Homeland Security

Encounter at Pampore: Where was the problem?
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Net Edition | Date : 27 Feb , 2016

In yet another operation in Jammu and Kashmir, at Pampore, the nation has lost six personnel including two special forces Officers (of the rank of Captain) and one Non Commissioned Officer, wherein three terrorists were killed. It has been claimed that 120 civilians had been safely evacuated in bullet proof vehicles before commencement of the operation.

The whole fiasco occurred because the commanders did not exhibit the patience would have altered the final outcome. If the terrorists had been effectively cordoned off, why was there a tearing hurry to finish the operation ‘soonest’.

The nation has been losing precious lives of highly trained soldiers in J&K, in spite of having gained tremendous experience in conducting counter insurgency (CI) operations for more than quarter of a century.

To draw worthwhile lessons, there is need to analyse the whole operation. As was reported, the operational environment claimed that the terrorists were holed up inside the building. The civilians had been evacuated out safely. The Security Forces had effectively cordoned the building. The building itself was not in a congested built up area nor a heavily populated area surrounded by other houses or buildings. The Army had all the firepower that was needed to conduct such operations.

So, where was the problem? The whole fiasco occurred because the commanders did not exhibit the patience would have altered the final outcome. If the terrorists had been effectively cordoned off, why was there a tearing hurry to finish the operation ‘soonest’.

Rather than rushing commandos to eliminate the terrorists, other readily available means like strengthening the cordon further by having successive layers of stops liberally equipped with night vision devices of various kinds that are available with the Army to prevent escape of the terrorists, cutting off the electric and water supply to the building, firing of tear gas and smoke shells at/inside the building, using firepower including rocket launchers and if needed, incendiary ammunition should have been employed.

The commanders appeared confused whether they were dealing with our misguided countrymen or were they faced with terrorists who had been armed to the teeth?

Extensive use of firepower, even if it amounted to using helicopters, should have been made to frustrate and eliminate the terrorists. It is, after all the terrorists who were surrounded and not the troops. They were not suicide bombers who had exploded themselves to cause casualties, they were not in a vehicle which sprayed bullets and sped away or hurled grenades or fired rocket launchers or blasted an IED to kill.

They were not an army of thousands which was inside a fortress having ammunition and logistics to fight for months on end. They were just three terrorists with limited ammunition. The troops needed to stay outside their effective weapon killing range and eliminated them with their superior weapons.

The way the operation commenced one felt as if it was a routine action in support of Aid to Civil Authorities where minimum force is to be used and collateral damage avoided at all costs. The commanders appeared confused whether they were dealing with our misguided countrymen or were they faced with terrorists who had been armed to the teeth?

By their very nature and limited numbers, special forces are to be used in exceptional circumstances and for those operations which are beyond the capability of the ground forces. However, they are being employed for counter insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley as a matter of routine just because they are available. The same had not been happening in the case of CI operations being conducted outside the Valley.

It must be understood that the speed at which the country is losing these elite forces personnel, nobody would volunteer to join the Special Forces.

It must be understood that the speed at which the country is losing these elite forces personnel, nobody would volunteer to join the Special Forces. The Army needs to preserve them for special operations in war, or in extreme situations within the country, and not tire them out or lose them with such speed.

The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units are quite competent to conduct CI operations on their own. They are being extensively trained to do so. An analysis of operations conducted by various RR Forces over last decade or so would indicate that the soldier to terrorist kill ratio has been highly favourable in the past. The Army seems to be losing that edge because of some ambitious commanders who refuse to employ innovative methods to deal with the situation, employing ‘one size fits all’ theory.

Since the days of the Kargil War, it has become the norm to project the failures as victory claiming that a large number of civilian casualties have been prevented, even if these very civilians assist, provide shelter and protect the terrorists who keep killing our brave soldiers.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left

8 thoughts on “Encounter at Pampore: Where was the problem?

  1. I agree with what the general says. Yet again it was a botched up operation, and that’s how I perceive it. Since I was not on ground and not privy to what happened I can only comment on the logical sequence of events and issues. The foremost is that we should have waited out. It’s a lame duck excuse that the civilian population would have risen upto the occasion for the terrorists. If we are going to be directed by these issues then it’s better to pull out of the valley. Secondly we have two casualties from two different Special Forces Units i.e. 9 Para SF and 10 Para SF. Do we need that a hotchpotch of forces employed. This is for the commanders who were making pathetic statements that in our Army officers lead from the front to justify the casualties. I just want to tell these General Officers that you are not doing justice to your rank and stature. The terrorists were cornered and it was “time factor” that was important before they were neutralized. Why the haste? Are our Officers expendable? It’s a failure of command in handling this simple operation. Somebody needs to explain and be accounted for

  2. Very good analysis. In some cases, premature interference by higher commanders snatch the initiative from the commanders in contact which results in compromising the operation.Senior commanders must give a free hand to the subordinates.I am aware of an incident wherein a very senior officer intervened and stalled it midway which eventually resulted in a disaster.

  3. I totally agree that the haste with which operations were launched and conducted was misplaced and doesn’t speak well for the pre-operational decision making process within the military in the Valley. However, while in broad agreement with the argument that using Special Forces must be done only under ‘special’ circumstances, I’m hesitant in castigating their use at Pampore as sufficient insight into the thought process that led to their commitment is not available. In his recent blog, Lt Gen Hasnain has said that there was a real threat of flash mobs forming and moving to the encounter site to hamper Army operations, that forced the urgency. If that be true, then we need to evolve better and more effective methods of dealing with flash mobs; incurring avoidable casualties in hastily launched operations is ceertainly not the appropriate response. It is quite apparent that the terrorists had planned to make a dramatic last stand in the building while inflicting maximum casualties on the Army. This has happened often enough in the past and we need to thick of alternate responses like the one advocated by Gen Bawa, rather than faithfully playing out scenarios scripted by the terrorists.

  4. The General has made a very convincing review of the Pampore operation. During the three day long operation where there were no hostages held by the terrorists,the building occupied had no military or other importance and presence of a very small group of terrorists was ascertained, what was the hurry to rush Spl forces? To send 9Para task force after losing two precious paratroopers of 10 Para appears act of thoughtless bravado. Hope such blunders are avoided in future. Ideally this operation which was of just cordoning off and smoking out the terrorists, should have been left to the J&K Police or at the most to the CRP.

  5. Once again, the problem is in-house. What is the accountability of such commanders?? There needs to be severe punitive action against such irresponsible commanders, whose only aim appears to be earning brownie points. At what cost?? In addition, how have such impulsive, irresponsible people been positioned as commanders in such sensitive positionskin? Army needs to do serious soul searching!!

  6. Army and its supporters were very vocal in their opposition to calling NSG for Pathankote operation. The above was an army operation and it also took many lives and similar number of hours to finally kill the terrorists. There may be a lesson here, the terrorists are better trained and our personnel are risking their lives too much by getting too close to the terrorist’s range. Once the terrorist has been cornered, sooner than later they will be dead. There is no need to rush to grab the headlines. The media has to be kept miles away.111 5300

  7. Very well-elucidated article. Not only Pompore, even Pathankot and 26/11 could have been handled in a better manner. The inefficiencies should certainly offer valuable learning experience to our security forces.

  8. very well pointed out the problem of using SF in every operation, SFs are specially trained and equipped forces for exclusive and high skill demanding operations. If you tend yo use these elite forces in low intensity ops, where regular combat forces can be used,, with time they will undermine their credibility and no more will be special, on the other hand other para military or regular army who is also equipped to handle such operations will be deprived of getting more experience ,to use their skills and in result loosing the necessary confidence .

    One more thing I realized the cow boy mentality of SFs, of course they are trained well and equipped best. but most of the operators still have Rambo mentality , they might be aware of practical tactics but don’t have necessary patience to execute it.
    instead of waiting and to execute full proof strategy they every-time seemed to rush to the area and play cowboy. what a waste of highly trained operators.

More Comments Loader Loading Comments