).

15. The counter-terrorist must be more highly trained and committed than his enemy. From the outset, the HRU is severely disadvantaged. Its operators are forced to storm heavily-defended buildings and vehicles and combat a prepared enemy in order to release the hostages. In theory, the initial training in hostage rescue -righting in built-up areas (FIBUA) - is the most formidable task an ordinary combat soldier will be asked to undertake. The hostages and their captors are enclosed in some sort of box (vehicle or building). Regardless of its nature, the outer wall must be breached, allowing the assault team to gain entry with sufficient surprise and speed to effect a rescue. Firstly, a group of snipers or marksmen must cordon off the building to prevent the terrorists escaping or being suddenly reinforced. Then the entry group and assault team assemble prior to the actual assault. Once the outer wall has been breached, the assault team move in pairs towards the groups of hostages and terrorists, already located by sophisticated surveillance devices. The actual rescue places great demands on the individual HRU members close quarter-battle (CQB) skills, requiring them to distinguish terrorist and hostage with split-second accuracy.

16. An advertisement for the ideal counter-terrorist would seek a highly motivated, resourceful and intelligent individual who has been trained in assault techniques, communications, ordnance disposal, unarmed-combat and marksmanship, reconnaissance and surveillance, combat medicine, hostage management, close personal protection and insertion techniques. Consequently, many countries turned to their Special Forces to supply these units. Other countries, notably West Germany and France, decided to use police officers, while the Soviet Union formed its HRU from its trusted KGB.

Military Hostage Rescue Team

17. The British 22 SAS Regiment became involved with international terrorism in 1969. The British SAS has led the world in designing and using counter-terrorist technology. The Regiment is reputed to work with a computerized data-base of public buildings and other high-risk targets known as SPIES. In May 1980, after their successful storming of the Iranian Embassy in London, to rescue hostages, Britain's SAS achieved international fame. Although spectacular, this operation is dwarfed by the Regiment's enduring contribution to security force operations in Northern Ireland.

18. The US 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta Force), activated in November 1977. The aftermath of the abortive rescue of the American hostages in Iran, a joint US counter-terrorist force was established, composed of SEAL Team Six, Delta, Helicopter Task Force 160 and USAF special operations assets. The US Army has also decided to involve all combat units up to battalion level in counter-terrorism.

19. Israeli victory in Six-Day War of 1967 resulted in a new wave of terrorism, prompting the establishment of Sayaret Matkal or General Staff Reconnaissance Unit 269. Sayaret Matkal had strength of approximately 200 personnel and was tasked by the Chief of Israeli Intelligence. Sayaret Matkal was responsible for a long string of successful military operations and counter-terrorist strikes in support of Mossad. Sayaret Matkal has been retained for military and foreign operations. 6

Direct Action Mission

20. For a country to countenance the use of direct action missions in the war against terrorism, both the government and its citizens must perceive the same threat. This has little to do with the doctrines of civilized government. All nations retain the right to fight the 'just war' and all wars result in deaths, including those of innocent civilians. Israel sees Middle Eastern terrorism, much of it state-sponsored, as part of total war: a war for survival.

21. After the deaths of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972, Mossad went after the terrorists. When the mission required highly-trained commandos, the intelligence service turned to Sayaret Matkal. When a person was identified by Mossad as being guilty of spilling Israeli blood, his name was passed to the Prime Minister's Office, which in turn forwarded it to a secret judicial committee. The committee, sitting as a military court, tried the accused in their absence. When the court rendered a guilty verdict, Mossad was ordered to bring the accused to Israel for trial or, if this proved too dangerous, to assassinate them. Condemned terrorists were placed on an execution list, approved and signed by the Israeli Prime Minister.

22. A European Israeli operation against Force 17 resulted in another serious diplomatic row. In Britain, an Arab Mossad officer, Ismael Sowan, became so close to Major Abdul-Rahim Mustapha, a Force 17 European-cell leader, that Sowan was caught by the British police harbouring a cache of terrorist weapons and explosives. Britain reputedly threatened to remove Mossad from the list of friendly intelligence services with whom Britain co-operates and shares intelligence.7

1. Infantry (India), Jun 03, p 37 & 42.

2. Combat Mar 2001, Pp 91-97.

3 Collins John M. Green Berets, Seals and Spetsnaz : US and Special Military Operations, Pergamon Brasseys, Washington, 1987, Pp 79-80.

4. Military Technology 12, 2006, p 76.

5. White Terry. Swords of Lightning : Special Forces and the Changing Face of Warfare, Brassey's (UK), London, 1992, Pp 247-249.

6. ibid, Pp 232-235.

7. ibid, Pp 245-247.

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