After Action Analysis Of Operations At Pathankot IAF Base
COLONEL AWADHESH KUMAR, SPECIAL FORCES
(an article published in Jagruk Bharat in March2016)
Both the TV and Print Media by now have done a detailed post mortem of operation carried out at Pathankot AirBase to eliminate the enemy personnel who had gained entry into the base. Army Commander, Western Command, has given a detailed media briefing on the entire operation including justification of using the NSG. Where as General H S Panag, a very competent and straight talking officer, erstwhile Army Commander of Northern and Central Command, has very accurately pointed out the flaws, which should be part of the ” Lessons Learnt “. The IAF too has clarified a lot of issues.
First of all as an operation this has been a SUCCESS, as the entire lot of the enemy on ground were eliminated and were unable to degrade the operational capability of the airbase. In Fact not one piece of vital equipment was damaged. However this was not a football match where the winning side can boast that we have scored more goals than the losing side. Flaws and weaknesses must be noted,analyzed and then action taken to eliminate them.
In addition to fine tuning of operational details, in such operations, Perception Management plays a very important role. Let’s go back 35 years—- OPERATION EAGLE CLAW —under taken on 24Apr1980, to rescue around 50 American hostages from their Iranian captors. Due to lack of coordination and synergy among various components of the Rescue Force, entire operation was a total disaster. Only a handful of men, less than 170, and just a few helicopters / aircrafts of the total American Armed Forces were involved in this failed operation but for the entire world THERE AFTER, perception wise, the USA could do nothing right.
Few years later in 1987, the entire lot of Indian Special Forces, were deployed in Sri Lanka. Till the creation of HQ IPKF with Lt Gen O S Kalkat as the OFC ( Over All Force Commander ), it was utter chaos in general and tasking of the SPECIAL FORCES in particular. On taking over of the Command, one of the first things he did was to stop all SF operations, gathered all the SF Officers…2/Lt to Colonels…, at Pallali Airbase near Jaffna. He shook hands with all the Officers one by one, and gave a talk lasting just a few minutes. He said ” the whole world will be watching you thru the international media present on the island. Your success will never get noticed but even a minor failure will get blown up and tarnish the image of both India and the Indian Army “.
How True.Except the LTTE, even the rest of the Indian Army generally remains clueless of SF numerous successes and achievements. However people still talk of Jaffna University fiasco as a SF failure, in which SF had actually completed their given task with loss of 3 dead and around 6 wounded. While it was an infantry unit whose about 40 personnel including a Major, heli landed at the same place along with the SF Team ( SF troops moved out of that location soon after landing), for their own task, got killed in the fight with the LTTE. One sepoy, a cook, became a prisoner and was later handed over to IA during the first Peace Talks.
The EAGLE CLAW fiasco led to the creation of UNITED STATES SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND in Apr 1987, thru the Goldwater—Nichols Act of the US Congress. The results of OP NEPTUNE SPEAR in May 2011, to eliminate Osama Bin Laden needs no highlighting. We too had some lessons from OP PAWAN which led to creation of HQ SPECIAL FORCES in Mar1993, on a bare minimum War Establishment. A final War Establishment was to be worked out by this HQ for Government Approval ( it was done but never saw the light of the day ). Having had the view of the entire process of the raising and it’s subsequent functioning not from a ring side seat but from the very centre of the ring, though a Major rank Officer only, I can say that had things continued as planned, today the story in J & K or at Pathankot would have been totally different. Most probably by now no one would have even dared to plan and conduct this type of attack on India. Lack of vision by our system after the demise of General B C Joshi and parochial interest of a few turned the SF development ” topsy turvy”. Alas by now, a file created meticulously, listing details of all SF operations under taken in OP PAWAN under the legendary R K Nanavatty,the first Commander of Ad Hoc HQ SPECIAL FORCES ( later Northern Army Commander during Operation PARAKRAM ) and S S Mann the second Commander ( later in Dec1993 on completion of his N D C Course he was appointed the first Commander Of SPECIAL FORCES ) has most probably been destroyed along with the destruction of the HQ SF.
A few things which we must do forthwith :
(a) Create Tri Service SF Command. Even SAG of NSG should be under it’s command but in direct support ( an artillery concept ) to Home Ministry. A similar existing Force in direct support to Cabinet Secretariat.
(b) Appointment of Chief Of Defence Staff ( CDS )
( c ) National Security Advisor ( NSA ) should remain an advisor only to the CCS and the PM. Neither he should try nor he should be permitted to usurp the role of the CDS…..it may lead to another 1962.
(.d ) Defence Security Corps is essential for guarding various static defence installations. However it needs to be re organized and trained for it’s role. It must have it’s own Command elements at Sub Area / Station HQ level for ensuring proper training and administration. Manning of this Corps should be done by lateral movement of personnel after 7 years of colour service.
( e ) S O P on Internal Security Duties are there for every military station and includes the nearby IAF and the Navy. These need to be fine tuned and rehearsed periodically in a serious manner.
( f ) Full use of modern sensors and security equipment be made available for all installations.
( g ) Creation of Special Operations Squadron / Flights of fixed wing and helicopters by IAF for Special Operations.
( h ) Role, mission and tasking of GARUDS needs a fresh look. Either they get patterned on the lines of RAF Regiments for defence of air bases or they provide manpower for SF Combat Controllers, Combat Rescue Special Operations, Weather Technicians and order such elements of SF.
7. Last point requiring emphasis is clearCommand and Control. As Sam Manekshaw had said in one of his lectures at the Staff College…..Indira’s job was over once she said ” all resources will be placed at your disposal, international diplomacy will be managed by me but Sam, I want Dhaka earliest “. Similarly after he made the outline plan including allocation of additional resources, it was the turn of General J S Aurora at Kolkatta. Similar was the case down the chain till a Major ordered his company ” C O M P A N Y MERE PICHEEY M O V E ” and finally the Section Commanders yelled…..Samne Dushman DHAAAWAA…. Meanwhile planners at all level ensured only one thing that no other Company or no other Sections were assaulting the same enemy locality / bunker.
8. Also as General Joshi had clarified to Commander Designate Special Forces in Nov 1993 in no uncertain terms that ” from this day onwards in case any hostage rescue / intervention, involving military happens then you and only you will be blamed for any failure. So better develop the capability fastest. Use of any kind of Police Force Central or State for such rescue will have a negative perception world wide —— Indian Armed Forces are incapable of even defending themselves!.
The SF Commander replied ” Sir, if overnight K D Pathak and his SF boys could take on the duties of protecting the PM, establish the ground rules for the future SPG and raise the SAG of NSG forthwith, way back in Nov 1984, then today we will be ready for the role starting…. NOW “.