Thursday, 1 December 2011

SSG Training in pakistan

1965 Indo-Pakistan War

Way before the initiation of hostilities, a plan had been conceived by the Pakistan Air Force to use SSG to sabotage five forward air bases in India in case of conflict. The orders for planning of such an operation were transmitted to the SSG through GHQ. The plan was discussed at length at the Parachute Training School at Peshawar with senior army and air force personnel. The SSG command was of the notion that strikes on the lines of a similar Israeli operation against Arab countries during the 1956 Arab Israel War would be successful in case they were done preemptively. However, that decision could only be taken by the President himself.

The details of these plans were kept totally confidential and the team leaders found out about the specifics of the mission the day they were to go into action. The intelligence provided to the SSG operators about the targets was very outdated and inaccurate. In some cases, the teams had to make do with maps dating back to 1909/1912.

On the fateful day of 6th September 1965, when hostilities finally commenced, it was decided that three air bases at Adampur, Halwara and Pathankot were going to be targeted by SSG commandos airdropped at night. The plan was to destroy Indian Air Force combat aircraft on the ground and put the bases out of action and then exfiltrate back into Pakistan following the various waterways found in Punjab that flow from India to Pakistan. For this, three teams of approximately 45 commandos each were air dropped by C-130Bs in the early morning hours of 7th September.

Due to the difficult terrain and very low visibility, none of the teams were able to regroup after the drops. The Adampur group was unable to assemble at night and waited the following day out hiding in the cornfields. However, most of the commandos were rounded-up and captured including their commander Captain Assad Durrani. The Pathankot group faced a similar fate and most of the SSG operators were taken as POWs including their commanding officer Major Khalid Gulrez Butt. Many in the group designated for assault on Halwara actually landed around the air field perimeter itself but did not have any wire-cutters and were easily captured by the alerted Indian defenders. The leader of the Halwara team, Captain Hasan Iftikhar was bayoneted and taken prisoner while he attempted to meet up with the rest of his team. Only a few made it back to Pakistan. Captain Hazur Husnain (2nd-in-command to Captain Hasan Iftikhar) and a few jawans were able to commandeer an Indian Army jeep and made it back via Fazilka.

At the end of the raids, most of the commandos were taken as POW, while 20 or so were KIA. Some 22 commandos were able to make their way back to Pakistan over the next few days after the drop. From its very inception, the operations were bound to fail. The commandos were sent into enemy territory without proper planning and even less intelligence about terrain or the enemy defenses. Even according to SSG's own assessment of these operations before the war, they were bound to fail if general hostilities had been initiated before these operations were executed as the enemy would be at full alert after the war began. Thus para-dropping the SSG without the element of surprise into enemy territory, lacking local support or appropriate exfilteration plan resulted in this tragedy.

The SSG has been used as an instrument of influence and assistance to friendly countries on behalf of the Government of Pakistan. SSG has been deployed in many countries for training of the host nations’ armed forces and in advisory roles. In the mid-80s, SSG helped train members of Sri Lankan Special Forces to counter the Tamil Elam fighters in that country. Similarly, in early 1994, the SSG was tasked to train the Special Services Regiment of the Malaysian Army in high-altitude warfare in preparations for their deployment and operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the United Nations peacekeepers.

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