Special Services Group
|Special Services Group (SSG)|
Special Services Group Insignia
|Active||23 March 1956 – present|
|Type||Special Operations Forces|
|Size||8 Battalions (5,600 men)|
|Garrison/HQ||Tarbela Cantonment, Pakistan|
Army SS Group
|Motto(s)||Mann Janbazam (I am valiant)|
|Colours Identifications||Maroon and Sky blue
|Anniversaries||Pakistan Day: March 23|
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Indo-Pakistani War of 1999
War in North-West Pakistan
United Nations Military missions
War in Afghanistan
|Current Commander||Major-General Tahir Bhutta,
General Officer Commanding
|Notable Commander||Lt Gen Haroon Aslam|
The Special Services Group (SSG) (Urdu: خصوصی استخدام لشکر ) or Special Service Group is the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army. The SSG is a regiment-sized group, and is headquartered at Tarbela Cantonment. It is headed by a major-general and divided into eight battalions. Each battalion consists of 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10-man teams. Each battalion is commanded by a lieutenant colonel.
- 1 History
- 2 Recent activities
- 3 Operations
- 4 Organization
- 5 Notable members
- 6 Appearance and equipment
- 7 References
- 8 Recommended reading
- 9 Sources and external links
19 Baluch (SSG Pak)
SSG Pak was raised by amalgamating 17/10th Baluch (19 Baluch) and 312 Garrison Company. Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956. That year, 19 Baluch was selected[by whom?] 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. The 19th Baluch Regiment's first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Aboobaker Osman Mitha who commanded it for six years till 1961. The first commander of its Alpha Company was Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Gaideen Khan Abdullai Mahsud. 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. The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare. The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964. In August 1965, scope of SSG was raised from a battalion size force to larger Special Operations outfit and instead of 19 Baluch (SSG) they simply adopted the name Special Services Group. The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training. Later on, Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
The SSG guerrillas were initially deployed along the Afghan border to repel Afghan incursions into Pakistan, but their first major deployment came during the war of 1965. By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan.
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971
In 1971, SSG comprised three battalions of which one (3rd Commando Battalion) was stationed in East Pakistan. In one of the raids on an Indian artillery regiment during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, 1 Commando Battalion incapacitated number of their guns.
SSG involvement in Soviet Afghan War
During Operation Magistral, it is alleged that the SSG came into regular contact with Soviet forces. One of these incidents was the Battle for Hill 3234, where a company of Soviet paratroopers engaged a force of Mujahideen believed to be SSG. The Mujahideen wore black uniforms with rectangular black-yellow-red stripes. It is claimed by at least two sources that the Mujahideen were actually members of the Special Services Group. According to the Soviet estimates, the SSG lost over 200 men.
Another battle reported as having been fought between the Pakistanis and Soviet troops occurred in Kunar Province in March 1986. But the Russians claim that the battle was actually fought between the GRU 15th Spetsnaz Brigade and the Asama Bin Zaid regiment of the Afghan Mujahideen under Commander Assadullah, belonging to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's faction.
Siachen and Kargil War
The SSG was also active on the eastern border with India and they have fought in Siachen. In the Kargil war SSG performed rather well in the initial stages, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected as sheep herders. During the period of snowfall all the Indian posts were empty and they didn't have to face any repulsion . <Irrelevant> 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 beginning 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 lieutenant colonel, was a salvage expert and had the intensive training of under water demolition. Musa Company was trained by British SAS advisers in mid-1981.
Operation Scorched Earth Yemen
Pakistan deployed 300 commandos of the SSG-Special Services Group in 2010 to aid Saudi Arabia and Yemen to defeat the Houthi rebels in Yemen who were mounting a violent insurgency against both countries during Operation Scorched Earth 
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 in the operation of generals headquarters in Rawalpindi and the Navy's SSG(N) took part in the PNS mehran operation.
India believes that Pakistan's Baloch Regiment led the attack on the Line of Control in January 2013 and that troops from the Special Services Group killed the Indian soldiers and beheaded them. India claimed that the Baloch Regiment's honor made them try and argue with SSG to not mutilate the bodies of the Indian soldiers but the SSG acted, ignoring the Baloch officer. Later in August 2013, a patrol of five Indian soldiers were killed 450 meters inside Indian territory, which India also believes was an action by SSG.
On 6 December 2014, a special team of Pakistani Special Services Group and Light Commandos tracked down and killed the Global Operations Chief of al-Qaeda Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah along with five other al-Qaeda fighters in Pakistan's South Waziristan region during the counter terrorist operation Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He was the highest ranking al-Qaeda commander to be killed after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
- The SSG was first used in 1965 in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In an operation codenamed Gibraltar, their aims were continued reconnaissance, sabotage of Indian military facilities and the eventual liberation of Kashmir from Indian control, though the operation was unsuccessful.
- The SSG lead Operation Clean Wash to eliminate a group of terrorists in Makkah in 1979.
- In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 they were once again used, this time to assist regular infantry units and for non-conventional and rescue operations. In the face of the massive political and military onslaught in East Pakistan, the SSG faced Indian forces in the theatre, suffering heavy losses and could do little to turn the tide of war. Pervez Musharraf commanded a company of commandos during the war.
- SSG troops arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the night of 25 March 1971 during Operation Searchlight. Upon his arrest, they sent a message to Dhaka Cantonment headquarters saying, "Big bird in the cage".]]
- The SSG was active in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Also believed to have fought Soviet special forces in direct combat, SSG fought in local dresses, dressed up as Jihadi conducting covert and direct action missions.
- Again, when the balance of power shifted, it lead some covert operations against the very Afghan government (Taliban) that Pakistan (along with the US, Saudi Arabia and UAE) had once aided, this time as part of the allied forces in operation Enduring Freedom. The SSG has aided the capture of many senior Al Qaeda leaders, most notably Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
- The SSG has worked with the US CIA's Special Activities Division and has been active inside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) targeting al-Qaeda operatives for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Predator strikes. These strikes have led to what has been described as highly successful counter-terrorism operations.
- The SSG has also conducted operations on the Siachen Glacier against Indian positions at -30 temperatures on Ice covered Peaks.
- 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.
- In Operation Black Thunderstorm, SSG troops abseiled from helicopters into Daggar, a town north-west of Islamabad, killing up to 50 militants.
- SSG were airdropped during Swat operation where they successfully took over Taliban hideouts at night, suffering some casualties against Killing dozens of Taliban.
- SSG have been used in South Waziristan Operation as well in various missions to take key positions and Peaks in 2009.
- SSG were used extensively in various missions as clearance force in close quarter combat scenarios in Operation Zarb-e-Azb
Counter terrorism operations
- In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists while it was refueling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill passengers, SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed one hijacker and captured the rest.
- In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations led 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. 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. The operation lasted about 20 seconds.
- In May 1998, three members of the Baloch terrorists took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Balochistan. As negotiations dragged, SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.
- In July 2007, the SSG was the main assault force which re-took the Lal Masjid from extremists. The SSG suffered 11 killed and 33 wounded. 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. The blast has reported to have been a vendetta attack by the Islamic fundamentalists who were attacked in the Red Masjid siege in July. 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.
- On 30 March 2009, SSG successfully participated in thwarting the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks.
- On 10 October 2009, militants attacked the Pakistan Military Headquarters, taking hostage 42 civil and military officials. SSG commandos rescued 39 hostages and killed 9 militants, capturing one. The militants have been linked to Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Qaeda commander operating alongside Tehrik-e-Taliban. A total of six SSG commandos and three hostages were killed in the operation. As reported by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) . The operation was undertaken by SSG's Counter Terrorism Force. Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, died in the hospital on October 12.
- On 16 December 2014, SSG Commandos from the Zarrar Company were tasked with clearing an Army Public School which was raided by seven  Tahreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Terrorists in Peshawar. All Terrorists were eliminated and the school was cleared. Around 149 people, mostly Students aged between 12-16 were killed by the Terrorists. The school had a strength of about 1000, and due to SSG timely arrival, they were able to rescue about 840 peoples.
Pakistani special forces have 8 battalions:
Each battalion consists of 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10-man teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels]].
Plus two independent commando companies:
- Musa Company - Specializes in Amphibious Operations
- Zarrar Company - Specializes in Counter-terrorism
SSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for two-year assignments with the SSG; non-commissioned officers and enlisted men volunteer from other formations to serve permanently in the SSG. All trainees must participate in a nine-month SSG course at Cherat. The SSG course emphasizes physical conditioning, including a 50-mile march in 14 hours (5.7 km/h i.e. 95 meters/minute) and a 12-mile run in under 1 hr 50 minutes (145 meters/minute) in full gear. Following the SSG course, trainees must go through the airborne training to get their commando wings from the SSG Airborne School. The course lasts four weeks, with wings awarded after five day-jumps and three night-jumps. After the completion of the basic commando course, the newly inducted commandos are put through their paces in the advanced commando course which runs an additional 25 weeks. Only at the end of these two grueling phases are operators considered to be integral members of the SSG. The SSG recruits get trained in hand-to-hand combat training and very hard physical fitness training; only about 5% of recruits make it through to the Pakistan SSG due to the very tough training course.
Many in the SSG school are selected for additional specialist training. A HALO course is given at Peshawar with a "Skydiver" tab awarded after 25 freefall jumps. A "Mountain Warfare" qualification badge is given after completing a course at the Pakistan Military Academy kakul,Abbotabad. A "Combat Diver" badge is awarded for the course held by the Naval Special Services Group SSGN at Karachi. (Three classes of combat swimmers are recognized: 1st class to those completing an 18-mile swim, 2nd class to those finishing a 15-mile swim, and 3rd class for a 10-mile swim.) Due to the Siachen crisis,a High-Altitude Mountain Warfare School has been established at Khappalu to train the SSG and other Army units for operations on the Siachen Glacier.Other areas of the commando training include internal security, assault and small unit tactics, sniping, demolition, survival, languages, small arms familiarization, Fighting In Built Up Areas (FIBUA), Close Quarter Battle tactics (CQB), Long Range Recce Patrol (LRRP), Martial arts, espionage, psychoanalytic training, and criminal psychology courses..
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 2000, while Atatürk-III concluded in September 2002.
During the 1980s and then into the 1990s, 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 weapon familiarization and use, mountain-warfare along with tactics, raids and ambushes, and eventually airborne operations.
SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian Royal Special Forces and Iranian Quds Force and conducts training for special forces of other Middle Eastern countries at Cherat]].
Components of the battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, Tarbela and any other hot spots (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 to provide security to various vital points such as the strategic nuclear facilities in Pakistan. It is thought[by whom?] 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. SSG has planted some of their operatives under command of ISI within various civilian government and private institutions for various security purposes. The details of the operatives are highly classified. Most of the operatives of this "covert" division are planted in educational institutes..
- Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha is known as the Father of Special Services Group of Pakistan Army.
- General Pervez Musharraf Commanded Operation Grand Mosque Seizure To Release Khana Kaaba From Militants. Who was young and energetic commando was given the responsibility to lead the operation and clear the Kaaba from militants.]]
- Lt. General(Retd) Haroon Aslam is known for leading Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat valley in 2009. Under his command the (Special Services Group) fought bravely in Piochar Valley and liberated that area from the terrorists.]]
- Brigadier Tariq Mehmood (Brigadier TM) was a legendary soldier and commander of SSG. Brigadier TM was one of the most decorated soldiers in Pakistan with 2 Sitara-e-Jurat (Bar), Sitar-e-Basalat and Hilal-e-Shujaat (posthumous). TM died on 29 May 1989, when his parachute did not open. One of the training exercises in Pakistan Military Academy is named after him (TM Raiders) and two crossroads (chowks) are named after him; one in Gujranwala, where he died and one in Rawalpindi outside the General Headquarters of Pakistan Army.
- Lieutenant Colonel Moeen Qadir Khan, who belonged to 1 Commando(Ayub Company) was one of the best commandos. He is believed to be a record holder of SSG. His para-jumps are 2nd Highest with Brigadier TM's being the highest. He also remained as an instructor at the Para-Training School Peshawar. He lost a heal and ankle of his right feet and multiple fractures of the left feet in a landmine blast while serving in Dera Bugti ( 2003 )
- Colonel Abu Taher from Bangladesh Army (was an officer of former Pakistan Army) joined the elite Special Services Group (Commando Force) in 1965. He was one of the first Bengali Commandos who joined in SSG. Following his training, he participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 in the Kashmir sector and the Sialkot sector. For his part, he received a gallantry award from the Government of Pakistan. After the war, Taher took advanced training on Guerrilla Warfare at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning in the United States in 1969. He was posted to the Quetta Staff College, Pakistan in 1970.He is considered as one of the best and most dangerous commandos in the history of SSG.
- Lieutenant Colonel Haroon Islam, the Commanding Officer of Operation Silence, was a military officer of the SSG. He embraced martyrdom during the fighting which took place inside the Red Mosque Complex while commanding a team of SSG commandos.
- General Mirza Aslam Beg the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army from 1987 to 1991. As a major, Beg commanded an SSG company in 1960 during the Dir-Bajaur Operation in the North-West Frontier Province.
- General Shamim Alam Khan, former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. As a major, he commanded an SSG company in Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, for which he was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat.
- Major General Ameer Faisal Alavi (28 March 1954 – 19 November 2008) was a Pakistan Army 2 star general and special operations expert who was the first General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Services Group of Pakistan Army. A former member of Special Services Group, he was credited with masterminding the Angoor Ada operation in 2004, where many Arabs and Chechens based in the tribal areas were killed or arrested and turned over to the Americans. On 19 November 2008, while driving to work in his car in Islamabad, he was shot dead by three unknown gunmen. It was alleged that Ilyas Kashmiri, the chief of Jammu & Kashmir chapter of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, was behind the murder of Maj-Gen Alavi at the behest of the Taliban in North Waziristan.
- Lt General Muhammad Afzal Janjua Hi(M), SJ.SbT Commanding Shaheen company during 1971 war received SJ for gallantry performance during operation in East Pakistan,The first SJ of Shaheen Company
Appearance and equipment
Special Services Group Side Arm Glock 19
The commandos are distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets, a common color for airborne troops, with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger and lightning bolts, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of the SSG is similar to the US woodland pattern camouflage coat and pants. Other uniforms include camouflage 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.
The SSW (Special Service Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .
The SSG is equipped with an array of modern weaponry which includes, Steyr AUG, M4 Carbine, M16 Carbine, RPA Heavy Sniper Rifle Range Master, AK-47, anti-tank grenade launchers, rocket propelled grenades, SIG 552 LR, HK G3, and Chinese Type-81/56 rifles, Colt and FN P90 and HK-MP5 Submachine guns (many different variants). 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 Barrett M82, Finnish Tikka bolt-action rifles, Steyr SSG 69, POF Eye Corner shot gun and HK PSG1 and Dragunov SVD Semi-automatic rifles. Pistols include various Heckler & Koch & Glock models.
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