The planned offensive against Naxals in the next few months has been a long time coming and is finally a sign of the government taking the problem seriously. But a counter-insurgency (COIN) expert spoke to StratPost and advised caution and calculation, to prevent the operation from becoming counter-productive.
“There are some basic things required of any counter-insurgency operation to avoid a Swat-like situation,” says one senior officer who is also a COIN veteran.
“A local intelligence network and good coordination between intelligence agencies, familiarity with the area, availability of a database of Over Ground Workers (OGWs) and an effective communication network are some of the things that you need to start with,” he explains.
At a strategic level, clear and committed objectives and a vision for the endgame are required, keeping in mind that the ultimate solution will be political not military. “Operationally, there has to be jointsmanship between the various forces intelligence agencies under a unified command. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have to be in place and command has to unitary. Turf battles between agencies have to be minimized. The civilian police has to be equally involved, responsible and accountable and you need an adequate number of women’s battalions ,” says the officer.
” Before beginning, there has to be a logistics build-up, because such an operation is likely to be slow and long-drawn. Tactically, the combing operations will have to minimize the use of vehicles not only to be able to deploy with stealth, but also to minimize our own casualties by landmines or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). After all, the administrative tail will be stretched. There has to a considerable emphasis on collecting quality intelligence to assess the capabilities of the opponent as accurately as possible, in terms of arsenal and manpower etc,” says the COIN expert.
“The next thing you have to look at is the area we’re talking about. It is an industrial and natural resources hub and also strategic in terms of connectivity with eastern India,” he says, adding, “So care has to be taken to secure industrial plans, mines and their supply lines and road networks and railway corridors to ensure the running of normal operations.”
“Throughout, human rights have to be a priority. One has to ensure minimum collateral damage and minimum displacement of the population. Then you have to have a rehabilitation package in place to ensure prompt aid to affected people to enable them to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. It should be a comprehensive socio-economic development plan, perhaps on the lines of Operation Sadbhavna in Jammu and Kashmir. This will also help deny support to the adversary,” explains the officer.
“It has to be kept in mind that this is to be a lengthy operation against a committed adversary who knows the terrain. At some stage of the operation, it may be necessary to provide some sort of legal protection or immunity to the forces taking part. This is something that may well be the cost of a successful operation,” he warns.