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Pakistan Is Losing Too Many Soldiers In Counter Terrorism Operations

Xestan

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Pakistan Is Losing Too Many Soldiers In Counter Terrorism Operations

As I said to Gen Kayani and several other officers, far from taking pride in the courage of our men, I’d very concerned about why we are losing so many young officers and men.
Ejaz Haider
by Ejaz Haider

October 22, 2021

in Analysis

Pakistan Is Losing Too Many Soldiers In Counter Terrorism Operations
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After a drop in casualty rates in the ongoing counterterrorism operations, this year has again witnessed a spike. The frequency of attacks has increased as have the numbers of security forces personnel (including police and paramilitary troops) killed and injured by terrorist groups ambushing patrol parties and other vehicular movement.

The Inter-Services Public Relations press notifications have become a near-daily occurrence. Here, I give two examples of those notifications that also show what modi operandi the groups are using to target security forces personnel:

“Terrorists fire-raid security forces post in District Kech, Balochistan. Troops responded promptly. During fire exchange, Sepoy X embraced shahadat. Area search in progress to hunt down perpetrators of the incident.”

“Security forces along with police conducted cordon and search operation late last night. During operation, an IED exploded in Dabrai, Bajaur District. Resultantly, 2 FC soldiers… and 2 police constables… embraced shahadat. Area clearance being carried out to eliminate any terrorists found in the area.”

There are many other examples but these should suffice. In fact, the press notifications raise a number of questions with reference to how operations are being conducted. According to data compiled by South Asian Terrorism Portal, in 2021 until October (the ongoing month), there have been 207 incidents resulting in the killing of 177 civilians, 158 security personnel (this includes police/paramilitary) and 185 terrorists. By all benchmarks, this is a very high casualty rate for friendly forces.

But before I get to why we should take this very seriously and how we can bring the casualty rate down, let me go back to 2010. During a briefing by General Ashfaq Perez Kayani, which was preceded by a presentation by a Brigadier, a slide presented figures on the sacrifices of our soldiers and with a lot of pride showed that our officer-to-jawan kill ratio is 1:8 — i.e., for every eight soldiers in combat, we are losing one officer. The explanation: our officers lead from the front.

The statistics left me deeply disturbed. As I said to Gen Kayani and several other officers, far from taking pride in the courage of our men, I’d very concerned about why we are losing so many young officers and men. When someone enlists, he knows that when the time comes he must be ready to kill, or get killed. There is no clean battle. Incoming fire has a nasty habit of finding its target. Yet, that’s precisely what professional armies train for, developing the capability to inflict maximum damage on the enemy while minimising own losses in men and material.

This is the essence of what US General George Patton is reported to have said: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Patton was, of course, talking about a different time and a different war. Even so, his message remains constant for all types of war, including the irregular war we are still fighting, with no defined front and no rear, no clear zones of war and peace.

The enemy in this war is difficult to identify. He relies on kinship and ideological bonds, rarely offers a concentrated target, thereby blunting the advantage of a superior force, and can move from the sanctuary to the preparation area to the operational area with relative ease, both in terms of time and space. He has the element of surprise on his side. He can hunker down and wait for the opportunity. He can snipe at targets, use IEDs, raid isolated posts, and mount terror attacks in the cities. In effect, break the norms of fighting in order to gain an asymmetric advantage. The violence he generates is not great but consistent and incremental and creates a psychological effect to erode the resolve, if not of the army, then that of the civilian population.

Pakistan won this war at a great price. Along the way security forces learnt from their mistakes. It was long-drawn and painful but it worked. Pakistan won where, across the border to the west in Afghanistan, a large coalition of the most modern militaries failed. But it seems that we have let our guard down. Many officers and men who fought those battles and survived have retired. Is the institutional memory of lessons learnt being lost?

Pakistan has known and recorded the evolving situation for nearly two years now: disparate TTP groups reorganising and banding together; four Baloch terrorist organisations coming together to mount coordinated attacks; Islamic State-Khorasan cadres targeting security forces and Shia Pakistanis. Pakistan has also known, going by the dossiers made public by the government, that many of these elements are being supported and funded by India’s intelligence agencies. According to stories in the Indian media in 2017, the National Security Council Secretariat, headed by Ajit Doval, received a staggering 311% increase in funds. Some analysts have argued that this could be “to tackle issues at the intersection of cybersecurity and nuclear weapon delivery systems”, but that seems to be a stretch going by the traditional role of the National Security Council Secretariat.

Be that as it may, Pakistan has to be prepared, by its own reckoning, against Indian designs to foment trouble in its tribal districts as well as Balochistan. Simply referring to this as India’s perfidy will not do.

So, what should Pakistan do?

First, the operations and the losses must immediately be studied. Are we faltering on the training required for fighting this kind of war; is the enemy doing something different from what it was doing before and for which security forces developed countermeasures? What kind of organisational innovations are needed to tackle the evolving situation? Are the security forces employing new technologies to improve their intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance capabilities? The army has a lot of experience now in tackling IEDs; are those techniques being fully employed? Is there enough field and strategic intelligence on terrain, enemy resources, lines of communication, recruitment methods, training camps, concentration areas?

These questions are important. But even more important is whether military and other leaders are concerned about mounting casualty rate. Clearly, to address the issue would first require a deep concern about the safety and effectiveness of troops and policemen.

Pakistan has come a long way from the time it began fighting this war. It is decidedly in a much better position now than it was when this war began. As I noted above, lessons have been learnt and incorporated into training and manuals. The army also has better equipment, including drones both combat and surveillance. Are troops deployed in sensitive, vulnerable areas and points being provided the advantage of real-time ISR? There’s also a fence now. The ISPR calls some of these attacks fire raids: are these ambushes, long-distance sniping, shooting? Do patrol parties or other vehicular movement have the benefit of ISR? if not, why not? Are these attacks happening from the Afghanistan soil or do we have terrorists hiding in the population east of the border?

In this kind of war, as in any kind of war, intelligence is crucial. Is there effective coordination among intelligence agencies on the one hand and the fighting troops and agencies on the other?

There are many questions but very few answers. My own sense from having seen many operations is that the groups are not doing anything different. The Taliban, both in Afghanistan and here, have relied on ambushes, hit-and-run tactics, suicide bombings, IEDs. Where they can amass more men and firepower, they also go for flanking, encirclement and direct-fire engagement (what ISPR calls fire raids). Officers who have participated in previous operations also know that groups use generally the same spots and lines of communication for such attacks. It should not be too hard to prevent such attacks. The concerned officials must make clear how they are dealing with the situation and what data they are gathering. Putting out statistics and calling the fallen shaheeds doesn’t really cut and certainly doesn’t tell us what’s going on. It’s time to get some answers.

 

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Pakistan Is Losing Too Many Soldiers In Counter Terrorism Operations

As I said to Gen Kayani and several other officers, far from taking pride in the courage of our men, I’d very concerned about why we are losing so many young officers and men.
Ejaz Haider
by Ejaz Haider

October 22, 2021

in Analysis

Pakistan Is Losing Too Many Soldiers In Counter Terrorism Operations
265
SHARES
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After a drop in casualty rates in the ongoing counterterrorism operations, this year has again witnessed a spike. The frequency of attacks has increased as have the numbers of security forces personnel (including police and paramilitary troops) killed and injured by terrorist groups ambushing patrol parties and other vehicular movement.

The Inter-Services Public Relations press notifications have become a near-daily occurrence. Here, I give two examples of those notifications that also show what modi operandi the groups are using to target security forces personnel:

“Terrorists fire-raid security forces post in District Kech, Balochistan. Troops responded promptly. During fire exchange, Sepoy X embraced shahadat. Area search in progress to hunt down perpetrators of the incident.”

“Security forces along with police conducted cordon and search operation late last night. During operation, an IED exploded in Dabrai, Bajaur District. Resultantly, 2 FC soldiers… and 2 police constables… embraced shahadat. Area clearance being carried out to eliminate any terrorists found in the area.”

There are many other examples but these should suffice. In fact, the press notifications raise a number of questions with reference to how operations are being conducted. According to data compiled by South Asian Terrorism Portal, in 2021 until October (the ongoing month), there have been 207 incidents resulting in the killing of 177 civilians, 158 security personnel (this includes police/paramilitary) and 185 terrorists. By all benchmarks, this is a very high casualty rate for friendly forces.

But before I get to why we should take this very seriously and how we can bring the casualty rate down, let me go back to 2010. During a briefing by General Ashfaq Perez Kayani, which was preceded by a presentation by a Brigadier, a slide presented figures on the sacrifices of our soldiers and with a lot of pride showed that our officer-to-jawan kill ratio is 1:8 — i.e., for every eight soldiers in combat, we are losing one officer. The explanation: our officers lead from the front.

The statistics left me deeply disturbed. As I said to Gen Kayani and several other officers, far from taking pride in the courage of our men, I’d very concerned about why we are losing so many young officers and men. When someone enlists, he knows that when the time comes he must be ready to kill, or get killed. There is no clean battle. Incoming fire has a nasty habit of finding its target. Yet, that’s precisely what professional armies train for, developing the capability to inflict maximum damage on the enemy while minimising own losses in men and material.

This is the essence of what US General George Patton is reported to have said: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Patton was, of course, talking about a different time and a different war. Even so, his message remains constant for all types of war, including the irregular war we are still fighting, with no defined front and no rear, no clear zones of war and peace.

The enemy in this war is difficult to identify. He relies on kinship and ideological bonds, rarely offers a concentrated target, thereby blunting the advantage of a superior force, and can move from the sanctuary to the preparation area to the operational area with relative ease, both in terms of time and space. He has the element of surprise on his side. He can hunker down and wait for the opportunity. He can snipe at targets, use IEDs, raid isolated posts, and mount terror attacks in the cities. In effect, break the norms of fighting in order to gain an asymmetric advantage. The violence he generates is not great but consistent and incremental and creates a psychological effect to erode the resolve, if not of the army, then that of the civilian population.

Pakistan won this war at a great price. Along the way security forces learnt from their mistakes. It was long-drawn and painful but it worked. Pakistan won where, across the border to the west in Afghanistan, a large coalition of the most modern militaries failed. But it seems that we have let our guard down. Many officers and men who fought those battles and survived have retired. Is the institutional memory of lessons learnt being lost?

Pakistan has known and recorded the evolving situation for nearly two years now: disparate TTP groups reorganising and banding together; four Baloch terrorist organisations coming together to mount coordinated attacks; Islamic State-Khorasan cadres targeting security forces and Shia Pakistanis. Pakistan has also known, going by the dossiers made public by the government, that many of these elements are being supported and funded by India’s intelligence agencies. According to stories in the Indian media in 2017, the National Security Council Secretariat, headed by Ajit Doval, received a staggering 311% increase in funds. Some analysts have argued that this could be “to tackle issues at the intersection of cybersecurity and nuclear weapon delivery systems”, but that seems to be a stretch going by the traditional role of the National Security Council Secretariat.

Be that as it may, Pakistan has to be prepared, by its own reckoning, against Indian designs to foment trouble in its tribal districts as well as Balochistan. Simply referring to this as India’s perfidy will not do.

So, what should Pakistan do?

First, the operations and the losses must immediately be studied. Are we faltering on the training required for fighting this kind of war; is the enemy doing something different from what it was doing before and for which security forces developed countermeasures? What kind of organisational innovations are needed to tackle the evolving situation? Are the security forces employing new technologies to improve their intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance capabilities? The army has a lot of experience now in tackling IEDs; are those techniques being fully employed? Is there enough field and strategic intelligence on terrain, enemy resources, lines of communication, recruitment methods, training camps, concentration areas?

These questions are important. But even more important is whether military and other leaders are concerned about mounting casualty rate. Clearly, to address the issue would first require a deep concern about the safety and effectiveness of troops and policemen.

Pakistan has come a long way from the time it began fighting this war. It is decidedly in a much better position now than it was when this war began. As I noted above, lessons have been learnt and incorporated into training and manuals. The army also has better equipment, including drones both combat and surveillance. Are troops deployed in sensitive, vulnerable areas and points being provided the advantage of real-time ISR? There’s also a fence now. The ISPR calls some of these attacks fire raids: are these ambushes, long-distance sniping, shooting? Do patrol parties or other vehicular movement have the benefit of ISR? if not, why not? Are these attacks happening from the Afghanistan soil or do we have terrorists hiding in the population east of the border?

In this kind of war, as in any kind of war, intelligence is crucial. Is there effective coordination among intelligence agencies on the one hand and the fighting troops and agencies on the other?

There are many questions but very few answers. My own sense from having seen many operations is that the groups are not doing anything different. The Taliban, both in Afghanistan and here, have relied on ambushes, hit-and-run tactics, suicide bombings, IEDs. Where they can amass more men and firepower, they also go for flanking, encirclement and direct-fire engagement (what ISPR calls fire raids). Officers who have participated in previous operations also know that groups use generally the same spots and lines of communication for such attacks. It should not be too hard to prevent such attacks. The concerned officials must make clear how they are dealing with the situation and what data they are gathering. Putting out statistics and calling the fallen shaheeds doesn’t really cut and certainly doesn’t tell us what’s going on. It’s time to get some answers.

A very important article that spells out clearly what everyone here is thinking. There have been major losses in Baluchistan from the FC and nothing has changed much. Yes many of them have died, but that's beside their point. They are ragtag terrorist vermin and should take higher losses. Professionals learn and don't repeat the same mistakes.
We now also have a resurgent TTP as well.



"Pakistan has known and recorded the evolving situation for nearly two years now: disparate TTP groups reorganising and banding together; four Baloch terrorist organisations coming together to mount coordinated attacks; Islamic State-Khorasan cadres targeting security forces and Shia Pakistanis".

Time is of the essence.
 
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SQ8

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Well written. Accountability is important and the briefings or music videos don’t do justice. However, those who might be in the position to take accountability are themselves absolutely incapable of understanding the context or uninterested either by incompetence or by focusing on corruption . Such is the tragedy of Pakistans.
 

Xestan

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Ejaz Haider presents some valid points about Troops not exactly keeping up with past experiences. If we analyze some terrorist propaganda videos from last few months, one thing is very clear that the troops (mostly FC Balochistan) are ill-prepared to deal with an ambush.

BLA has been mounting multiple directional ambushes on FC vehicles and they are very very successful, they even run over check-posts and observation posts with relative ease. First, the posts are not properly manned and the security of the posts is very poor (that video of BLA terrorists jumping the small walls of the post is an evidence).

Secondly, the ambushes, FC, and to some extent our regular troops still don't get one military rule of dealing with the ambushes: YOU BLOODY DRIVE THROUGH IT, YOU NEVER STOP IN AN AMBUSH!

I've watched numerous videos where our vehicles are stopped and then the poor guys are trying to ascertain where the fire is coming from and then they are hit one after the other.

One video where our regular troops were engaged in an ambush in Orakzai a few weeks ago shows how effective it is to just drive through the ambush and run away from the range of fire, a couple of soldiers embraced shahadat in that as well, but because their vehicle fell into the river, other 5 vehicles at least drove through the ambush and had less casualties.

So, it's not just about the technology, drones and MRAPs, it's about tactics too. We are losing so many good men because someone in-charge is not looking into the problem. I mean, we at PDF have pointed out what we see in these videos time and again.
 

SkyWolf

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I always had a soft spot for the troops in the trucks in stifling heat headed toward Pakistan's danger zones. But I am not a big fan of our generals in their mansions and their "strategies". In our culture, we embrace shahadat, even congratulate the parents for their heroic son's deed. But I can't help feel for the parents, the young wives, the toddler-aged kids of these soldiers.

When can these psychotic BLA and TTP come to their senses? What as a nation can we do to reduce the level of violence in our country.

Live by the gun. die by the gun.
 

SQ8

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Ejaz Haider presents some valid points about Troops not exactly keeping up with past experiences. If we analyze some terrorist propaganda videos from last few months, one thing is very clear that the troops (mostly FC Balochistan) are ill-prepared to deal with an ambush.

BLA has been mounting multiple directional ambushes on FC vehicles and they are very very successful, they even run over check-posts and observation posts with relative ease. First, the posts are not properly manned and the security of the posts is very poor (that video of BLA terrorists jumping the small walls of the post is an evidence).

Secondly, the ambushes, FC, and to some extent our regular troops still don't get one military rule of dealing with the ambushes: YOU BLOODY DRIVE THROUGH IT, YOU NEVER STOP IN AN AMBUSH!

I've watched numerous videos where our vehicles are stopped and then the poor guys are trying to ascertain where the fire is coming from and then they are hit one after the other.

One video where our regular troops were engaged in an ambush in Orakzai a few weeks ago shows how effective it is to just drive through the ambush and run away from the range of fire, a couple of soldiers embraced shahadat in that as well, but because their vehicle fell into the river, other 5 vehicles at least drove through the ambush and had less casualties.

So, it's not just about the technology, drones and MRAPs, it's about tactics too. We are losing so many good men because someone in-charge is not looking into the problem. I mean, we at PDF have pointed out what we see in these videos time and again.
So what if there was an IED and you didn’t stop and ended up hitting the other 4 further up the road?

There are different tactics to deal with the scenarios but they key is that regardless of not winning the war the US & allies took a lot less casualties not because of constant air support but because they took protection measures and trained in good tactics. Ive shown the videos of PA clearing operations and training to both US regular and SOCOM to which they all agree that other than SSG the training for regulars is subpar at best and useless at worst.
Pakistan has more than 200 million people few dozen deaths of army men are not big deal for country like Pakistan. More than 2000 people were murdered only in Punjab from January to September 2021. Thousands of people die every year due to not wearing helmet and driving carelessly
Subhanallah!

I never realized the fertile wombs of Pakistan were producing trained military men right from day 1 without any expenses to the state.
 

SkyWolf

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So what if there was an IED and you didn’t stop and ended up hitting the other 4 further up the road?

There are different tactics to deal with the scenarios but they key is that regardless of not winning the war the US & allies took a lot less casualties not because of constant air support but because they took protection measures and trained in good tactics. Ive shown the videos of PA clearing operations and training to both US regular and SOCOM to which they all agree that other than SSG the training for regulars is subpar at best and useless at worst.

Subhanallah!

I never realized the fertile wombs of Pakistan were producing trained military men right from day 1 without any expenses to the state.
Agreed. However, It's one thing to lose these soldiers fighting Indian hegemony and barbarism in Kashmir - It seems a terrible loss of life when they are killed by fellow so-called Pakistanis.
 

Xestan

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So what if there was an IED and you didn’t stop and ended up hitting the other 4 further up the road?

There are different tactics to deal with the scenarios but they key is that regardless of not winning the war the US & allies took a lot less casualties not because of constant air support but because they took protection measures and trained in good tactics. Ive shown the videos of PA clearing operations and training to both US regular and SOCOM to which they all agree that other than SSG the training for regulars is subpar at best and useless at worst.
I get your point, two ambushes are never exactly the same but the ones we see in FATA and Balochistan are mostly without an IED, not saying that it shouldn't be protected against. See, the front vehicle should always have added protection in combat zone, we have not learnt this lesson in 2 decades.

The 'drive-through' tactic was used by the US forces in Afghanistan and they were successful in controlling their casualty numbers.

Driving through an ambush is still the best bet our troops have because quite honestly, staying in the kill-zone, they perform very poorly. US Marines came up with a whole guide-book about dealing with the ambushes in Iraq (I'll try to find it online), and they brought back some Vietnam era tactics, which was about mounting bigger guns on the front vehicles and in case of disabled vehicles, suppressive fire can be massive. Smoke grenades were also part of the tactics and armour of the vehicles had to be used to take cover (which our troops can't do).

Bottomline is, if you have seen a front vehicle being hit by an IED, the vehicles at the back can at least exit the kill zone and provide suppressive fire with their big guns. Driving through is mostly used because exiting the kill-zone is your first priority in mountainous areas.
 

hussain0216

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It's because we're trying to avoid collateral damage



We take the hard route which no one appreciates
 

Aesterix

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Wasn't like that in Raheel Sharif times.
Soldiers morale is down and political insults by Patwaris taking its toll.
Soldiers should rather save their lives than dying for a thankless nation,who thinks that paying them wages is equal to buying their lives.
 

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Agreed. We are taking too many casualties.

Drone surveillance and drone strikes on terrorists will be the best deterrent. However the main thing persists, MRAPs We need those MRAPs pronto. That will lessen the casualties massively. Increase in surveillance and IBOs will deplete the terrorists strength.

Or we could send SSG teams into Afghanistan and hunt those rats down without anyone knowing.
 

Areesh

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General bajwa has hurt institution of Pakistan army in more ways than one

Ejaz Haider has noticed that and has written an article about that

Others would realize it too
 

Communism

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Easiest way is to give a commander a bill for the cost to the state of each dead soldier (the massive subsidies it takes from pregnancy to childbirth to growing to be of age) and removing that actuarial cost from their budget.

If lots of easily preventable casualties happen, it's because they are not costed into the profit model.

If you combine total lifetime cost with total lifetime GDP into an actuarial model, you can relatively accurately model the cost to the country as a whole economically as well.

For example, in the United States, the statistical American is worth roughly 10 million USD in lifetime GDP.

This is used to calculate how much one should spend on workplace safety.

Assuming much of the ambushes are primarily successful due to machine gun fire up to 50 cal machine guns or 14.5 mm machine guns, it shouldn't be too expensive or difficult to make sure the vehicles used will stop 50 cal ap and/or 14.5mm ap from every direction.

Obviously MRAP protection against IEDs would be more expensive though.
 
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