Special Service Group
|Special Service Group|
Special Service Group Formation Insignia outside the headquarters at Cherat.
|Active||March 23, 1956- Present|
|Role||Primary tasks: |
|Size||Ten Battalions consisting of 7,000 active duty men|
|Part of||Pakistani Special Forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Cherat, Attock, Tarbela|
|Colours||Maroon and Sky blue|
|Anniversaries||March 23, 1956|
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Counter Terrorism Operations
United Nations Military missions
War In Afghanistan
|Major-General Farrukh Bashir|
Official numbers are put at 7,000 men, in 10 Battalions; however the actual strength is classified. It is estimated to have been increased to 7 Battalions, with the eventual formation of 3 Brigades of Special Forces (9 Battalions).
It is currently commanded by Maj Gen Furrukh Bashir.
19 Baluch (SSG)SSG was raised by amalgamating 17/10th Baluch (19 Baluch) and 312 Garrison Company. Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956. That year, 19 Baluch was selected for conversion to a Special Operation Force. As a result of this, the SSG has inherited many of the traditions and insignia of the Baloch Regiment. 19 Baluch (SSG)'s first CO was Lt Col (later Maj Gen) Aboobaker Osman Mitha who commanded it for six years till 1961.The first Officer Commanding of its Alpha Company was Major (later Lt Col) Gaideen Khan Abdullai Mahsud. Their initial training and orientation as regards tactics was based on the US Special Forces pattern with whom they co-operated closely in the Cold War years.The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare.The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. In August 1965, scope of SSG was raised from a battalion size force to larger Special Operations outfit and instead of 19 Baluch(SSG) they simply adopted the name Special Service Group.The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.Later on, Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.
Indo-Pak War of 1965The SSG jawans were initially deployed along the Afghan border to repel Afghan incursions into Pakistan but the first major deployment came during the war of 1965. Around 120 officers and men were dropped on the night of 6/7 September near the Indian airbases of Adampur, Pathankot and Halwara in an ill-conceived operation to destroy Indian combat aircraft and put the bases out of action. Badly planned, lacking any solid intelligence, and even more badly executed the operation ended in a disaster. However the SSG sources declare it as partially successful: according to them all aircraft from Pathankot airbase were evacuated and 2 Indian infantry brigades (One brigade by admission of Gen JN Chaudary, Indian Army Chief at that time in his autobiography) kept searching for these paratroopers.Due to the difficult terrain and poor visibility, none of the teams were able to regroup after the drops. Most of the SSG personnel were taken POW including and only a few made it back to Pakistan. Captain Hazur Hasnain and a few jawans captured an Indian Army jeep and made it back via Fazilka By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 Battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan.
Indo Pak War of 1971The performance of the SSG in the 1971 was much better despite Pakistan's Surrender to India,with 1 Commando Battalion making a spectacular raid on an Indian artillery regiment and disabling several of their guns besides inflicting casualties.
SSG Involvement in Soviet Afghan WarDuring the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the SSG deployed there, disguised as Afghans and provided support to the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets. Author Aukai Collins, in the book My Jihad, gave the Pakistani infiltrators the title "Black Storks". They appear to have engaged the Soviet Airborne Forces in major battles such as the January 1988 Battle for Hill 3234 in which the Russians lost six men and the Black Storks lost over 200. Another battle sometimes reported as having been fought between the Pakistanis and Soviet troops, in Kunar Province in March 1986, appears to have actually been fought between the GRU Spetsnaz's 15th Spetsnaz Brigade, and the Asama Bin Zaid regiment of Afghan mujahideen under Commander Assadullah, belonging to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's faction.
Siachen and Kargil WarThe SSG was also active on the eastern border with India and they have fought in Siachen though in one or two instances taking heavy casualties. In the preliminary stages of the 1999 Kargil Operations the SSG performed well, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected. Subsequently being used as stock infantry troops to hold posts/defensive positions, they took heavy casualties and suffered the mortification of being ‘denied’ by their own country. In 1980, the SSG's Musa Company, which was originally formed in 1970 as a combat diver unit, was given the anti-terrorist operations role. Musa Company got the best founders in the beginning like Major Faiz Akbar Shah and Captain Sajjad Ali Shah. They were UDT/Seals qualified from class 79 of American Navy Seals. Captain Sajjad, who later retired as a Lieutenant Colonel was a salvage expert and had the intensive training of under water demolition. Musa Company was trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981. Recently, SSG has been active in anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan's restive western borders with Afghanistan and fighting Islamic extremists in Pakistani cities such as the Lal Masjid siege.
- The SSG was first used in 1965 in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In an operation codenamed Gibraltar, their aims were continued reconnaissance, sabotage of Indian military facilities and the eventual liberation of Kashmir from Indian control.
- The SSG took part in Operation Clean Wash with French forces to eliminate a group of terrorists in Mecca in 1979.
- In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 they were once again used, this time in assistance to regular infantry units and for non-conventional and rescue operations. In the face of the massive political and military onslaught in East Pakistan, the SSG could do little in turning the tide of war. Pervez Musharraf commanded a company of commandos during the war.
- SSG troops arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the night of 25 March 1971 during Operation Searchlight. Upon his arrest, they sent a message to Dhaka Cantonment headquarters saying, "Big bird in the cage".
- The SSG was active in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, conducting covert and direct action missions. Again, when the balance of power shifted, it led some covert operations against the very Afghan government (Taliban) that Pakistan (along with USA, Saudi Arabia and UAE) had once aided, this time as part of the allied forces in operation Enduring Freedom. The SSG has aided in the capture of many senior Al Qaeda leaders, most notably Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
- The SSG has worked with the US CIA's Special Activities Division and has been active inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) targeting al-Qaeda operatives for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Predator strikes. These strike have led to what has been described as highly successful counterterrorism operations.
- The SSG has also conducted operations on the Siachen Glacier against Indian positions.
- In addition, some covert operations in United Nations military missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia and Sierra Leone have also been executed by SSG operators.
- In Operation Black Thunderstorm, SSG troops abseiled from helicopters into Daggar, a town northwest of Islamabad, killing up to 50 militants.
Counter terrorism operations
- In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by four Palestinian terrorists while it was refuelling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill passengers, SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed one hijacker and captured the rest.
- In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations led nowhere and it was decided to free the hostages by force. The Pakistani authorities had somehow managed to inform the children of the impending raid. The SSG commandos used a secondary explosion as a distraction and entered the room at the Afghan embassy where the hostages were being held, killing the three hijackers.
- In May 1998, three members of the Baluchistan Students Federation took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Baluchistan. As negotiations dragged, SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.
- In July 2007, the SSG was the main assault force which re-took the Lal Masjid from Islamic extremists. The SSG suffered 11 killed and 33 wounded. On September 13, 2007 a suicide bomber killed at least 20 personnel of the SSG and injured dozens others at the officers mess of the sensitive cantonment area of Tarbela-Ghazi. The blast has reported to been a vendetta attack by the Islamic fundamentalists who were attacked in the Red Masjid siege in July. According to reliable sources a civilian wearing a white cap with a long beard walked with his bicycle towards the SSG mess and blew himself up there.
- On 30 March 2009, SSG successfully participated in thwarting the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks.
- On 10 October 2009, militants attacked the Pakistan Military Headquarters, taking hostage 42 civil and military officials. SSG commandos rescued 39 hostages and killed 9 militants, capturing one. The militants have been linked to Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Qaeda commander operating along side Tehrik-e-Taliban. A total of six SSG commandos and three hostages were killed in the operation. As reported by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) http://www.ispr.gov.pk/front/main.asp?o=t-press_release&id=930. The operation was undertaken by SSG's Counter Terrorism Force. Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, died in the hospital on October 12.
SSG interaction with other elite unitsSSG conducts regular (bi-annual) exercises with the Turkish Special Forces which have been designated as the "Ataturk" series. The first of these exercises was held in December, 1998. The Turkish force included 21 officers and 14 non-commissioned officers. The second exercise of this series was held in November 2000, while Atatürk-III concluded in September 2002.
During the 1980s and then into the 1990s, SSG held many similar training exercises with US Special Forces called "Inspired Venture". These exercises were usually held during the early months of January and February with approximately 150 US troops. The exercises were focused on weapon familiarization and use, mountain-warfare along with tactics, raids and ambushes, and eventually airborne operations.
The SSG also conducts exercises with Chinese special forces. In 2006, China and Pakistan conducted an eight-day exercise called the Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship-2006.
SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian special forces and Iranian special forces and conducts training for special forces of other Middle Eastern countries who come to Cherat.
OrganizationPakistani Special Forces have 10 battalions
Plus three independent commando companies:
- Musa Company - Specializes in Amphibious Operations
- Zarrar Company - Specializes in Counter-terrorism
TrainingSSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for three-year assignments with the SSG; non-commissioned officers and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG. All trainees must participate in an eight month SSG course at Cherat. The SSG course emphasizes physical conditioning, including a 50-mile march in 12 hours and a five mile run in 40 minutes with full gear. Following the SSG course, trainees must go through the airborne training to get their Commando wing form the SSG Airborne School. The course lasts four weeks, with wings awarded after five day-jumps and two night-jumps.
Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO course is given at Peshawar with a "Skydiver" tab awarded after 25 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Mountain Warfare School in Abbottabad. A "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Services Group SSGN at Karachi. (Three classes of combat swimmers are recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim, 2nd class to those finishing a 12-mile swim, and 3rd class for a 6-mile swim.) Due to Siachen crisis, a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School was established in the Northern Areas after splitting off from the Army School of Physical Training and Mountain Warfare in Abottabad.
SSG regularly sends students to the US for additional training.
DeploymentComponents of the battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, and any other hot spots (such as Pakistan-India border or when Pakistani forces are deployed overseas as part of the UN peace keeping operations) in order to provide experience to the operators. The SSG are used to provide security to various vital points such as the strategic nuclear facilities in Pakistan. It is thought that a number of SSG operators are stationed in Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Saudi royal family. Many SSG officers and other ranks are routinely seconded to the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for clandestine and reconnaissance missions. SSG has planted some of their operatives under command of ISI within various civilian government and private institutions for various security purposes. The details of the operatives are highly classified. Most of the operatives of this "covert" division are planted in educational institutes.
Notable members of SSG
- Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha is known as the Father of Special Service Group of Pakistan Army.
- Brigadier Tariq Mehmood (Brigadier TM) was a legendary soldier and commander of SSG. Brig TM was one of the most decorated soldiers in Pakistan with 2 Sitara-e-Jurat (Bar), Sitar-e-Basalat and Hilal-e-Shujaat (posthumous). TM died on 29 May 1989, when his parachute did not open. One of the training exercises in Pakistan Military Academy is named after him (TM Raiders) and two intersections (chowks) are named after him; one in Gujrwanwala, where he died and one in Rawalpindi outside the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army.
- Lieutenant Colonel Sajjad Ali Shah as one of the best SSG officers was selected for the US Navy Sea, Air, and Land Forces, commonly known as the Navy SEALs. Upholding the name of Pakistan Army in USA and on successful completion of the world's toughest course, he was selected for basic underwater demolition course at amphibious base, Coronado CA. On returning to Pakistan in 1974, he was given the task of raising a naval commando unit at Karachi. He also took part in formulating and implementing new ideas in Musa Company of SSG.
- Lieutenant Colonel Haroon Islam, the Commanding Officer of Operation Silence, was a legendary military officer of the SSG. Islam was martyred during the fight against terrorists in fierce fighting which took place inside the Red Mosque Complex while commanding a team of SSG commandos.
- General Pervez Musharraf, former President and Chief of Army Staff from 1999 till 2008.
- General Mirza Aslam Beg the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army from 1987 to 1991. As a major, Beg commanded an SSG company in 1960 during the Dir-Bajaur Operation in the North-West Frontier Province.
- General Shamim Alam Khan, former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. As a major, he commanded an SSG company in Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, for which he was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat.
- Major General Ameer Faisal Alavi (28 March 1954 – 19 November 2008) was a Pakistan Army 2 star general and special operations expert who was thefirst General Officer Commanding (GOC)of the elite Special Service Group of Pakistan Army. A former member of Special Service Group, he was credited with masterminding the Angoor Ada operation in 2004, where many Arabs and Chechans based in the tribal areas were killed or arrested and turned over to the Americans.
After the 1965 war with India, Air Commodore Mukhtar Ahmed Dogar, SJ (who had flown Royal Indian Air Force aircraft supporting the Chindits operating behind Japanese lines in Burma in World War II) was instrumental in creating a special forces unit for the Pakistan Air Force called 312 Special Service Wing (SSW). It was put in suspended animation in 1972 but revived in 1999. The unit was modeled on the US Air Force's 1st Special Operations Wing unit and the US Army's Rangers. This new component of the Special Forces of Pakistan has been recently created and fields a force of 1,000-1400 men. They can undertake Airborne Assault, Heli-borne Assault and HAHO Operations. They are trained to take action against the enemy's airforce related targets. They can also be assigned for sabotage opo
Appearance and equipment
UniformsThe commandos are distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets, a common color for airborne troops, with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger and lightning bolts, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of the SSG is similar to the US woodland pattern camouflage coat and pants. Other uniforms include camouflage and black dungarees (for the CT team).
SSGN (SSG Navy) is distinguished by a dark blue beret with three versions of the "fouled anchor" navy badge for officers, NCOs and enlisted men. A metal SSGN qualification badge featuring a vertical dagger superimposed over a midget submarine is worn over the left pocket on dress uniforms. Parachute wings are worn over the right pocket.
The SSW (Special Service Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .