Forces deploy in fixed grids, they dress in a uniform, per force have to adopt conventional methods and remain bound by law. Entry and exits are under observation. They rely on locals for information of use where as the enemies in this case are local or similar and merge with the crowds. They can be anyone ranging from a Tea Stall owner to a Water Porter or a Muleteer. Thus each activity of the Forces is observed by nondescript individuals and many a times recorded to establish a pattern where as the enemy is invisible.
Who do the Forces in turn rely on for information? To win the confidence, trust and loyalty of an individual who in their judgement is capable of providing them the required inputs well in time for action to be taken. However, this is easier said than done. Most individuals tend to respond by saying they cannot do this for fear of retaliation and justifiably so. The ESM are always suspect as far as Terror out fits are concerned, those who attempt to or are seen to be close to the forces are given a message to keep away. Creation and protection of sources and a method of communication is a challenge, old systems like the “Letter Box” and others are dated and no longer practical.
The advent of new media is both a challenge and a boon. Its usage by the western world is worth emulating. Take the example of France, Israel or even the UK. Four cardinal aspects stand out, the network of surveillance using new media/technology, inter service cooperation , public support and a firm resolve by the Govts.
Risks Involved & Operational Compulsions
In general our pattern devolves around conventional methods of Civic Action, Fraternisation, Medical Aid, Education, Sports and to an extent reliance on ESM. Unconventional methods and strategy require a high risk appetite as well as confidence and support up the chain of command which in the prevailing environment is questionable given the interference by media and the ease of moving court or the use of Political Leadership.
Sharing of intelligence amongst Military and Civilian Forces or Non Military Forces is a rare event due to the sense of competition and vertical silos. There are occasions when cooperation is close and healthy, in such cases successful operations are invariably seen.
Politics, power play combined with a noisy media , internet, cell phones and Whattsapp like applications add to the challenges as do the free reliance on courts of law to intervene in what are purely matters military and of National Security.
Thus, such operations in our given environment are hugely stressful for junior leadership and troops who find themselves under pressure to deliver as well as remain within the realms of security from prosecution/adverse publicity on the one hand and an ever distanced higher leadership on the other. Recent trends of Commanders openly supporting ground action is a welcome step and requires to be strengthened while intervention by courts unless in the interest of the forces on ground needs to be discouraged.
The Unseen Enemy: Indoctrination & Young Minds
Indoctrination begins at a young age and is best illustrated by this short story.” Many years ago, I was only a child. The environment around me fostered a spirit of brotherhood amongst us. We lived a humble life, followed our customs and culture, ploughed our land and made do with the little that we got out of it. Religion and our God, Jesus, Allah, Ram, call him by any name was our motivation and binding spirit apart from family. With hunger in our stomachs, food too was God for us!!
Time came when we felt that we were losing ground and those following different faiths were gaining from our loss! The rich were getting richer they said, in some areas the poor were being driven out of their lands and forests. People talked about a movement in subdued voices, about young men being trained for jobs which were dangerous, about some boys fighting Government forces and being martyred. About families, suddenly, becoming rich through money received from sources unknown. I remained un employed, my family impoverished and our aspirations increasing each day.
I too wanted to make my family proud, to see my parents, brothers and sisters live a good life, and one day, this dream came true when I met “The Man” who showed me the way. He merely asked me if I wanted to make money, work for the cause of my people, see my folks taken care of? The job was simple, I had to carry a bag and place it at a given area in the bus stand and I would get a certain sum of money for doing that, I had never seen ten rupees, leave alone thousands of rupees! I carried the bag and on leaving it where he wanted me to, I got my money and left for home, a smile in my mind. Later, as I had walked some distance, I heard a loud explosion. An IED had exploded!!That was my initiation, my first job, simple was it not?
Some months had passed before I met the same man again, he told me how good I had been and asked me if my family were happy with the money I had earned? Would I like to earn more? He would get in touch with me soon for more work if I was okay with it. I was okay obviously and keen too.
Working for The Cause. Honestly, I did not know what the cause was until I was repeatedly told stories about my brothers and sisters being exploited and how I could be of help in defending them, of how people from other countries/religion had to be stopped from exploiting us and many other such tales. I was young and impressionable, needy and keen to work, earn respect, make my family proud, Keen to wield a weapon, to shoot, to gain respect and earn money, I was only too eager to enlist.My family they said would be protected and paid, I would be looked after, trained and my needs provided for. Initially, I had to merely provide some information about things near our village. I knew the area well, we often played in the fields near the high way & military cantonment, the soldiers were friendly with me, and often they would get me to play football with them.
I was asked to answer simple questions by the man who had got me to work for him, I only knew him by voice ; how many soldiers do you see at various gates at different times? How do they treat you when you go to them? Do they have weapons? And one day I was asked to take a group of two to the soldier on duty, they met the soldier and chatted with him for a while, then watched me play football and returned by the evening. This routine continued for some days, stretching into the coming months, many a times we merely sat and watched the sentry from afar, how he responded to officers when they came to the gate, how the duty was changed. And my flock of sheep grazed nearby. All this while “The Man”, would make notes in his diary of course I never got to see what he wrote! I felt happy and proud, I was working, I was being paid and my family were happy too. Little did I know that I was working for the cause! How did what I was doing help the cause? Who cared any way as long as I got paid?
The Big Day. Over a period of time, we had established that sentries changed at set hours, meals were eaten at set hours, Officers could get in by use of authority and a stern voice! There were single sentries in the day and double at night. Other facts which threw up a routine and a set pattern. One day, I asked my soldier friend if I could buy something from his canteen. He obliged only too willingly and even offered to take me to the canteen with him, so I got to see some more of the routine aspects in the army camp, simple questions, like do you play games every day? I want to join the army too and love the way you do your PT parade do you do PT every day? Can you help me get into the army? And as I walked with him, I studied the area around, all the information and detail I gathered, I would share with “The Man”. Another time, he asked me to make a drawing of the camp as I knew it. I made a rough sketch for him on a page torn out from my school note book.
As days passed on, we heard from the TV news that there was firing on the borders further North of our village, Rajouri and further beyond in Kashmir, places I had never been to. It was one such occasion, when firing was on at the border that I saw my Soldier “friend” leave the camp in a convoy along with many others. That very night, I was contacted by “The Man” and instructed that I should keep an eye on the Army Position, I was given a nice mobile phone and would use it to answer his calls. He instructed me to help him with some food from a nearby shop, food and some warm clothes from home, I got these items and kept them in our usual hiding place under a hay stack after dark. My family had yet to get to know what I had been doing, they were humble farmers who tilled the soil and raised sheep, happy in the knowledge that their son was earning.
The next morning, we heard news of a shoot out at a Police Post, a CRPF Camp and the Army Camp, terrorists they said had shot many persons and firing was going on. I stayed home, afraid to go out to play with my friends; my Mother would not let me go out any way.
I stayed away for several days, later mustered courage to venture out to the Sentry Post, the air was hostile, the Army Jawan was abrupt and harsh in telling me to stay away, on my asking about my friend who had earlier been on duty and he replied angrily that he had been shot dead in the encounter.
I got my reward from “The Man” in cash and kind. He praised me in front of many others, for the work I had done and promised to take me to a different land, more riches for me and my family. We took pictures, posing with AK 47s in our hands; this was at some patch of forest in the hills nearby where he had asked me to come. For the first time I saw others too who had been helping him. We were told of the brave young men who had killed many and in so doing sacrificed their lives too.We celebrated by holding a feast, mutton cooked in the traditional way, the night was quiet. Returning the next morning, I noticed armed forces and police men patrolling everywhere, barricades had been created at new positions, Military and Police vehicles rushed about with fully armed men in battle dresses, helmets and bullet proof vests!
Our job had been done!! And me? I was merely a Sheppard boy in my teens doing my bit for my community as I had been taught. Back to grazing sheep and playing marbles for the time being, not a bit of guilt for the deaths I had caused. I was invisible!
This story holds true for most terrorist actions in the valley,Pathankot,, Sambha, Jammu, Nagrota, Uri or elsewhere.
Voids in our system?
The LOC. Being the first line which has to be under constant surveillance needs to be supported adequately with technology. Day/Night surveillance with not mere air surveillance but ground sensors, IR systems, monitoring of Radio and Satellite Communications , Monitoring Cell Phones, Acoustics ,Analytics integrated with a warning and weapons system. These systems need to be so configured that they not only provide relief to the ground soldier but also result in accurate operational Intelligence as against the current procedure of generating a wide and broad based “Warning/Alert” throughout the state or country.
Intelligence must be built on the triad of radio signals/communications/internet, media, humint and have a strong system for following suspect indications, generalisation cannot work and is rather detrimental to successful operations. Very often the adversary deliberately feeds misinformation to throw forces off balance and this is something that needs to be guarded against through close cross checks.
Bunkers, pill boxes and even local housing needs to incorporate bomb proof sheets as being done in Israel along the border, this protects in habitants from splinter effects and can withstand even direct hits from anti- tank weapons/shells.
Guarding against infiltration must include surveillance from the air, IR systems, seismic systems to detect tunnels and humint integrated to support weapon systems . A suitable method is that of deploying UAVs with voice recognition and face recognition and target designation systems along with this, one can consider various mounts like hot air balloons, Jeeps. APCs or manpack to ensure flexibility and full coverage.
Deep Analytics, a system for monitoring Social media, E mails etc is a time tested method and has been in use in Israel .A suite of Social media Analysis ( SMA) tools specifically designed for intelligence professionals to provide answers to three mission-critical questions:
- What is your area of Interest? (e.g. violence, protests, cyber-attacks)
- Where in the web are your sources? (e.g. specific Social Networks, Blogs, Forums)
- Who are the key people & connections and what kind of profile do they have?
- With just one click it allows you to even track your suspect. Such a system is a must have for sensitive areas like J&K, Manipur , Nagaland and Assam as well as Central India.
Cantonments must be revisited to further harden them and include Video Analytics all around with a standoff distance factored in to ensure timely interception of suspects. The requirement of gates being manned by sentries may be reconsidered/replaced with auto systems which have Face recognition and number plate reading. The entire security system for military stations needs a close review bringing under it each vendor and service provider apart from the routine movement of soldiers as well as veterans.
Last and most important is a National and Political will to deal with Anti National Acts, inflammatory speeches and incitement with a firm hand. The message must be clear “ National security” is non negotiable.
Lessons for the security forces:-
• You are visible, they are not. Do not get into a predictable routine.
• You are being watched day and night, you stand out exposed because you are in Camps, in Uniform and he is invisible.
• Those who want you to trust them are also those you should not trust. Those who keep away from you, may just be persons who are being watched by your enemy.
• Ensure your battle drills and responses are well rehearsed.
• Checks and Drills which have not been well thought out but put into practice merely to show that you have some procedures will cost you lives, shame and loss of moral.
• Establish a good communication system and procedure between all security forces operating in the area and within your own unit.
• Where? With what? How many? Leading to which place? Who has pinned them down? Made contact? From where? These are things which must be made known to all Security Forces in the sector on contact being made?
• Duties in Insurgent areas and terror prone areas are tough; men must be rotated to give them proper rest/relief. Yet ensuring that they are fully trained and at all times ready to respond in quick time.
• Integrate technology as far as possible to relieve the pressure from your men. There is much available off the shelf. Train your men in the use of such technology. Mere Technology is not enough, it must be useful and used.
• Vigil in observing the smallest of things, a vehicle parked where no vehicle has ever been parked, a new tea stall in the vicinity of your sentry post or a vegetable shop etc. An over friendly milk man or water porter. Vigil and Sixth sense pay; while on a patrol the patrol leader noticed the absence of children playing or greeting them, this led to suspicion and he called for more troops to cordon and search the area. His sharp observation not only saved lives but also resulted in successful operations in eliminating two terrorists including a local leader.
• A civilian who has been very friendly suddenly disappearing or showing a change in attitude is a cause for concern, beware.
Terrorists do not follow predicable patterns. They will strike when they feel the timing is right and the target lax. We on the other hand cannot be equally vigilant each day of our duty and thus run the risk of being hit. In the words of Mrs Margaret Thatcher “ we need to be successful each and every time”.
Counter terrorism is not all about positioning a Sentry or a QRT but about out thinking the terrorist. Did we focus too much on the LOC alone at the cost of lives in cantonments? Have we been complacent and ignored the local military stations? Has the cacophony of politics, courts and stone pelting detracted us from the main purpose?
The narrative of Indo- Pak relations and counter terrorism needs a holistic revisit and the Nation as such must stand united in our resolve for ushering in better days, economic progress and development commensurate with our collective strength.