Homeland Security

Pampore Ambush: Paradox of Counterinsurgency Operations
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 28 Jun , 2016

It was not long back when Army lost three of its elite special forces personnel including two officers and now CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) have lost eight policemen in an ambush at Pampore. Both the attacks were launched on convoys and suggest that somewhere something is not right. Terrorists are targeting administrative convoys and routine administrative movements.

There are three questions that need answers, is it intelligence failure, is the SOP not being followed especially the ROP drills (Road Opening) and finally is there weakness in training / junior leadership?

There are three questions that need answers, is it intelligence failure, is the SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) not being followed especially the ROP drills (Road Opening) and finally is there weakness in training/ junior leadership? Failure of any of the above could lead to avoidable setbacks. There is a need to take a relook at the current model of CI/CT (Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism) grid in J&K.

J&K has a multitude of security forces each with its independent logistics chain resulting in uncontrolled and uncoordinated movements on a daily basis. There is no single agency that is exercising operational and administrative control over all the forces deployed in J&K, because Army and Rashtriya Rifles are under MOD (Ministry of Defence); CAPF (Central Armed Police Force) under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) and IRB (India Reserve Battalion), State Armed Police and Home Guards under state government. Multiple agencies operating in Kashmir Valley gives options to terrorists to strike at will. Almost every force is out on roads for administrative duties or for operational movement. With so many forces operating independent of each other is an ideal example how NOT to fight a proxy war/counter insurgency operations.

There is a unified command headed by State Chief Minister but this unified command has failed to nominate single overall force commander, as a result there is negligent absence of administrative or operational synergy on ground. Ideally there should be a single commander heading a Unified Headquarters and all agencies must work under that command structure. All forces should have integrated logistics thus avoiding multiple movements.

The normal tendency is that whenever there is any operation all security forces rush to the spot and most of them remain as spectator and add to the confusion. Fragmented approach is only helping the terrorists and not the state.Wars can’t be fought under collective leadership; it is a bad idea to pursue. Instead of achieving desirable success the current model of CI/CT adopted for J&K is most inefficient. CAPF leadership that controls the operations on ground is brought in from top with minimal experience at tactical level or even at a higher level.

Due to the turf war the IPS led CAPF do not even wish to train under Army or Rashtriya Rifles, the forces that has far greater experience with CI/CT operations.

Due to the turf war the IPS led CAPF do not even wish to train under Army or Rashtriya Rifles, the forces that has far greater experience with CI/CT operations. CAPF higher leadership is inept in leading from the front since they have no experience in marshaling troops in such situations. As a result success in operations is demanded from junior leaders without higher leadership able to create conditions for success.

US Army faced the predicament of mounting casualties, collateral damage (that antagonized the public at large) and CI/CT operations not going in right direction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strategic thinkers and expert felt that there is a need to set the paradox of counterinsurgency operations right. Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director College of Global Studies at Stony Brook Universityafter having carried out empirical study of major reversals at operational and tactical level in conflict zone came to the conclusion that:-

•   More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You Are. If the focus is to protect own force, the counterinsurgency force loses contact with the population. Success of CI force lies in engagement with the public than to isolate from the masses. Engagement with the public is reducing especially the youth. Objective of security forces should be to protect public and national interests rather than protection of self.

•   Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing. There is a need to understand that a tactical success is not a scale of victory in CI/CT operations. It does not even guarantee that no attack on security forces will take place in near future. Every successful operation by security forces makes insurgents or terrorist more skilled and forces them not to repeat the mistakes committed by their comrades. The focus on kill is irrelevant if counterinsurgency operations fail to modify the perception of the people.

More force you use more is collateral damage and more insurgents you create. Instead security forces should use less force in an innovative manner with higher degree of risk.

•   If a Tactic Works This Week, It Will Not Work Next Week; If It Works in one province, It Will Not Work in another. Counterinsurgency operations succeed only if the routine is broken, surprise is maintained and tactics is dynamic in nature. Anything that is not innovative or new will not yield result. In addition whatever is suitable for valley may not be suitable in Jammu Poonch area.

•   Use Less Force and Accept More Risk in Counterinsurgency Operations to Succeed. More force you use more is collateral damage and more insurgents you create. Instead security forces should use less force in an innovative manner with higher degree of risk. Chances of success are higher and casualties will be relatively less. It will keep terrorists on the run and give an impression of security forces being omni-present.

General Raj Shukla said that the concept of “Shape, clear, hold and consolidate” is the model Indian Army has practiced for more than six decades in North East and J&K. Raj further states that Indian Army is the only Army in the world that practices “Doctrine of Restrain” and it has a desired impact on success of counter insurgency operations. Whereas the other nations are very keenly studying the Indian Models but there is reluctance on the part of CAPF to adopt these strategies and tactical nuances. The Unified Command is the only way ahead but the turf war between MOD and MHA primarily between bureaucracy is harming the larger national interests. Praveen Swami in his tweet highlighted a very significant fact that, “India is the only country where lessons on a lethal ambush will be drawn by bureaucrats (IAS officers) with zero domain competence”. Whereas world over the practice is that views and opinions are solicited from domain experts.

US Army continuously engaged with the domain expert’s world over while operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. US Army delegations interacted with Indian Army on regular basis to iron out the concept of operations of fighting terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan. They studied Indian model of people friendly operations to great extent and the concept of “Shape, Clear, Hold and consolidate” has emerged out of Indian experience. Anthony Cordesman formalized this concept in his paper “Shape, Clear, Hold, and Build: The Uncertain Lessons of the Afghan & Iraq Wars”. Not that US was successful in achieving decisive victory but managed to contain insurgency and terrorism for Afghan government to function. But all agencies operating on ground must introspect and rethink their strategy to avoid such tactical reversals.

Time has come to take a hard look at the command structure of CI/CT in J&K. Accountability for avoidable casualties needs to be fixed and failure of intelligence should be dealt severely.

Tactical reversal gives a sense of winning to terrorists, because they see victory in number of body bags they send home. Success against terrorists is elimination of terrorists without collateral damage. William F Owen says, that, “if a force is skilled in fighting counter insurgency operations, then killing insurgents does not place the population at risk, and chances of success are more than any other action”.

Time has come to take a hard look at the command structure of CI/CT in J&K. Accountability for avoidable casualties needs to be fixed and failure of intelligence should be dealt severely. Generic information has no value in CI/CT since it is available at bus stops and tea shops. Intelligence agencies must be made to work hard to gain actionable intelligence. Success of operations is directly dependent on quality of precise intelligence. Indian intelligence agencies are yet to execute operations across LC (Line of Control) to eliminate terrorists in their launch pads or before they infiltrate into Indian Territory.

Responsibility of counterinsurgency or counter terrorism should be ideally given to the Army Commander Northern Command with further delegation to the Corps Commanders at Srinagar and Nagrota . Integrated logistics, coordinated operations and intelligence sharing on minute to minute basis is vital.Intelligence agencies should be accountable to the commanders on ground instead of bosses in Delhi. Conflict in J&K should be handled by one ministry instead of two separate ministries handling J&K. Because both the ministries have different outlook towards the problem of J&K. Delay in restructuring the CI/CT grid will push J&K into bigger turmoil and if current model remains unchanged Palestinisation of Kashmir is not far.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)

Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

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7 thoughts on “Pampore Ambush: Paradox of Counterinsurgency Operations

  1. It is the failure of the Army officer’s, not the Jawans. Why can’t they pressurize the Govt to get the Armoured vehicles? They are not worried the life of Jawans. Has anybody gone and met PM or Defense Minister. I have no experience in the Army but I am worried the safety of our Jawans. USA and Russia are using all-terrain armoured personnel carriers. Whether the Jawans were wearing bulletproof Jackets? If they were wearing, then how they died. Articles are being written without any study and suggest unified command.etc and at the same time blame civilian Govt.

    • Sir,
      Your concern is right. Incidentally I have spent 12 yrs in counter insurgency operations in J&K and North east fighting insurgency and terrorism on ground. I was bloodied at the service of 3 years (26 years of age then) in this war. Not many in India has the experience what I have at national or at international level. Sir, Incidentally trained Indian and foreign soldiers in the art of fighting counter insurgency and mountain warfare. I was also part of UN where my charter was also to train officers how to deal with IEDs and hostile actions. Yes you are right protective gear and bullet proof vehicles are must. The demand for purchase of bullet proof jackets is pending with Def Min since 2003. And Min has not finalised purchase of BPJ as yet for reasons best known to them. So is the case for all terrain vehicles. Parliamentary committee on Def is aware and is part of regular briefing by Service HQ, CAG has raised these questions after these points are raised repeatedly by Army HQ. Please read my article in Geopolitics “Indian Infantry: Inadequately Armed and Unprotected”. I think you have not understood the essence of the article. Article is questioning national strategy to deal with the Counter terrorism in J&K. I did not highlight the equipping policy since that I had already written earlier.

      • There is a real problem in procuring bullet proof jacket, It is a self-life item. So it cannot be stocked in large number. Nobody knows how effective it is in a close range. No manufacturer is able to give any data to show the nIumber of life saved by wearing the product in the real war. During the operation , jawan is unable to crawl, since it is heavy. If the thing are not moving, you should meet PM. Why are you not showing the same interest you took to get one rank one pension.? No problem can be solved by writing the article. Due to various scams civil officers are afraid of dealing with defense equipment.
        If I am staying in Delhi I would have gone and met Defense Minister. He is a very good person. I will see what can be done. I have already written to the defense minister and Home minister and suggested to develop similar to the USA make Humvee or Russian make Tigr. I will pursue the case.

  2. There is presently total confusion in the Valley as the various forces are under different ministries ( MOD and MHA ) and the State Govt.
    For any unified / controlled operation there should be a single point.
    High time that a Lt.Gen. rank officer is appointed in the Valley to take over all command of all operations and all report to him .
    By this one will see the difference and the Kashmir problem which is there will be solved as the locals there are taking advantage of the present system there .
    The Central Govt. till date has been too too soft on the Valley due to which the problems are increasing day by day and we have lost many of our best trained officers .
    High time the GOI wakes up now .

  3. We have to recognise that J&K has an elected civilian government. It does not have Army rule.when four or even two suicide attackers take on a convoy of Army/CRPF shows the utter contempt they have for our local CI Police.Army leadership. Why should RR is to be called to tackle 4 terrorists when CRPF convoy had more than 40 constables.Then there is rumour that socalled surrendered terroists escorted the two remaining alive trrorists clearing all Police checkpoints. Let us face it.Tthere is no hard intelligence in J&K Srinigar area. so convoys should always be prepared for random attacks.A sort of fullproof preventive SOP should be devised taking into account all contigencies.Let CRPF be given full control of CI and they should be told that they cannot have Army support at all.J&K police have almost 90% sympathisers for terrorists. they should be given full responsiblity for definite area of operatuion and any incident in that area will have consequences for that area J&K constabulary. It is similar to any state in India. If we feel pacification is required then full control to Army should be given and stringent accountability.

  4. To the author well you are right as an IPS officer without domain experience knows nothing about ci ops, in the air force the security is looked after the administration branch in form of provost and I can tell you they are worse than IPS. Yes army is the most clean organization I agree with this but in order to change anything we must first clean ourselves to spotless finish this can be done by abolishing the sahayak system and I have seen army generals when out in retirement suddenly become reformers of the govt whereas in the army they remain quiet only one way to change the system let all the generals from brig to Lt Gen forward their resignation to pm giving him an ultimatum of 48 hrs to initiate reforms if he does not budge then a call for mass resignations should be given up to rank of major only then change will come

  5. I support the opinion of the Brigadier expressed here. There is a mess in Kashmir as far as the deployments of the security forces are concerned. It can only happen in India where nearly ten organisations are operating and under different command and control set ups. It is obvious the mess you see around you is created by intra-organisational rivalries. The unified command is a failure – its actually stupid to think that the Chief Minister of a state is capable of handling military operations. It can only happen in India and it is bizarre. Secondly there is no single commander heading the operations. There is an Army Command there and an Army Corps – you mean these commanders can’t or are found wanting in their abilities to command a unified force. Obliviously it can be handed over to an IPS officer. You can have an IPS officer running or ruining these ops- we saw Doval do it in Pathankot. The only solution for the Army is to sectorise the area and manage its own in areas allotted to it. The rest can fend for themselves where ever they are. The next question is that why aren’t are troop carrying buses protected against small arms fire?? Does it take a lot to make a bus bullet proof against a 7.72mm round ? Human life is expendable in India so who cares. Nothing will come out of the end of this tale. Because have buggers muddle will travel.

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