Joint Special Forces and Unconventional Warfare

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JOINT SPECIAL FORCES AND UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE COL PK MALLICK “Today we see a bewildering diversity of separatist wars, ethnic and religious violence, coups d’état, border disputes, civil upheavals, and terrorist attacks, pushing waves of poverty-stricken, war-ridden immigrants (and hordes of drug traffickers as well) across national boundaries. In the increasingly wired global economy, many of these seemingly small conflicts trigger strong secondary effects in surrounding (and even distant) c
  JOINT SPECIAL FORCES ANDUNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE COL PK MALLICK  “Today we see a bewildering diversity of separatist wars, ethnic andreligious violence, coups d’état, border disputes, civil upheavals, andterrorist attacks, pushing waves of poverty-stricken, war-riddenimmigrants (and hordes of drug traffickers as well) across national boundaries. In the increasingly wired global economy, many of theseseemingly small conflicts trigger strong secondary effects in surrounding(and even distant) countries. Thus a “many small wars” scenario iscompelling military planners in many armies to look afresh at what theycall “special operations” or “special forces” — the niche warriors of tomorrow.”- Alvin and Heidi Toffler War and Anti-War, Survival at the Dawn of the 21 st Century INTRODUCTION Special operations (SO) are operations conducted in hostile, denied, or politicallysensitive environments to achieve military, diplomatic, informational, and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities for which there is no broadconventional force requirement. These operations often require covert, clandestine, or discreet capabilities. Special operations are applicable across the range of militaryoperations. They can be conducted independently or in conjunction with operations of   conventional forces or other government agencies and may include operations by,with, or through indigenous or surrogate forces.Political-military considerationsfrequently shape special operations, requiring clandestine, covert, or low-visibilitytechniques and oversight at the national level. Special operations differ fromconventional operations in degree of physical and political risk, operationaltechniques, mode of employment, independence from friendly support, anddependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets. SpecialOperation Forces (SOF) are more than just what they do. SOF are comprised of specially selected, trained, and organized special operations soldiers, sailors, andairmen from the Armed Services. Their training, education, maturity, initiative, andexperience set them apart from all others. SOF personnel form the core of our nation’sability to combat terrorism and conduct unconventional warfare. Despite their demonstrated capability and successes SOF face significant challenges in the yearsahead. SOF must develop capabilities to defend the country from terrorism and other threats wherever they occur, as well as prepare to meet the uncertain challenges of thefuture. Transforming the force from one designed to combat specific threats to onewith capabilities that can address a broad range of contingencies will not be easy, butit must be done. They must be prepared to wage war “everywhere, all the time.”In India we have different types of Special Forces (SF) each having their own tasks,organization, equipment, training and command and control arrangements. Even thecontrolling ministries are different in some cases. We are using Special Forces moreand more frequently. Situations like Maldives, hijacking of Indian Airlines aircraft toKandahar, Akshardam temple, attack on parliament, eliminating terrorist camps inPakistan/Bangladesh/Mayanmar with or without permission of respective countries aredefinite probabilities. Recent terrorists actions by Chechan rebels in Moscow andBeslan are pointers to things we should anticipate and prepare for. The army has ParaCommandos and Special Forces battalions and the Parachute Regiment units, the navyhas Marine Naval Commandos (MARCOS), The National Security Guards, a federalcontingency force not to be clubbed with CPOs or PMFs directly under cabinet andSpecial Frontier Force and VIKAS units under cabinet secretariat. All these forces2  have overlapping responsibilities, different ethos, fierce pride in their outfits,dissimilar training and are controlled by different agencies. There is an imperativeneed to evolve a philosophy for tasking, equipping, and training of Joint SpecialForces in the interest of optimal utilization and enhancement of operational efficiencyas all types of war, be it conventional or unconventional , has to be fought jointly.  HISTORY “When the hour of crisis comes, remember the fortyselected men can shake the world”-YasotayMongolian WarlordOne of the earliest recorded examples of a conventional army beset bydifficulties imposed by bands of special purpose forces was during Alexander theGreat’s march through Afghanistan on his way to India. Ancestors of today’sMujahideen harried his rear from horseback, while others attacked him from theheights. Alexander countered by employing many of the same counter SF principles that hold true today—the employment of specially skilled, mobile lightinfantrymen. Alexander recruited and trained volunteer troops with mountainclimbing experience who scaled the mountain peaks at night to surprise anddefeat those irregular forces. Further, Alexander recruited the defeatedirregulars and added them to his army, frequently to be used against the nextirregulars encountered.The need for commandos was seen early in World War II, first by the German andBritish. The United States formed six battalions of U S Army Rangers as well as3  additional battalions of Marine Raids, Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT)and such units as Merrill’s Marauders in the Far East. The Germans formed their Brandenburg Regiment and the British formed several different commando units: theSpecial Air Services (SAS), Special Boat Squadron (SBS), Long Desert Petrol, and soon.Wingate’s Chindits operations in Burma campaign is part of the folklore. However everybody was not convinced about the pay off of such operations. In Defeat intoVictory, Field Marshall Sir William J. Slim concluded that most special units arewasteful and have more disadvantages than advantages. He believed there was onetype of special unit that should become an essential component of any modern army.This special unit is one that operates deep behind enemy lines, whose purpose is todisrupt the enemy, to collect information, to work with indigenous people, to sabotageenemy installations, to assassinate enemy commanders. The troops who made up thisunit would require many qualities and skills not expected in the ordinary soldier andwould use many methods beyond his capacity. Field Marshal Slim felt they couldachieve strategic results if handled with imaginative ruthlessness. Indian Scenario . India first formed a commando force, composed largely of Tibetan exiles, after gettingthe worst of it in a 1962 border war with China. As relations improved with Chinaover the years, the “Special Frontier Force”(SFF) switched from its srcinal mission of stirring up guerilla operations inside China, to counter-terrorism. Size (about 10,000troops) and organization (six battalions, each of six 123 man companies plus aheadquarters) of the units has not changed much in 40 years. Training is still rigorous, but there are fewer Tibetans in the unit now. There is also a para –commando battalion, used as a quick reaction force. A small (about a hundred men) NationalSecurity Guards force is organized and trained to deal with hostage situations. A verycompetent outfit. There are 1200 Marine Commandos, who sought assistance fromBritish Royal Marine Commandos and U.S. SEALS to set up their training program.[ Courtesy ]4
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