January 1, 2009

Improving anti-terrorist responses

Issue 22 - Jan 2009
Shaunak S Agarkhedkar

Scenario Planning & Red Teaming

Scenario planning involves the construction of plausible scenarios and suitable responses. Red teaming is the practice of viewing a problem from an adversary’s perspective. The goal of most red teams is to enhance decision-making, either by specifying the adversary’s preferences and strategies or by simply serving as a devil’s advocate.

The Indian state must start scenario planning and red teaming involving central and state governments. It should begin by forming a dedicated red team for this purpose, attached to the MHA at the central level and reporting directly to the Union home minister. This red team should be staffed by experts from the intelligence services and Special Forces units from all 3 arms of the armed forces. Civilians from the strategic studies community and even experts from the armed forces of friendly nations can be tapped. The team should be staffed to maximise diversity of experience and intellect.

The red team should participate in “wargaming” exercises with the security apparatus from every state in country. The red team should “wargame” against bureaucrats and the police brass of each state, along with the Border Security Force in case of border states, and the Coast Guard and Navy in case of states with coastlines. The objective of these exercises should be to probe each and every aspect of the state’s defences in order to identify as many vulnerabilities as possible, then utilise this knowledge to develop scenarios and recommended counteractions. During these exercises, the red team must utilise inputs that the state in question may have received from the intelligence agencies.

The exercises are meant to serve as a means of continuous improvement for the state apparatus by highlighting vulnerabilities and recommending steps to mitigate their impact. Considering the nature of these exercises, they are likely to face resistance from the entrenched bureaucracy. Linking successful and frequent conduct of these exercises to central funds for police force modernisation may help soften the resistance and enable successful completion. The results will need to be kept confidential. It will also serve to make the state apparatus more amenable to being “questioned” by the red team if they are assured that they will not be publicly humiliated. The charter of the red team must, however, include powers for periodically reviewing the implementation of their recommendations.


Policy and Rules of Engagement

There is an urgent need for a national policy on terrorism that clearly delineates the rules of engagement for police and paramilitary units faced by potential terrorist threats. By requiring that police units assume reports of gunfire to be terrorist related, an anti-terrorist orientation can be forced upon the personnel, helping reduce the number of police casualties in future incidents. This policy needs to be accompanied by a corresponding weapons upgrade through purchase and an improvement of tactics through training. Given India’s severe legal control of firearms in the hands of the public, such a policy should not result in too many false-positives.

Although each part of the system must orientate itself separately, a uniformly applicable policy and rules of engagement can go a long way in ensuring accurate and uniform orientation throughout the entire system.


Quicker Reactions

State governments should raise and maintain Quick Reaction Teams (QRT) along the lines of those maintained by the Indian Army in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). These teams are raised and maintained solely to respond to terrorist incidents and as such do not suffer from the orientation problems that other units might. The personnel chosen could be trained, among others, by those who have served in QRTs in J&K. Policemen selected should spend 6 months attached to Indian Army QRTs in  Jammy & Kashmir to learn their tactics. Police QRTs, equipped with superior weapons and trained in better tactics would provide a swift response with comparable firepower within minutes of a terrorist incident. This should help mitigate civilian casualties during the period before the NSG are deployed. This solution serves as a golden mean between the situation as it exists, and hypothetical plans for NSG garrisons in every major city.

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