• Home
  • “Unified Command Authority for Forces Undertaking Counter Terrorist / Naxal / Insurgency Operations”

“Unified Command Authority for Forces Undertaking Counter Terrorist / Naxal / Insurgency Operations”

Unified Command Authority for Forces Undertaking Counter Terrorist

Book-3: War, Conflicts, Security, and The Military -1.0

  • “Nothing is more important in war than unity in command… Better one bad general than two good ones”. – Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • “Order, Counter order, Disorder” – Old proverb.

Key Concepts:

  • A Counter Terrorist / Naxal / Insurgent Operation involves not only the Police, the various Intelligence Agencies and the Para Military, but also elements of the Military all working together with Civil Administrative and other Governmental Authorities.
  • To enable rapid & flexible response to meet an emergency situation, it is essential that there should be a Unified Command Authority to direct the Operations.
  • Emphasizing the importance of a Unified Command – Napoleon had said, “The effect of discussions, making a show of talent and calling councils of war will be what the effect of these things has been in every Age: they will end in the adoption of the most pusillanimous or (if the expression be preferred) the most prudent measures, which in war are almost uniformly the worst that can be adopted. True wisdom, so far as the general is concerned, consists in energetic determination.”

We must recognize that a proper response to Terrorism / Naxalism / Insurgency will be different in many ways from that to Crime or Disturbances of Law and Order (see “Response to Terrorism / Naxalism / Insurgency” at www.ideaz4india.com)

Today too many organizational authorities are involved in uncoordinated attempts to respond to internal security threats. Each seeks to claim the credit and avoid the blame for any success or failure respectively. This only leads to delays in decisions, confusion and therefore demoralization of the Forces and of the Public at large. (See “Mumbai 26/11 to 28/11/2008” at < www.ideaz4india.com>)

The military has long recognized the need for a Unified Command to best utilize all its resources to engage the enemy. Similar logic dictates that the Forces engaged in internal security operations (mainly Police, Intelligence and Para-military) also operate under a Unified Command Authority (UCA).

The UCA should be a fairly autonomous body operating under the authority of the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, with a clear understanding of the overall objective to be attained and decisive control over the resources made available to it. Its ‘Rules of Engagement’ and operational authority should be clearly specified in advance in laid down Standard Operating Procedures.

The functioning of such an authority would free the PM or HM or any Empowered Group of Ministers from futilely trying to continuously monitor the many dimensions of internal security and be able to take decisions thereon quickly enough. They could now hand over this responsibility to the UCA and restrict themselves to laying down the broad guidelines.

It would also prevent the many other leaders at various levels, who may not actually be responsible, from responding to incidents in a ‘Knee-jerk’ manner.

The Command structure for the Forces involved in such operations should lead to a Unified Command

Authority (UCA) to enable rapid decision making in response to circumstances as they arise. Delay in decision making is self defeating. The limits to the commitments that may be made, or resources that may be utilized, can be pre-determined and the UCA allowed full discretion with in such limits WITHOUT needing to seek approval at action time.

For the Forces actually executing the operations on the ground, clarity and confidence are required on the following:

Clarity of overall goal, and the manner in which its attainment (End-State) is determined.

  1. Freedom to exercise the initiative and take action as deemed proper by them in the given circumstances to achieve the immediate objectives leading to the overall goal.
  2. Confidence that the superior authority will support their decisions and actions, trusting in the validity of the selection procedures and training of such Forces and recognizing that the decisions and actions taken by such Forces are the best possible in the given circumstances, at that time. This aspect assumes great importance in view of the post action analysis by critics with the advantage of hind sight allowing for selecting the now appropriate bits of Intelligence from the mass of available data and with all the time for decision making.

A Terrorist / Naxalite / Insurgent wears no recognizable uniform and can easily merge into the Civilian population by discarding his / her weapon and thereafter claiming to be an Innocent. Hence there should be a clear understanding that just as there is no way to prevent all strikes by such Terrorists / Naxals / Insurgents, there is also no way to act to prevent such strikes, or react to apprehend or destroy the perpetrators, without any collateral damage or risk to innocents unlucky enough to be there at that time.

The aim is to train and act in a manner as to keep such damage at the lowest realistic levels. Mistakes will be made, accidents will happen, but as long as they are really mistakes / accidents, and not intentional wrong actions, they should be allowed for, though the necessary lessons, if any, can be learnt there from to prevent recurrence. Once again it is emphasized that the benefit of any doubt must be given to the Forces, trusting in the validity of the selection procedures & training we put them through.

The mechanics of warfare depend heavily on co-operation. Superior coordination between elements of the group that needs to make decisions and issue orders rapidly is essential. The ability to send information and orders quickly and reliably up and down the chain of Command is also important. However the chain of Command should be as short as realistically possible and the Command Authority be a Unified one with the top Commander clearly identified.

The primary goal is to build speed and mobility in to the very structure of the Forces. That means having a single authority on top, avoiding the hesitancy and confusion of divided Leadership. It means giving the Unified Command Authority a sense of the overall goal to be achieved and the latitude to take action as deemed necessary by them to meet the goal. This allows the UCA to adapt to circumstances rapidly enough to gain a decisive advantage.

The UCA should be small and headed by a Military General with experience of Command of both Special Forces & Paramilitary Forces, but designated with a Non-Military designation, say as the Director / Secretary General, who is the Final Authority. He should ideally have a deputy also from the Military with similar experience and background, to ensure better control and continuity. The Heads & Representatives of the various sub groups under the UCA (say Police, Paramilitary, Intelligence and Administration) would be his Staff Officers and would report to the Director / Secretary General of the UCA directly or through the Deputy of the UCA as deemed fit. This will enable quick decisions. Studies have shown that decision making gets more ineffective and more delayed the more the Members of the deciding body. Delays and indecision in response to emerging Anti Terrorist / Naxal / Insurgent threat can be dangerous, damaging and costly.

Avoid committees, people in groups are political, they say and do things that they think will help their image within the group or with others they see as also their bosses. They aim to please others, to promote themselves or their interests, rather than to see things objectively and act as necessary. Where as an individual can be bold and creative, a group is often afraid of risk and hence slow to decide, unimaginative and many times even irrational. Clear specifications of the UCA structure will avoid bureaucratic bickering for posts in future. All tenures should be staggered to ensure continuity of policy and more comprehensive oversight.

The UCA must in turn, also give its subordinate force commanders and other authorities, a clear understanding of the goal of each and allow them to operate, execute and react to the circumstances as necessary, ensuring that the orders themselves are clear, but not so specific and narrow as to discourage them from thinking for themselves and acting decisively with initiative.

Keep the plans bold and simple and the organization flexible. But remember quick and effective decisions can only come from understanding and knowledge and careful advance mental preparations. Focused action will create a level of deterrence that has not existed up to now. Comprehensively planned and executed actions will be more economic, both in lives and resources, than piece meal operations and will also allow for quicker resolution.

The UCA must be tasked with the responsibility to oversee the various Intelligence inputs and other relevant data from the appropriate bodies and take ‘go – no go’ decisions or call for modification as deemed appropriate and rapidly direct the appropriate Force, Police or Paramilitary, to take required action, the Military will be called into action only as a last resort, though they may be ask to assist the Police / Paramilitary in their operations if deemed necessary. It is in such circumstances that the advantage of having a Military General as the UCA will be recognized.

The Staff Officer representing the Civil Authority must be tasked with interacting with the local Civil Administration to take up the re-settlement and restoration activities post the operations. It should be clear that the final decision Authority remains the Director / Secretary General UCA.

In order to minimize the damage caused by rumours and false allegations, it is essential that the Secretary General be enabled to deal with the Media by providing the UCA with an adequately experienced Media / Public relations expert. Recall the difference between the Public’s perception of a secretive operation “Blue Star” and a Media covered operation “Black Thunder”, both at the Golden Temple complex at Amritsar. (See “Terrorists & The Media” at www.ideaz4india.com).

Reader comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments