Special Service Group


Special Service Group

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Special Service Group


caption=Special Service Group Logo outside their headquarters.
dates=March 23 1956- Present
country=Pakistan
branch=Pakistan Army
command_structure=Pakistani PAK Special Forces
type=Special Forces
role=
size=Six Battalions
current_commander=
garrison= Cherat, Attock
ceremonial_chief=
ceremonial_chief_label=Colonel in Chief
colonel_of_the_regiment=
motto="Faith, Piety, to strive in the path of Allah"
colors=
colors_label=Colours
march=
mascot=
battles=Operation Gibraltar
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Siachen Glacier
Kargil War
Counter Terrorism Operations
United Nations Military missions
War In Afghanistan
identification_symbol_label=Arm Badge
identification_symbol_4=SSG
identification_symbol_4_label=Abbreviation
anniversaries= March 23 1956

Special Service Group (SSG) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Army. It is an elite special operations force similar to the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and the British Army's SAS.

Official numbers are put at 2,100 men, in 3 Battalions; however the actual strength is classified. It is estimated to have been increased to 4 Battalions, with the eventual formation of 2 Brigades of Special Forces (6 Battalions). According to Indian analyst, Mandeep Singh Bajwa, the SSG "are formidable opponents and easily rank as one of the finest special forces in the world."cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa]

History

Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956 with active support from U.S. Special Operations Forces. That year the 19th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment (19 Baloch) 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. Their first CO was Lt. Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Abu Bakr Osman Mitha.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] 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.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] Later on Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa]

The SSG 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 100 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.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] Only a handful made it back to Pakistan and no Indian planes were damaged or casualties inflicted on Indian troops.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 Battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). The performance of the SSG in the 1971 was much better with 1 Commando Battalion making a spectacular raid on an Indian artillery regiment and disabling several of their guns besides inflicting casualties.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa]

During 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.' [My Jihad: One American's Journey Through the World of Usama Bin Laden--as a Covert Operative for the American Government. Aukai Collins. ISBN 0-7434-7059-1.] . They appear to have engaged the Soviet Airborne Forces in major battles such as the January 1988 Battle for Hill 3234 in which they inflicted heavy losses on the Soviets. Soviet officers estimated the Pakistanis lost around 90 of the 400-450 personnel they took into the battle while losing 3000 of their own. [Carey Schofield, 'The Russian Elite,' Greenhill/Stackpole, 1993, p.121] 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. [Lester W. Grau & Ali Ahmed Jalali, [http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/Krer-SOF.pdf Forbidden Cross-Border Vendetta: Spetsnaz Strike into Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War] , Journal of Slavic Military Studies, December 2005, p.1-2 Referenced copy was obtained via the Foreign Military Studies Office website]

The SSG were also active on their eastern border with India and fought well in Siachen though in one or two instances taking heavy casualties.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] In the preliminary stages of the 1999 Kargil Operations the SSG performed well, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected and subsequently were used as stock infantry troops to hold posts/defensive positions.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] 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 begining 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 Leutenant Colonel was a salvage expert and had the intensive training of under water demolution. Musa Company was trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] 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. [cite news|url = http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/12/MNGOTQUTPG1.DTL | title = Mosque siege ends, and grim cleanup begins | publisher = San Francisco Chronicle]

Capabilities

The SSG are trained and qualified to carry out missions in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action by sabotage and offensive raiding in the medium and deep battlespace, combatting terrorism, counter-proliferation, and information and intelligence gathering operations in deep battlespace. Other duties include coalition warfare and support, combat search and rescue (CSAR), security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian de-mining, and counter-drug operations. The SSG have also served as Air Marshals for Pakistan International Airlines. The SSG have a presence in a large number Arab/Muslim countries through its training/advisory teams in which basic training, setting up special forces programs, CI ops and VIP security is taught.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] In 1986, the SSG began large-scale training of the Sri Lankan Commando Regiment to help them against the LTTE fighters.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] In 1994, the SSG trained the Special Services Regiment of the Malaysian Army in high-altitude warfare in preparations for their deployment and operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the United Nations peacekeepers.cite news|url = http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html | title = Special Service Group (Army) | publisher = PakDef] The operational doctrine of the SSG is a mixture of US, Chinese and British SAS tactics and philosophy with a great deal of experience from the Afghan War, Siachen, Kashmir and Kargil thrown in.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa] The SSG showed their tough physical conditioning when they marched saluting dais in the double time; a very tiring procedure during the annual March 23rd Pakistan day parade in Islamabad.cite web| url=http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html| title=Pakistan Special Service Group| accessdate=2007-07-21| first=Mandeep| last=Singh Bajwa]

Operations

Military Operations

* The SSG were first used in 1965 in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Codenamed Operation Gibraltar, their aim was continued reconnaissance, sabotage of Indian Military facilities and eventual liberation of Kashmir from Indian control. This Operation was a failure after the infiltrators were discovered and nearly 4,000 [ [http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050603/main2.htm Kashmiris didn’t back Pakistan in 1965: Gohar] ] - 8,000 cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Opinion: The Way it was 4: extracts from Brig (retd) ZA Khan's book | work = Defence Journal | publisher = Dynavis (Pvt) Ltd| date = May 1998 | url = http://www.defencejournal.com/may98/thewayitwas4.htm|format = HTML | doi = | accessdate = 2007-07-08 ] - 8,000 cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Ayub misled nation in ’65 war: Nur Khan | work = Khaleej Times| publisher = | date = 8 September, 2005| url = http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/subcontinent/2005/September/subcontinent_September293.xml&section=subcontinent&col=| format = HTML | doi = | accessdate = 2007-07-08] Pakistani troops including several SSG personnel were either killed or captured. India also attacked Pakistan in retaliation for trying to instigate uprisings, thus sparking the Second Kashmir War.
* As the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 broke out, the SSG was used as a full-fledged unit with unimpressive results. The SSG commandos, numbering approx. 180, were airdropped into Indian territory with the intention of sabotaging these airbases in Western India. However, due to poor planning and lack of information about the targets (3 Indian Airbases), it ended in failure. The Indian troops managed to detect and foil the attempt, capturing most of the intruders (~160) and killing some SSG personnel in the process. Only around 20 commandos managed to make it back to Pakistan.
* 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. SSG conducted what would be considered to be "classic special forces missions" against Indian forces during this war. Eventually faced against massive political and military onslaught in East Pakistan, the SSG could do little in turning the tide of war. Some of the SSG troops were also known to have committed acts of indiscipline and unofficer-like behaviour during the war. [ [http://www.dawn.com/weekly/books/archive/050724/books16.htm Book Review Tarikh ke Aine Main By Lt. Col. (retd) Ghulam] Dawn] Of note is that Pervez Musharraf commanded a company of commandos during the war.
* The SSG was active in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, conducting different type of 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 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 and conducts regular operations as part of the Pakistani Special Operations Task Force in the Tribal Areas of North West Pakistan.
* The SSG has also conducted many operations in Siachen Glacier against Indian positions. The most noted one took place in 1987 when Pervez Musharraf (then Brigadier) orchestrated an SSG unit assault on Indian posts, but was eventually beaten back. [ [http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=400&issue_id=3101&article_id=2368659 The new face of AL-Qaeda in Pakistan by Wilson John] - Jamestown Foundation] In 1995, SSG troops attempted once again to wrest control of an outpost held by the Sikh battalion, Indian Army, but were repulsed back, suffering 40 casualties. [ [http://www.kashmirsentinel.com/apr1999/3.9.html Kashmir Sentinel] - A fortnightly publication.]
* 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.
* The involvement in the Kargil War involved early gains which were later lost due to political pressure and Indian military attacks, resulting in the eventual retreat of Pakistani forces to the Line of Control.

Counter-Terrorism Operations

* On September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hi-jacked by four Palestinian terrorists while it was re-fueling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill the passengers, the SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed 1 hijacker and captured the rest. However, 21 passengers died and over a hundred were injured. Many inadequacies within the SSG regarding such missions were revealed and were later addressed.cite news|url = http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html | title = Special Service Group (Army) | publisher = PakDef]

* On February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers because they wanted the Pakistan government to re-open the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and improve conditions of the Afghan refugee camps. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations lead to 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.cite news|url = http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html | title = Special Service Group (Army) | publisher = PakDef] 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.cite news|url = http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html | title = Special Service Group (Army) | publisher = PakDef]

* On 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, the SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.

* On 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. [cite news|url = http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/11/AR2007071100367.html | title = Pakistani Forces Kill Last Holdouts in Red Mosque | publisher = Washington Post] 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. [ [http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=10093 Dead belonged to company deployed at Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa’ By Javed Iqbal & Mushtaq Yusufzai] The News, Pakistan September 14, 2007] The blast has reported to been a vendetta attack by the Islamic fundamentalists who were attacked in the Red Mosque siege in July. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/world/asia/14pakistan.html?hp Bomb in Pakistan Kills at Least 15 From Elite Unit By SALMAN MASOOD and ISMAIL KHAN] September 14, 2007] 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. [ [http://www.dawn.com/2007/09/16/top9.htm Blast case registered -DAWN - Top Stories; September 16, 2007 ] ]

SSG interaction with other elite units

SSG 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 of 2000, while Ataturk-III concluded in September 2002. [ [http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html Special Service Group (Army)] ]

During the 80’s and then into the 90’s, 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 weapons familiarization and use, mountain-warfare along with tactics, raids and ambushes, and eventually airborne operations. In addition, during the 80’s and early 90’s scores of SSG officers were sent to the US for advanced training with the US Rangers and other special forces. Training was also imparted to the SSG personnel in UK and Malaysia. With a new phase in U.S.-Pakistan relations, military cooperation has been restarted and joint exercises have already started anew.

The SSG also conducts exercises with Chinese special forces, which is a strong ally of Pakistan. In 2006, China and Pakistan conducted an eight-day exercise called the, Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship-2006. [cite news|url = http://www.china.org.cn/english/China/193029.htm | title = Joint Anti-terror Military Exercise Concludes | publisher = Xinhua News Agency]

SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian and Iranian special forces and regularly conducts training for Special Forces of other friendly Middle Eastern countries who opt to come to Cherat even though other venues such as Fort Bragg (USSF) and Credenhill (SAS) are also available.

Organization

Pakistani Special Forces have 4 battalions (bns):
* 1st Commando Battalion
* 2nd Commando Battalion
* 3rd Commando Battalion
* 4th Commando Battalion

Plus two independent Commando companies:
* Zarrar Company - Anti Terrorist Company
* Musa Company - Combat Diver Unit

Deployment

Components of the Battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, and any other hot spot (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 for providing 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.

Naval and Air Force

The SSG also has a unit in the Pakistan Navy modeled on the U.S. Navy SEALs and British SBS called the Special Service Group Navy otherwise known as SSGN. The SSGN currently maintains headquarters in Karachi headed by Pakistan Navy Commander. It has a strength of one company and is assigned to unconventional warfare operations in the coastal regions. During war it is assigned to Midget submarines. Operatives are also trained in Underwater Demolition and Clearance Diving. All other training is similar to the Army SSG with specific marine oriented inputs provided at its Headquarters. The strength of the Navy commandos is put at 1,000.

The SSG in 2001 created a special forces unit for the Pakistan Air Force called the Special Service Wing otherwise known as SSW. It was created after the Pakistani Military was impressed in the way that US Special Forces during the initial phase of the war in Afghanistan were able to secure targets, set up runways and airstrips for immediate use and direct strategic and tactical air strikes on enemy positions so quickly. It was modeled on the US Air Force's 1st Special Operations Wing unit and the US Army's Rangers. This new component to the Special Forces of Pakistan is still being trained and built up.

Appearance and Equipment

Uniforms

The commandos might be distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets (reflecting their decent from 19 Baluch) with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger & lightning bolts, and a wing on right side of chest. The combat uniform of the SSG is similar to the US woodland pattern camouflage coat and Pants. Other uniforms include cammies 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.

Equipment

The SSG could be equipped with an array of modern weaponry which includes, Steyr AUG, HK G3, and Chinese Type-81/56 rifles, Colt M4 Carbines, and FN P90 and HK-MP5 (many diff. variants) Submachine guns. Light machine gun in use is Rheinmetall MG3 (locally produced along with HK G3s and MP5s). In sniper or Marksman role, the SSG CT (Counter-Terrorism) teams are equipped with Steyr MPi 69, Finnish Tikka bolt-action and HK PSG1 and Dragunov SVD Semi-automatic rifles. Side arms includes various HK models. Most of the gear in use by the SSG is (and has been) of US origin.Fact|date=July 2008

References

Recommended reading

* Tarikh ke Aine Main (Urdu) By Lt. Col. (retd) Ghulam, Published by Jilani Khan Headquarters SSG, Cherat

ources and external Links

* [http://www.pakdef.info/pakmilitary/army/regiments/ssg.html SSG history and Missions]
* [http://www.specialoperations.com/Foreign/Pakistan/SSG.htm More info and pictures on SSG]
* [http://www.specialoperations.com/Foreign/Pakistan/SSGN.htm Navy SSG information]
* [http://orbat.com/site/toe/toe/pakistan/ssg.html Orbat on SSG]


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