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Special Service Group
SSG (1).jpg
Special Service Group Formation Insignia outside their headquarters at Cherat.
Active March 23, 1956- Present
Country Pakistan
Branch Pakistan Army
Type Special Forces
Size Six Battalions
Part of Pakistani Special Forces
Garrison/HQ Cherat, Attock
Motto Faith, Piety, to strive in the path of Allah
Anniversaries March 23, 1956
Engagements Operation Gibraltar
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Siachen Glacier
Kargil War
Operation Silence
Counter Terrorism Operations
United Nations Military missions
War In Afghanistan
Maj Gen Muhammad Haroon Aslam
Abbreviation SSG

Special Service Group (SSG) is an independent commando division of the Pakistan Army. It is an elite special operations force similar to the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and the British Army's SAS. According to Indian analyst, Mandeep Singh Bajwa, the SSG "are formidable opponents and easily rank as one of the finest special forces in the world."[1]

Official numbers are put at 2,100 men, in 3 Battalions; however the actual strength is classified.[2] It is estimated to have been increased to 4 Battalions, with the eventual formation of 2 Brigades of Special Forces (6 Battalions).

It is currently led by Major General Muhammad Haroon Aslam.



Based out of Cherat and Attock, the SSG was created in 1956 with active support from U.S. Special Operations Forces. That year the 19th Battalion of the Baloch Regiment (19 Baloch) was selected 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. Their first CO was Lt. Col. (later Maj. Gen.) Abu Bakr Osman Mitha[3] who commanded it for six years till 1963.[4] and the first Officer Commanding of its Alpha Company was Major Gaideen Khan Abdullai Mahsud (Later Lt Col). 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.[3] The SSG initially had 6 companies and each company had specialization units, specialized in desert, mountain, ranger, and underwater warfare.[3] The desert companies participated in training exercises with US Army Special Forces Mobile Training Team in late 1964.[3] The scuba company in Karachi was renowned for its tough physical training.[3] Later on Chinese training, tactics, weapons, and equipment were also introduced.[3]


Indo-Pak War of 1965

The SSG were initially deployed along the Afghan border to repel Afghan incursions into Pakistan but the first major deployment came during the war of 1965. Around 120 officers and men were dropped on the night of 6/7 September near the Indian airbases of Adampur, Pathankot and Halwara in an ill-conceived operation to destroy Indian combat aircraft and put the bases out of action. Badly planned, lacking any solid intelligence, and even more badly executed the operation ended in a disaster. However the SSG sources declare it as partially successful: according to them all aircraft from Pathankot airbase were evacuated and 2 Indian infantry brigades (I brigade by admission of Gen J.N. Chaudary, Indian Army Chief at that time in his autobiography) kept searching for these paratroopers. [3] Due to the difficult terrain and very low visibility, none of the teams were able to regroup after the drops. The Adampur group was unable to assemble at night and waited the following day out hiding in the cornfields. However, most of the commandos were rounded-up and captured including their commander Captain Assad Durrani.The Pathankot group faced a similar fate and most of the SSG operators were taken as POWs including their commanding officer Major Khalid Gulrez Butt. Many in the group designated for assault on Halwara actually landed around the air field perimeter itself but did not have any wire-cutters and were easily captured by the alerted Indian defenders. The leader of the Halwara team, Captain Hasan Iftikhar was taken prisoner while he attempted to meet up with the rest of his team. Only a few made it back to Pakistan. Captain Hazur Husnain (2nd-in-command to Captain Hasan Iftikhar) and a few jawans were able to commandeer an Indian Army jeep and made it back via Fazilka[3] By 1971, the SSG had grown to 3 Battalions with 1 permanently stationed in East Pakistan (Bangladesh).

Indo Pak War of 1971

The performance of the SSG in the 1971 was much better with 1 Commando Battalion making a spectacular raid on an Indian artillery regiment and disabling several of their guns besides inflicting casualties.[3]

SSG Involvement in Soviet Afghan War

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the SSG deployed there, disguised as Afghans and provided support to the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets. Author Aukai Collins, in the book My Jihad, gave the Pakistani infiltrators the title "Black Storks".[5]. They appear to have engaged the Soviet Airborne Forces in major battles such as the January 1988 Battle for Hill 3234 in which the Russians lost six men while the SSG did not lose a single soldier. Another battle sometimes reported as having been fought between the Pakistanis and Soviet troops, in Kunar Province in March 1986, appears to have actually been fought between the GRU Spetsnaz's 15th Spetsnaz Brigade, and the Asama Bin Zaid regiment of Afghan mujahideen under Commander Assadullah, belonging to Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's faction.[6]

Siachin and Kargil War

The SSG were also active on their eastern border with India and fought well in Siachen though in one or two instances taking heavy casualties.[3] In the preliminary stages of the 1999 Kargil Operations the SSG performed well, infiltrating relatively deep into Indian territory undetected and subsequently were used as stock infantry troops to hold posts/defensive positions.[3] 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.[3] 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.[7]


The SSG was initially formed as a special operations force to be used against enemy forces in times of war. The American Green Berets were chosen as a template due to their superb performance in the Korean War. The Korean terrain was similar to the Kashmiri terrain where Pakistan had border disputes with India. In 1953-54 the Pakistan Army raised an elite commando formation with US Army assistance and by 1964, the SSG became HALO/HAHO qualified.

However, several instances of domestic terrorism saw that additional training was needed to teach the SSG the skills of anti-terrorist operations. In 1970 an anti-terrorist role was added but the unit went fully operational until it received training by British SAS advisers in Cherat during mid-1981. The Americans had a strict policy of the military not intervening domestically and relying on the FBI and SWAT to deal with those problems. The British on the other hand had incorporated Anti-terrorist training into their special forces, the SAS, due to the troubles in Northern Ireland.


The SSG are trained and qualified to carry out missions in unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action by sabotage and offensive raiding in medium and deep battlespace, Counter terrorism, counter-proliferation, VIP protection, and information and intelligence gathering operations in deep battlespace. Other duties include coalition warfare and support, combat search and rescue (CSAR), security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian de-mining, and counter-drug operations. The SSG have also served as Air Marshals for Pakistan International Airlines.

The SSG has a presence in a large number Arab/Muslim countries through its training/advisory teams in which basic training, setting up special forces programs, CI ops and VIP security is taught.[3] In 1986, the SSG began large-scale training of the Sri Lankan Commando Regiment to help them against the LTTE fighters.[3] In 1994, the SSG trained the Special Services Regiment of the Malaysian Army in high-altitude warfare in preparation for their deployment and operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of the United Nations peacekeepers.[2] The operational doctrine of the SSG is a mixture of US, Chinese and British SAS tactics and philosophy with a great deal of experience from the Afghan War, Siachen, Kashmir and Kargil thrown in.[3] The SSG showed their tough physical conditioning when they marched past the saluting dais in double time, a very tiring procedure, during the annual March 23 Pakistan day parade in Islamabad.[3]


Military operations

Counter terrorism operations

  • In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by four Palestinian terrorists while it was refuelling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill the passengers, the SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed 1 hijacker and captured the rest. 21 passengers died and over a hundred were injured. Many inadequacies within the SSG regarding such missions were revealed and were later addressed.[2]
  • In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers because they wanted the Pakistan government to re-open the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and improve conditions of the Afghan refugee camps. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations lead 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.[2] 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.[2]
  • In May 1998, three members of the Baluchistan Students Federation took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Baluchistan. As negotiations dragged, the 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 Islamic extremists. The SSG suffered 11 killed and 33 wounded.[14] 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.[15] The blast has reported to been a vendetta attack by the Islamic fundamentalists who were attacked in the Red Masjid siege in July.[16] 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.[17]
  • 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 a former SSG operator, Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Quaida commander operating along side 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. [20] Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, passed away in the hospital on October 12. [21]

SSG 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.[22]

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. With a new phase in U.S.-Pakistan relations, military cooperation has been restarted and joint exercises have already started anew.

The SSG also conducts exercises with Chinese special forces, which is a strong ally of Pakistan. In 2006, China and Pakistan conducted an eight-day exercise called the Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship-2006.[23]

SSG has also been reported to train with the Jordanian and Iranian special forces and regularly conducts training for special forces of other friendly Middle Eastern countries who opt to come to Cherat.


Pakistani Special Forces have 10 battalions (bns):

Each battalion consist of 700 men in four companies, with each company split into platoons and then into 10 men teams. Battalions are commanded by Lieutenant Colonels

Plus three independent commando companies:

  • Musa (Moses) Company - Specializes in Amphibious Operations
  • Karrar (Haideri) Company - Specializes in Counter terrorism


SSG officers must have at least two years of prior military experience and volunteer from other formations for three-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 an eight month SSG course at Cherat. The SSG course emphasizes tough physical conditioning. Included is a 50 mile march in 12 hours, a gruelling requirement that was first institutionalized by Brigider Tariq Mehmood Sitara Jurat and Bar over it. They are also required to run 5 miles in 40 minutes with full gear. Following the SSG course, trainees must go through the airbourne training to get their Commando wing form the SSG Airborne School. The course last four weeks, with wings awarded after seven (five day, two night) jumps.

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 Mountain Warfare School in Abbotabad; and 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 12 mile swim, and 3rd class for a 6 mile swim. SSG regularly sends students to the US for special warfare and airborne training. Later on due to Siachen crisis, a Snow and High Altitude Warfare School was also established in norther area after getting it bifrcated from the Army School of Physiacal training and mountain warfare located at Abottabad

SSG officers also have a unique record of crossing the Mangla lake at its widest when it was full in the month of August 1971 as part of their watermanship training, a distance of 6 miles in 2 hours and 35 mins. It was done by Capts Yasub Dogar, Capt later Commander SSG, Brig Akram, Capt Tolebaz and Capt Habib. This record is yet to be equalled.


Components of the battalions are constantly rotated between Cherat, Attock, 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 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.

Notable members of SSG

  • Major General Abu Bakr Osman Mitha is known as the pioneer of the Special Services Group of Pakistan Army.
  • Brigadier Tariq Mahmood (Brig TM) was a legendary soldier and commander of SSG. Brig TM was the most decorated soldier in Pakistan with 2 Sitara-e-Jurat (Bar), Sitar-e-Basalat and Hilal-e-Shujaat (after death). TM died on 29th May 1989 when his parachute did not open. One of the training exercise in Pakistan Military Academy is named after him (TM Raiders) and two squares (chowk) are named after him, one in Gujrwanwala, where he died and one in Rawalpindi outside General Head Quarters of Pakistan Army. [24]

Naval and Air Force

Naval SSG operating in the Gulf of Oman

The SSG also has a unit in the Pakistan Navy modelled on the U.S. Navy SEALs and British SBS called the Special Service Group Navy (SSGN). The SSGN currently maintains headquarters in Karachi headed by the Pakistan Navy Commander. It has a strength of one company and is assigned to unconventional warfare operations in the coastal regions. During war it is assigned to midget submarines. Operatives are also trained in underwater demolition and clearance diving. All other training is similar to the army SSG with specific marine oriented inputs provided at its headquarters. The strength of the navy commandos is put at 1,000.

After the 1965 war with India, Air Commodore Mukhtar Ahmed Dogar SJ (who had flown Royal Indian Air Force aircraft supporting the Chindits operating behind Japanese lines in Burma in World War II) was instrumental in creating a special forces unit for the Pakistan Air Force called the 312 Special Service Wing (SSW). It was put in suspended animation in 1972 but revived in 1999. The unit was modeled on the US Air Force's 1st Special Operations Wing unit and the US Army's Rangers. This new component of the Special Forces of Pakistan has been recently created and fields a force of 1,000 -1400 men. They can under take Airborne Assaults, heli borne Assault, HAHO Operations, They are trained to take action against the enemy's Airforce related targets. They can also be assigned for sabotage missions.

Appearance and equipment


The commandos are distinguished by their insignia of maroon berets, a common color for the 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.

While SSW (Special Services Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen berrit insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of the SSW is Olive Drab camouflage. The also wear their Special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .


The SSG could be equipped with an array of modern weaponry which includes, Steyr AUG, HK G3, and Chinese Type-81/56 rifles, Colt M4 Carbines, and FN P90[2][25] and HK-MP5 Sub-machine 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 Steyr SSG 69 and Finnish Tikka bolt-action rifles and HK PSG1 and Dragunov SVD Semi-automatic rifles. Pistols include various Heckler & Koch models.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Special Service Group (Army)". PakDef.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Singh Bajwa, Mandeep. "Pakistan Special Service Group". Retrieved 2007-07-21.  
  4. ^ A.H. Amin "Interview with Brig (retd) Shamim Yasin Manto" Defence Journal, February 2002
  5. ^ My Jihad: One American's Journey Through the World of Usama Bin Laden--as a Covert Operative for the American Government. Aukai Collins. ISBN 0-7434-7059-1.
  6. ^ Lester W. Grau & Ali Ahmed Jalali, Forbidden Cross-Border Vendetta: Spetsnaz Strike into Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, December 2005, p.1-2 Referenced copy was obtained via the Foreign Military Studies Office website
  7. ^ "Mosque siege ends, and grim cleanup begins". San Francisco Chronicle.  
  8. ^ Kashmiris didn’t back Pakistan in 1965: Gohar
  9. ^
  10. ^ Book Review Tarikh ke Aine Main By Lt. Col. (retd) Ghulam Dawn
  11. ^ Secret U.S. Unit Trains Commandos in Pakistan, Eric Schmit and Jane Perlez, New York Times, 22 February 09
  12. ^ CIA Pakistan Campaign is Working Director Say, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, New York Times, 26 February 09, A15
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Pakistani Forces Kill Last Holdouts in Red Masjid". Washington Post.  
  15. ^ Dead belonged to company deployed at Lal Masjid, Jamia Hafsa’ By Javed Iqbal & Mushtaq Yusufzai The News, Pakistan September 14, 2007
  16. ^ Bomb in Pakistan Kills at Least 15 From Elite Unit By SALMAN MASOOD and ISMAIL KHAN September 14, 2007
  17. ^ Blast case registered -DAWN - Top Stories; September 16, 2007
  18. ^ Faisal Ali, Mohammad (2009-03-30). "13 killed, 100 injured as forces recapture Manawan academy". Dawn TV. Retrieved 2009-03-31.  
  19. ^ Nawaz, Hamid (2009-03-30). "Lahore under attack again: 12 dead, 90 injured in bloody siege at police academy, three gunmen captured". Aaj TV. Retrieved 2009-03-31.  
  20. ^ "Pakistan commandos rescue 39 hostages, three killed". Reuters. 2009-10-11. Retrieved 2009-10-11.  
  21. ^ "Senior officers were main target of GHQ attack". The News. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2009-10-13.  
  22. ^ Special Service Group (Army)
  23. ^ "Joint Anti-terror Military Exercise Concludes". Xinhua News Agency.  
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The Special Services Group". Haider, Shahnam. 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-04.  

Recommended reading

  • Tarikh ke Aine Main (Urdu) By Lt. Col. (retd) Ghulam, Published by Jilani Khan Headquarters SSG, Cherat

Sources and external links


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