“Optimizing the Potential of Special Forces”

[ by Mark Safranski – a.k.a “zen”]

A remarkably blunt article on SF/SOF (“special forces” is being used as an umbrella term for both) in the context of policy and strategy, from the perspective of an emerging great power by LTG Prakosh Katoch of the Indian Army. The American example of SOCOM in Afghanistan/Iraq/GWOT has obviously had an impact here, as has the negative example of Pakistani use of terrorists as proxy forces and ISI covert operatives for direct action in Indian territory and elsewhere. Quite aside from global conflicts and the bilateral rivalry with Pakistan, India also faces more than a dozen long term irregular conflicts with their own dynamics, such as the NaxaliteMaoist insurgency , which Katoch places in the context of Chinese strategic ambitions against India.

A must read.

Optimizing the Potential of Special Forces

….In India, the lack of strategic culture, more on account of keeping the military out from strategic military decision making, has led the hierarchy to believe that conventional forces coupled with nuclear clout can deter us from irregular threats. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Pakistan, though conventionally inferior, has been successfully playing her ‘thousand cuts policy’ knowing full well that India has failed to develop the required deterrent. It is our inability to find a cure to this Achilles’ heel, that has led China, which was hitherto using Pakistan as proxy to wage irregular war on India, now directly aids and supports insurgent and terrorist outfits inside India.

….Why the US has managed to secure its mainland post 9/11 is not only because of an efficient Homeland Security organisation but because the US Special Forces (USSF) are operating in 200 countries including India. Significantly, USSF have undeclared tasks such as conducting proactive, sustained ‘man-hunts’ and disrupt operations globally; building partner capacity in relevant ground, air and maritime capabilities in scores of countries on a steady – state basis; helping generate persistent ground, air and maritime surveillance and strike coverage over ‘under-governed’ areas and littoral zones and employing unconventional warfare against state-sponsored terrorism and trans-national terrorist groups globally. Before 26/11, Al-Qaeda had planned similar operations against New York but could not because the USSF had infiltrated Al-Qaeda. One cannot guard the house by simply barricading it. You must patrol the streets and the area outside.

Growing inter-dependence and interlinking of terrorist groups regionally and internationally should be a matter of serious concern. It is not the US alone that has deployed its Special Forces abroad. This is the case with most advanced countries including UK, Russia, Israel, China and even Pakistan. Pakistan’s SSG was operating with the Taliban in Afghanistan and has been active in Jammu and Kashmir, Nepal and Bangladesh, primarily training anti-India forces. There is a strong possibility of their presence in the Maldives and Sri Lanka as well, aside from presence within India. The Chinese have been smarter. For all the development projects throughout the globe, including in Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan-POK, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Seychelles, contracts underway by PLA-owned/affiliated companies employ serving and veteran PLA soldiers and disguised Special Forces with assigned tasks, including evacuation of Chinese citizens from that country in case of emergencies. 

Read the rest here.

18 comments on this post.
  1. joey:

    This kind of jumped out at me
     It is our inability to find a cure to this Achilles’ heel, that has led China, which was hitherto using Pakistan as proxy to wage irregular war on India, now directly aids and supports insurgent and terrorist outfits inside India.”
    and this
    “that is the reason why China and Pakistan are trying their level best to integrate and boost insurgencies within India. It is no secret that the BNP-led government in Bangladesh has always been pro China and Pakistan. It is supported by terrorist organisations including Jamat-e-Islami and Ahle Hadith Andolan that are viciously anti-India and are funded by Saudi Arabia in a major way.”

    Thankfully this guy supports all his assertions with fact,  otherwise I might have felt I was being feed a line of bullshit aimed at securing more funding and a larger role for SF.  

  2. Madhu:

    Perhaps the LTG assumed the audience for an Indian defense journal might be aware of the complicated–and to be fair, contradictory–set of arguments related to the supporting evidence for proxy support of insurgencies within India, a subject that has kept the Indian military and intelligence agencies occupied since the inception of the country. Before really, if you look at the colonial history.
    .
    The US and other Western nations and the former Soviet Union have an interesting history in this regard too. One wonders if the AfPak strategy and a lot of the hot air about the region might have been mitigated had this history been remotely interesting to the military intellectual community writ large. Sometimes I find it hard to believe Abbottabad happened, other times, I think, “well, that’s typical given the history or American, British and EU security elites and their relationships in SA.”
    .
    B. Raman (RIP) made the similar arguments about the poor capabilities in counterintelligence and internal policing.
    .
    From The Diplomat (Is China Backing Indian Insurgents?):
    .
    “Such dealings were recently revealed in detail in a 100-page Indian government report, accessed byOutlook India. The report pertains to the October 2010 arrest by Indian authorities of Anthony Shimray, a key official and major arms procurer of the NSCN-IM, who had been operating out of Bangkok. During his interrogation, the report alleged that the NSCN-IM was offered the chance to purchase surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) by Chinese agents working on behalf of the Chinese intelligence agencies.
    The negotiations for the deal reportedly took place in Chengdu in December 2009, with the agents asking $1 million for the missiles as part of a package that included training the rebels in the technical know-how to use them. However, the deal reportedly fell through as the rebel groups couldn’t raise the money. Shimray also admitted that in return for Chinese support, Naga insurgents had been giving away details of Indian army deployments in the China-India border region of Twang in Arunachal Pradesh, including positions of Indian aircraft and missiles.”
    .
    It’s a tricky, murky area. Lots of incentive to both blow things off and exaggerate.
    .
    Flows of monies and weapons are fairly well documented, how consistent the policy and what level of official support is tougher because of the opaque nature of the China-Pakistan relationship and the “opaqueness” of security elites, so to speak, in both nations. 

  3. Madhu:

    Aargh, a long comment “awaiting” moderation. Sorry, thought I removed the tags so the filter wouldn’t catch trip it up.

  4. Madhu:

    The comment is a fairly long one but people can search for “Is China Backing Indian Insurgencies” in The Diplomat. A good place to look is a lot of the people online following money flows and back globalization. If I have time, I’ll link some. 

  5. Madhu:

    Let’s try again:
    .
    Perhaps the LTG assumed the audience for an Indian defense journal might be aware of the complicated–and to be fair, contradictory–set of arguments related to the supporting evidence for proxy support of insurgencies within India, a subject that has kept the Indian military and intelligence agencies occupied since the inception of the country. Before really, if you look at the colonial history.
    .
    The US and other Western nations and the former Soviet Union have an interesting history in this regard too. One wonders if the AfPak strategy and a lot of the hot air about the region might have been mitigated had this history been remotely interesting to the military intellectual community writ large. Sometimes I find it hard to believe Abbottabad happened, other times, I think, “well, that’s typical given the history or American, British and EU security elites and their relationships in SA.”
    .
    B. Raman (RIP) made the similar arguments about the poor capabilities in counterintelligence and internal policing.
    .
    From The Diplomat (Is China Backing Indian Insurgents?):
    .
    “Such dealings were recently in detail in a 100-page Indian government report, accessed byOutlook India. The report pertains to the October 2010 arrest by Indian authorities of Anthony Shimray, a key official and major arms procurer of the NSCN-IM, who had been operating out of Bangkok. During his interrogation, the report alleged that the NSCN-IM was offered the chance to purchase surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) by Chinese agents working on behalf of the Chinese intelligence agencies.The negotiations for the deal reportedly took place in Chengdu in December 2009, with the agents asking $1 million for the missiles as part of a package that included training the rebels in the technical know-how to use them. However, the deal reportedly fell through as the rebel groups couldn’t raise the money. Shimray also admitted that in return for Chinese support, Naga insurgents had been giving away details of Indian army deployments in the China-India border region of Twang in Arunachal Pradesh, including positions of Indian aircraft and missiles.”
    .
    It’s a tricky, murky area. Lots of incentive to both blow things off and exaggerate..Flows of monies and weapons are fairly well documented, how consistent the policy and what level of official support is tougher because of the opaque nature of the China-Pakistan relationship and the “opaqueness” of security elites, so to speak,  in both nations. 

  6. Madhu:

    I give up. Zen, I love this site but formatting is something I am never going to learn around here.

  7. Madhu:

    don’t you hate it when people complain about free ice cream? Feel free to delete all but the properly formatted comment

  8. Lynn C. Rees:

    I wonder at the mystery of the comment system. Let’s see if this trailing period thing works.
    .
    Test 

  9. Lynn C. Rees:

    Hey wow, line break. The secret seems to be to enter a period followed by a carriage return.

  10. joey:

    “Hey wow, line break. The secret seems to be to enter a period followed by a carriage return.”.
    .
    Noted
    .
    Hmmm, so an arms dealer, who was buying from another arms dealer, who was allegedly backed by Chinese agents, was offered the chance to Buy weaponry, but the deal never came to fruition. 
    Ok…
    And all this from a guy was being tortured, eh I mean interrogated by Indian security services.
    Murky alright, very murky.  
      

  11. Scott:

    India should hardly be surprised by the Chinese actions.  The Chinese stated in “Unrestricted Warfare” back in 2000 what kinds of tactics they would pursue.  Any country that views them as a threat should be prepared.  This brief seems to indicate that the Indians have been thinking about it since at least 2011:
    http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/AsymmetricWarsintheIndianContext_msingh_131011
     

  12. zen:

    Hi doc Madhu,
    .
     October 2010 arrest by Indian authorities of Anthony Shimray, a key official and major arms procurer of the NSCN-IM, who had been operating out of Bangkok. During his interrogation, the report alleged that the NSCN-IM was offered the chance to purchase surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) by Chinese agents working on behalf of the Chinese intelligence agencies.The negotiations for the deal reportedly took place in Chengdu in December 2009, with the agents asking $1 million for the missiles as part of a package that included training the rebels in the technical know-how to use them. However, the deal reportedly fell through as the rebel groups couldn’t raise the money. Shimray also admitted that in return for Chinese support, Naga insurgents had been giving away details of Indian army deployments in the China-India border region…”

    Well that story seems very plausible to me, at least in the sense that this alleged deal was typically “Chinese” in structure -i.e. it was designed to give China multiple levels of benefit in return for giving the rebels only one layer. Where the CIA would have given away the arms & training for free and hoped for the best, the Chinese hard-nosed approach would garner, if successful:
    .
    1. $ 1 million in hard currency – which would ensure that the rebels would value the missiles and use them sparingly
    .
    2. Gain useful intelligence about the Indian Army while doing no work and taking no risks
    .
    3. Gain a client-proxy in India under at least Chinese influence, if not direction, for whom China could plausibly deny responsibility
    .
    4.  It would raise India’s defense costs in a way that drained resources from services (Air Force, Navy, strategic nuclear forces) that India needs most to counter Chinese strategic moves.
    .
    Even if the plan came to naught, China still received useful intel and the failure could be seen as a form of “negotiation” to find the right “price” for China to “aid” the rebels in the future.
    .
    If it seems brilliant it is also how China has taken most Western corporations intending to “break into the Chinese market” to the  cleaners for the past thirty years, squeezing them like lemons for the great privilege of being allowed to operate in China, and forcing them out once Chinese competitors have matured to the point of entering the markets of these corporations home countries

  13. Monday Morning Linkage » Duck of Minerva:

    […] Safranski (i.e. zen of Zenpundit) points us to Lt. General Prakash Katosh‘s “Optimising the Potential of Special Forces.” [Original […]

  14. Monday Morning Linkage | Symposium Magazine:

    […] Safranski (i.e. zen of Zenpundit) points us to Lt. General Prakash Katosh‘s “Optimising the Potential of Special Forces.” [Original […]

  15. joey:

    One million in hard currency… Like they need it.  
    .
    Gain useful intel, no risks.??? are you kidding me?  Would they really want India as an enemy?  If this was true, you really think there is no risk?

    But why? why gain an encumberance over which you can exercise no real contol?
    .
    There are many insurgences in India, that job of draining is already being done.
    .
    It doesn’t seem brilliant, it seems foolish and naive.  And has zero benefits. 
    .
    It suits certain groups in India and the US to promote those ideas as a way of building a stronger alliance,
    and certainly that alliance could reap long term gains in strangling China.  But that doesent mean you guys have to believe yellow cake story, I mean the china backing Indian rebels story.
     

  16. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » “One cannot guard the house by simply barricading it.”:

    […] , Lt. Gen. Prakash Katoch, “Optimising the Potential of Special Forces,” Indian Defense Review, Vol. 28.2, Apr-Jun 2013. *(H/T Zenpundit.) […]

  17. zen:

    hi joey,
    .
    My secondhand impression, one reinforced by convos with ppl who specialize on China and speak the language is that the Chinese view India with a good deal of contempt and refuse to acknowledge India as a “power” great or otherwise. The Chinese have been, as a point of fact, deliberately and repeatedly  provoking India over territorial claims as they have been doing with the “small countries” ( Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei etc.) and Japan.
    .
    Likewise, the Chinese appear to believe their aggressive behavior at borders and at sea conveys some kind of benefit because they asset they will keep doing it and continue to expand their claims. We may see it as risky, low-return behavior – and it has alienated most of the countries in the region except for Cambodia, South Korea, Pakistan and the anti-American contingent among Australian Leftists – but Beijing, or at least the PLA, does not seem to care. 

  18. Madhu:

    @ joey
    .
    If I wasn’t trying to be a know-it-all jerk in my first comment I would have done a better job acknowledging your point.
    .
    The evidence for support for insurgencies and the relationship between China and Pakistan does seem murky from my outsider vantage point. What I really should have written is that this is a huge area of study and has been for years with enormous amounts written by experts, many of whom have come to a variety of conclusions. 
    .
    I do think many things are overstated in the article but the ideas bear careful scrutiny before automatic dismissal. You are correct that it would have been better if he had provided examples. That is a weakness of the article as it stands.
    .
    The Indians supported insurgents in East Pakistan, China helped with Pakistani nuclear weapons, the Americans worked with the Indians against the Chinese in Tibet during the Cold War, newer historical research on Kashmir presents some evidence that the British probably didn’t leave as cleanly as claimed, Chinese weapons and money are tied to Indian insurgencies.
    .
    Because governments and groups deny, and because you can’t FOIA everything overseas, it becomes a game of reading the tea leaves so to speak.
    .
    And Indian domestic politics, to this outsider, makes American politics look tame. The way I see it, there is evidence to support overstating Chinese support and there is evidence to support understating Chinese support because of complicated domestic and regional politics.
    .
    So, I should have found a better example than the article I quickly put up. I never have time, but if I do find time, I will link some of the better resources I’ve found. And of course, if interested, others can search too.