One of the big takeaways from the disastrous 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages held in Iran was that U.S. special operations units needed to work in a joint environment. Units need to coordinate and train together to develop their capabilities and ensure they function smoothly when deployed to combat. This is a lesson that we’ve passed on to partner forces as well. For instance, General Pamonag of the Philippines was finally successful in pushing for his military to create an inter-service special operations command. Previously, their SOCOM was only for army units, but will now include naval special operations and hopefully the Marine Force Recon units as well.
Even Russia appears to have gotten the message and has made a number of attempts over the last few years to stand up SOCOM- and JSOC-type command structures in an attempt to unify their SOF units. Otherwise, all of these units will be in competition with one another for resources, they conduct R&D independently without combining efforts, use totally different tactics from one another, and each unit ends up commanded by a colonel when, really, SOF needs a senior general to represent it to policymakers.
Meanwhile, India has struggled to create their own SOCOM and still operates under special operations division (SOD), which was merely a stopgap interim solution created during the last skirmish in Kashmir, the Asia Times reported.
Faced with resistance to the idea of creating a U.S.-style command structure, everyone settled for a compromise called the Special Forces Division. While a normal division has about 9,000 fighting troops, this one is supposed to be significantly smaller. “This creates some very real problems,” said Lieutenant General Prakash Katoch, a former special forces veteran who wrote three key papers on restructuring India’s special operations capabilities. “Basically we should have started with two or three battalions, and that would form part of the core special operations capability,” he said.
India has had various incarnations of special operations units, to include paramilitary units, since the 1960s. They were largely created to confront China in the aftermath of the Sino-Indian War of 1962, but over time they have come to focus more on threats emanating from neighboring Pakistan. However, with the rise of China and the PRC’s attempts to push into the Indian Ocean, some officers from the Indian special operations community see a need to reorient their forces to check Chinese ambitions in the region. In an actual shooting war, the establishment of an American-style centralized SOF command will be imperative, but as General Pamonag of the Philippines found out, there can be an institutional resistance to such attempts.