Friday, January 07, 2005

War in the Wilderness - I

21 June

Am neatly attired for once. Regular fatigues, et al. Not my birthday or anything, but have been called by the General. He normally avoids hob nobbing with me and conveys whatever he needs to say to me through the Brigadier or other minions. But this time it's an invite for a one on one. I'm a little surprised and more than a little apprehensive. I hate these meetings with the brass. Nothing good ever comes of it. Personally, I like to take the line most of our troops do - avoid placing yourself behind a mule or in front of a senior officer.

But then ( yeah, yeah, you've heard it before) .......... ours is not to reason why....

I meet the General in his operations room. After the usual preliminaries, he gets down to it.

Background. Information from the DGP (Director General of Police). Corroborated by RAW (Research and Analysis Wing). A large LeT training camp located in the valley that runs parallel to the Kashmir Valley to the east (we'll call it Zulu for ease of comprehension). Likely location of the camp is X Village. Estimated strength of militants : 25-30 hard core and 100-150 trainees. Weaponry includes SFSAMs (Shoulder Fired Surface to Air Missiles), PIKAs, RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) in addition to the usual AKs, grenades and stuff.

Terrain. Narrow valley with a river running through it. High, densely forested features both sides. No roads. Access from present location across the dividing ridge line from north and/or west, on foot, 3 days walk. Access from the south. Drive across the Pir Panjal upto the road head. 2 days. Walk thereafter. 2 days. No access from the east. Ops have never been conducted there earlier and there's absolutely no information on locals, resources, etc. All that anyone knows is that it's a God forsaken place. The only time it was heard of was when the foreigners held hostage by the HUA ages ago, were hidden and finally killed there.

Own Forces in the Area. No Army. No BSF. No CRPF. No JKP. No STF. One Reserve Police post in Y Village, at the southern tip of Zulu Valley. Strength of 1 Sub Inspector and 10 cops, equipped with .303 bolt action rifles.

Mission. Destroy camp. Eliminate militants.

Time. By yesterday.

Plan. That I'm supposed to make. The General's said his bit. Cushy job he has, isn't it?

Anyways, I've been staring at the map. The terrain is miserably tough. I make my pitch.

"Give me three Mi-17s (medium sized transport helicopters) and one SF (Special Forces) assault team and I'll do it."

Negotiations commence.

"You're talking rot, Khalid. Choppers are out. The valley is too narrow and they've got Stingers (a type of SFSAM, US origin). One SF team is too little. You'll go across the ridge on foot with four HRM (High Risk Mission) companies of regulars."

"No can do, Sir." I manage to pipe in "Thats too large a force to control. And with so many guys moving over such a large distance, theres absolutely no chance of achieving surprise. And commanding 4 companies from 4 different units will be a nightmare. Give me my own crowd and I'll do it."

"Shut up and do it the way I'm telling you to." he roars.

"Yes Sir." I bleat.

Negotiations end.

Remember what I told you people about the 'when rape is inevitable..... thingy? Well, thats the line I find myself being forced to adopt.

Sigh ! My knees are already groaning.

Ok. The plan.

Four company columns. Thats about 40-50 men each. 3 days walk either way with one day for recce and at least one day of ops implies an outing of 8-10 days. That calls for an extremely large adminstrative load in terms of ammunition and rations. Very unweildy force.

I decide to insert this force along 4 different routes, marrying up at a pre designated RV by a pre designated time, and then take it from there.

I study the map, looking for tracks across the imposing ridge line. Find none. No choice but to pick up a marker and let my creativity find freedom. I look at the gradients on the map and draw 4 lines across the ridge, along what will hopefully be easy routes. Easy, in this context of course, is a very relative term.

I ask for a meeting with the four company commanders. The ops staff officer opens his beak for the first time. "They're already here. I'll get them in."

So much for my negotiations. Now I understand the term 'fait accompli'.

The General leaves me to it after wishing me luck.

I meet up with the four company commanders and brief them. The routes are discussed and agreed on. Alpha will move in from the north. Its a 4 day walk in his case, so he'll have to start a day earlier. M minus 1. Bravo and Charlie will move in from the west. M Day. I'll be with Bravo. Delta will go across the Banihal Pass by MT (motor transport) upto the road head and then hoof it. Move from here on M minus 1.

Alpha, Bravo and Charlie to link up in the forest just above A village by last light M plus 2. X Village (the target) is located across the river from A Village. Delta will move up to the southern end of the Zulu valley and stay put there at Y Village as reserve till I call them up. First light, M plus 3 is the last time anyone can get in. Any column delayed beyond that will be rendered LOB (Left Out of Battle).

Executive orders for the op will be issued by me after an 'on ground' recce on M plus 3. M plus 4 will be D Day.

All columns to be self contained for 10 days for ammunition, rations, water.

Radio silence all through.

Thats it. There really is nothing else I can tell them at this stage. Tomorrow is M minus 1. So they all scoot off to get their preparations effected. I tell Bravo where I'll meet up with him tomorrow night. Move from the jump off point will commence the next morning., that is, day after tomorrow.



At 10:02 AM, April 18, 2005, Anonymous bits said...

The best part in all your blogs mate is the way you build up the tempo. Give the background so graphically that even a lay person can actually understand the whole scenario. After that even a novice like me feels i am a true follower of Khalid & given instructions could probably follow in his footsteps, even if its for just a minute!

At 10:17 AM, April 19, 2005, Blogger Counter Insurgent said...

Bitsy : Thank yu buddy ! It comes out that way cos i recount it as i remember it...sequentially. N yes, I'd love to have yu alongside me the next time i head for the hills for some more action n adventure :+)



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