In what may signal a change in tactical strategy, three Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists were killed following an all-out firefight with security forces that began on the 22nd of February, at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) building in the town of Pampore, in the Pulwama District of Jammu & Kashmir State. At least one civilian and five security personnel (including two Indian Army Captains) were killed, with at least thirteen security personnel wounded.
The three terrorists opened fire on a patrol of the Central Reserve Police Force as it moved along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, on the outskirts of Pampore. Instead of using the nearby alleyways to flee, however, the militants moved into the EDI building, as its occupants fled, apparently in a deliberate, suicidal attempt to draw Indian security forces into a firefight.
Responding to the CPRF call-out, a local counter-insurgency unit of the Rashtriya Rifles arrived on-scene, secured the area, and evacuated up to 120 civilians. These troops were soon joined by a group of Para-Commandos.
The terrorists broke into the upper floors of the EDI complex - a five-story building with over fifty rooms, occupying some 10,000 square feet of space - and began engaging the Rifles in a protracted gun battle, including the terrorists using an AK-47-mounted 40mm grenade launcher. After an extended period of time, mortars were bought up to lay suppression fires onto the EDI complex, giving security units the cover they needed to enter the structure, where a vicious, floor-to-floor and room-to-room clearing operation commenced, ending only with the deaths of all three terrorists.
While the situation was very confused, it is clear that the approaches to the EDI building were an infantry nightmare: long, open spaces in close to the complex, easily taken under fire from the building's upper floors, especially for a team armed with a grenade launcher.
Looking at the map, two questions that immediately come to mind are, was smoke used by the Rifles and Para-Commandos, and were the terrorists equipped with night vision equipment? From interviews with combat-seasoned personnel from around the world, the answer to both questions is likely a resounding 'no'. It appears, increasingly, that regular forces around the world have fallen into the 'Tofflerian' mantra of the so-called "Revolution In Military Affairs", counting on a combination of body armor and vehicular mobility to make up for a lack of 'training, techniques and practices' that were common as late as the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- the employment of smoke was seen as an essential task in combat, as a major 'force multiplier'. That this is apparently no longer the case is disturbing in the extreme; MilitaryGazette will be exploring this phenomenon in more detail in a future article.
The Indian security forces' first priority was obviously evacuating the civilians under fire; this is one of the hallmarks off a modern, legitimate military force: significant force - tank gun fire, artillery and air strikes - could have been used at any time after the security forces arrived on the scene, but Indian security refrained from doing so, until civilians were evacuated, and until they had a better picture of the situation.
Previously, LeT has concentrated their attacks on "soft", open-air zones, using car- and suicide bombers to inflict maximum damage on civilians, this attack may mark a shift to smaller scale attacks similar to LeT's assault on the Indian city of Mumbai, in 2008. The rationale for LeT, would be to present itself as "heroically challenging" the Indian Army head-on. The logic in this is hard to understand, as Indian forces can bring overwhelming firepower and force to any small action a cell might attempt, but it is very difficult to understand the mindset that carries out such attacks. This is because, unless the military is seen as utterly incompetent and brutal towards its own people, this simply fails in its task, every single time.
In the end, however, while Indian forces inevitably prevailed, their victory came at a comparatively high price, with two company-grade officers dead, along with three other ranks and a civilian, and with at least 13 reported casualties, requiring mortar support and forty-eight hours, and all to kill just three marginally-competent terrorists.
This single example merely highlights what the people out on the sharp end know: there has been an atrophying of skill throughout the 'profession of arms' in the modern era and it bodes ill, not only for those carrying weapons in defense of civilization, but for those they are trying to defend -- as well as those who are sending them into battle, with no inkling that anything is wrong.