SOFEX 2010: Pakistan General describes counter-insurgency difficulties
The commander of Pakistan's special forces has described the difficulties in conducting counter-insurgency operations along the border with Afghanistan, the Middle-East Special Operations Commanders Conference has heard.
Addressing delegates including multinational special forces commanders in Amman, Jordan on 10 May, Special Services Group General Officer Commanding, Maj Gen Mohammed Haroon Al-Salam said ‘hundreds' of operations has been conducted in the Swat Valley since Pakistan entered the Global War On Terror in 2003.
Describing how militants were using the routes to cross into Afghanistan in order to avoid Pakistani military operations, Al-Salam said his country's focus was on ‘supporting coalition operations which made its security forces a legitimate target for militants'.
With approximately 22 routes ‘frequently' used by militants to cross the Pakistan and Afghanistan border, not to mention an additional 320 ‘unfrequented' trails, Al-Salam said the ‘borders cannot be sealed. It is extremely difficult'.
With altitudes ranging between 3,000 and 12,000 ft, Al-Salam described how the mountainous Hindu Kush area made resupply and reinforcement missions ‘extremely difficult' in the heat of battle.
He added that forward operating bases could be stocked for anything up to eight months and a limited number of helicopter landing sites meant casualty evacuations could be severely delayed.
Artillery fire support and the use of land mines were described as being ‘less than effective' and Al-Salam said both friendly forces and militant defensive areas could be wiped out by avalanches while the high altitude conditions easily caused cold weather injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite.
Similarly, conditions restricted vehicle manoeuvrability and allowed only a limited number of attack options. Inaccuracies in mapping and images also contributed to difficulties in achieving surprise ahead of attacks while helicopters provided militants with early warning of strike operations allowing them to fleet or prepare to retaliate.
‘Militants are well-acclimatised and faceless,' he said and conceded that it was proving ‘difficult' to hunt down high value targets. ‘Only a limited number of key figures have been apprehended'.Al-Salam stated.
By Andrew White, Amman
Email this to a friend.