Saturday, May 14, 2011

Need to restructure Special Forces

HT CHANDIGARH - 12-05-2011
My article titled " Need to Restucture Special Forces" is placed below.
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi

Defence Matters: Need to restructure Special Forces HINDUSTAN TIMES, CHANDIGARH THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2011 by Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi
Once again, Pakistan’s nefarious activities relating to terrorism have been exposed. It is now trying to somehow wriggle out of the monumental expose’ that has followed the shooting down of Osama bin Laden by SEALS of the US Special Forces Command under virtually the nose of the all powerful Pakistani Army. That Pakistan was the epicentre of global as well as regional terrorism was well known to the entire world, especially to India and the United States, but opprobrium for Pakistan is now universal. Pakistan started with its usual ‘denial’ policy but in the face of new revelations, this gave way to threats and brandishing its nuclear sabre, something it always does when it is caught with its hands in the till! It is now in the third stage, as a defiant Prime Minister Gilani has absolved the army and the ISI of any wrongs and instead blamed the Americans and everyone else. Its all-weather friend-China has also given it the thumbs-up signal. It is unfortunate that once again Pakistan will get away because neither India nor USA, the two countries with the maximum stake in rooting out terrorism would take any precipitate action, but for entirely different reasons. The US still needs Pakistan to extricate itself with a modicum of pride from Afghanistan, and the DNA of the Indian political leadership is sans ‘pride or prejudice’. This is despite the anger of our populace towards all that the Pakistani’s have done to destabilise India, wantonly killing, destroying and creating panic. The reaction of our ‘soft’ leadership was predictable; Pakistan has been given yet another reprieve despite its exposure as the perpetrator of terrorism encompassing India as well as other countries. In this milieu, the media and many analysts do not seem to tire of discussing the pros and cons of launching a similar strike by our Special Force (SF’s). Before such analyses get completely out of hand, let me point out a few facts. A strike like the one conducted by the US SEAL’s must meet at least three essential parameters. The first is ‘political will’, which we neither have nor apparently want to cultivate! The second is detailed knowledge of the target area as well as the target, which our intelligence agencies have never been able to give; and the third is the capability of the force needed to achieve the desired end state. Our SF comes in at the third level. Hypothetically, even if our political leadership somehow is able to find the necessary ‘will’ and by some miracle the intelligence agencies are able to give ‘actionable’ intelligence, which they have never given in the past, do the defence forces have the kind of forces the US SF employed in taking out Osama?
The Indian Military does have units that are known as SF, but we would be deluding ourselves if we think that they are in the same league as the elite SF of the world, like the Delta Force and the SEAL’s of USA; the SAS and SBS of UK; or the Spetsnaz of Russia. Notwithstanding this, our SF units are manned by specially selected brave men, who are well trained and have better equipment than other units. Although their equipment may not be as sophisticated as other elite SF’s, they have the ability and capability to carry out raids of the type that eliminated Osama. Their major weaknesses relate to having no integral helicopters to train for the wide variety of missions they are designed to perform and lack of network centricity that is essential in such missions today. Unfortunately, many overtures for setting up a state of art elite SF unit, mooted by me a number of times did not fructify on account of three reasons - refusal of the Air Force to part with helicopters; emotional attachment of senior officers to their regiments; and the comfort of the status quo! My detailed recommendation made on combining all SF under a joint Special Forces Command was also scuttled by the Chiefs, as they did not want to lose their SF resources to a joint entity! I do hope the Chiefs and other stake holders revisit our SF capability and make our SF as capable and elitist as those of other countries. Today, it has become a dire necessity that can no longer be sacrificed at the alter of expediency and turf considerations.

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