Next War: India-Pakistan – Pakistani Strategic Choices, part 2

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Doug Bush continues his Next War: India-Pakistan strategy series with this examination of the Pakistani Order of Battle and the various options they provide. See Part 1 of this series for a discussion of the overall strategic choices faced by the Pakistan player.

Pakistan starts with six front line Army Corps with three more that enter as reinforcements.  Each provides the player with different challenges and opportunities on the attack.  In this article, I’ll go into some of the choices available to a Pakistan player for each one.


nwip_pp2_1 Pakistan’s II Corps starts on the far left side of the map.  This is a powerful Corps since it includes the 1st Armored Division, along with two infantry divisions and two separate brigades (one infantry, one armor).  The Pakistani Army refers to it as a “Counter-Attacking Corps” (as opposed to a “Holding Corps” like most others).  It starts spread out, but during pre-game movement can concentrate in the Okara (1711) / Haveli (1614) area.  I see four main choices for this corps:

First, it can simply hold the border line and maybe grab a bridgehead or two in preparation for future operations.  This option won’t get a lot of VP early, but it will effectively pin the Indian X Corps that starts across the border in the same area.  Another advantage to this approach is that you don’t need to forward deploy a precious supply depot.
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A second option is an offensive due East (toward the bottom edge of the map) with the goal of taking the cities of Sri Ganganagar (1216) and Abohar (1417), and then exploiting toward either Bathinda or Ferozepur (see map).  Doing so usually requires first taking the bridge/town hex of Fazilka (1616).  That hex is fortified and you have to cross the Sutlej major river to get at it (expect the bridge to be blown by the Indians), so it’s a major commitment that will require a supply depot somewhere near the border or at least an MSU.  If the bridge itself can’t be secured (either by being blown or not getting it repaired) then an HQ bridge can be used to turn the flank of the Indian defenders.  Creating this somewhat shallow lodgement will probably attrit the Indian X corps for VP as well as securing some location VP.  It will also set the stage for a follow-up attack when the XXXI corp arrives as a reinforcement in later turns from the south edge near Multan (1002).  A combined attack by II and XXXI corps can potentially take the VP-rich area around Bathinda (1621) that includes an airfield and a nuclear site.

Another possible attack option is to flank the defenses at Fazilka by basing the attack on the far left edge of the map, with a depot near the city of Bahawalnagar (1112) with the attack going north into Sri Ganganagar (1216) and then Abohar.  Historically, this is where II Corps was gearing up to attack with two infantry and one armored division in the 1971 war just before hostilities ended.

A final option is to split the II Corps up, with one division, plus the infantry brigade and a combat outpost, guarding the border near the town of Haveli.  While this might tempt the Indian player to attack into Pakistan, the river and the canals can greatly aid a local defense effort.  The rest of the II Corps moves toward Kasur (2116) with the goal of falling in on the flank of the Pakistan IV Corps attacking out of Lahore.  This option gives the potential IV Corps attack on Amritsar (2517) more power and can lead to grabbing the cities of Ferozepur (2018) and even Moga (2121) further south.


nwip_pp2_3Pakistan’s IV Corps starts near the strategic city of Lahore, which is the biggest urban area on the map and the nexus of Pakistan’s transportation infrastructure in the Punjab region of Pakistan.  The IV Corps is designated a “Holding Corps” by the Pakistani Army, but it does have offensive potential with its two infantry divisions and two independent brigades (one infantry and one armor).

The first option is to use it to simply secure Lahore and the nearby towns and cities, rather than going on the offensive.  This has the advantage of being able to send other corps elsewhere since there is no attack here to reinforce.  The downside is foregoing the potential haul of VPs right across the border in the form of Amritsar (2517) and the surrounding towns.

The second option is an offensive toward Amritsar, or at least setting the conditions for taking the city later by knnwip_pp2_4ocking out fortifications and doing some damage to the defending Indian XI Corps.  Such an attack could evolve a few different ways. The first “right up the middle” approach requires getting through fortified hexes right across the border and then, if losses weren’t bad, taking a shot at Amritsar itself.

Another way to attack is to fix the Indian defense at the border with perhaps one division and several combat outposts, and then turn the defender’s left flank, aiming for the town of Patti (2419).  This has the advantage of screening the Pakistani city of Kasur (2116) that is often vulnerable to a counter-attack.  Historically, such an attack led to a major tank engagement at the Battle of Asal Uttar in the 1965 war, roughly in hex 2419 (won by the Indians against a far larger force).

A final, riskier, option is to again fix the Indians defending Amritsar and then move the corps HQ and several units to attempt a river crossing (using an HQ bridge) across the 2715/2716 hexside or the 2816/2817 hexside.

The only one of these options with a chance of taking Amritsar directly is probably the “up the middle” approach.  However, it is unlikely that IV Corps can do that by itself.  It will need help from II Corps (as discussed earlier) on its flank or from another nearby Corps (likely I Corps, see below).  Regardless, an attack into this sector can net a ton of VP, with Amritsar, it’s airbase, and the surrounding towns on the west side of the Sutlej river adding up to 12 VP in location points alone.  And, taking this area opens up the option of an attack across the Sutlej toward Jalandhar (2522), which has multiple cities and installations worth another 12 or so location VP.  Another exploit option is toward the big VP pool around Pathankot (3220) that includes two towns, a nuke site, and an airbase in addition to the city itself (11VP total).


nwip_pp2_5Pakistan’s XXX Corps sets up in the area between Lahore and Jalalpur (3111).  It guards one of the most critical sectors of the front, and the area where India made its greatest penetration in the 1971 war.  This sector covers the zone between two of the great rivers of the region, the Ravi and Chenab.  It also has a decent road network, which runs straight into the heart of the Punjab region of Pakistan.  Losing it would cut off Lahore.  So, while this is another “Holding Corps” for Pakistan’s Army, it does have some offensive potential, especially if reinforced.

Given this front’s critical nature in terms of protecting Pakistan from invasion, the first option is to use XXX corps as a defensive force, perhaps pushing one hex deep across the Indian side of the border.  This will fix the Indian IX Corps in place on the defense, and provide a little more depth for a potential defense later in the game.  Players must also watch the “Narowal Gap” in the area around hex 2916, which provides either a highway into Pakistan or a jumping off point for a push into India. Either way, it has to be held.

There are offensive options for XXX Corps.  The twin cities of Jammu (3314) and Trikuta Nagar (3315) becknwip_pp2_6on just two hexes from the border, which doesn’t look like too much effort.  However, the Chenab major river is a major obstacle.  Unless the Indians fail to blow the bridge leading into Jammu from Sialkot (the 3214/3314 hexside) then attacking that route will require repairing the bridge at the end of an initiative movement phase, and then an attack across it in Exploit Phase, which will result in a 4 column shift penalty.  There is a way to turn the flank of Jammu with an HQ bridge between 3214/3313.  If the Indians don’t garrison 3313, the Pakistan player should definitely consider that option.

Another option is to screen Jammu and instead take Trikuta Nagar first.  No river to worry about, so with a little luck, artillery, and air support it can be taken in the first couple turns.  Doing so not only scores 4VP, but opens the opportunity of isolating Indian units in Jammu with a move across the minor river into 3415.  Taking Trikuta Nagar also opens the possibility of an attack on Udhampur (3516).  This option pretty much requires a supply depot in Sialkot or, better yet, in 3114 due to the rough terrain hexes you have to trace through if you haven’t yet taken Jammu.

A final option worth mentioning is an attack to take the town of Samba (3217).  Not as tough a nut to crack, and grabbing this hex early makes it very difficult for the Indian player to reinforce its IX Corps in the Jammu area.  It also threatens a move straight down the primary road to Pathankot, so the Indian player will have to pull a unit off the line to cover that possibility.  Again, HQ or Depot placement is key here, with the best approach probably being to have the XXX HQ cross the border and setup shop in 3116.


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Pakistan’s X Corps presents many opportunities, and many problems depending on what the Pakistan player does with it.  For starters, it is the largest Corps in the Pakistan Army in terms of infantry combat power with three full infantry divisions, a separate infantry brigade, and an armor brigade.  Note that it’s HQ is infantry MP movement type and has a shorter range (2) than the HQs for most other Pakistani HQs.  This corps is built for fighting in rough terrain.  No matter what one chooses to do with it, the primary mission of the Corps has to be kept in mind: protecting Islamabad and Rawalpindi.  If a player decides to run off with the whole Corps somewhere that’s fine, but some other force has to pick up it’s mission to cover the capital city and the nearby nuke sites, airbases, and towns.  Islamabad is the only national capital on the map, which means it’s capture can lead to an automatic victory roll all by itself (Series rule 12.2).  So, it has to be protected.

An unusual element with X Corps is how spread out it is at start. It is basically divided in half, with 2.5 divisions down near the border with the other 2.5 divisions and the HQ closer to Islamabad.   That means concentrating the entire corps takes some time, regardless of what attack option is chosen.  Plan accordingly.

The first option with the Corps is to send it into the Jammu Highlands (the towns around the town/airfield of Poonch in 3908).  You can do this with the two infantry divisions and the armored brigade that starts nearby.  As noted in the previous artnwip_pp2_8icle, this is going to require a supply depot somewhere very near at hand.  This drive can be complemented with an attack coming in from Islamabad, with the HQ in support providing supply directly from the urban hex.  This can be an effective attack, but success is not guaranteed given the difficult highland-woods terrain and fortified hexes.  Don’t expect a blitzkrieg, but with a few good rolls you can grind down the Indian defenders.

The other option is to screen the Jammu Highlands, perhaps with the infantry brigade and the armor brigade, and then try to concentrate the three infantry divisions on breaking into the Kashmir Valley on the road that runs from Muzaffarabad (4304) to Baramula (4409).  Again, this is going to require a dedicated supply depot fairly close to the front.  Note that there is a gap through the high mountains via hex 4407.  The going is slow and you’ll be OOS on the other side, but it can provide the firepower you’ll need to take Baramula, and might let you isolate the defenders due to the two adjacent high mountain hexes.  There is risk to this approach because of a potential attack on Islamabad from the Indian XVI Corps.  Keep an eye on where the Indian play puts his depots.  One up near Poonch may signal an intent to try for the capital city in the mid/late game.


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Pakistan’s FCNA Corps (Force Command Northern Areas) is technically part of X Corps in the Pakistan Army.  However, given its size and independent mission we decided to treat it like a separate corps in NWIP.  It is a unique corps made up of an HQ and five separate mountain infantry nwip_pp2_10brigades.  All of them are also “elite” with a 6 EF rating.  Their mountain ability gives them small edges in combat in the mountains, but more importantly allows them to trace MPs for supply using leg movement ratings vs the normal motorized MPs.  That give them the ability to be “off road” in the mountains and still be in supply.

The first option for using this corps on the attack is to stick to the roads and attack down the primary road to the town of Bandipora (4610) via the fortified border hex 4809 and the high mountain hex in 4709.  That is tough terrain to be sure, so you’ll need at least 4 of the 5 brigades and the HQ, plus some air support if you can get it.  Even with all that, you also need some good dice.  However, it can be done because the Indian division that starts in the area only has 2 steps, so if you get lucky and get a loss on it early, the Indian player is likely to pull it back to avoid the 3VP hit and the possible loss of half of XV Corps’ combat capability.  Expect the Indians to send some of the XIV Corps brigades here in support though, so the going won’t be easy.  You do have an advantage in the number of step losses you can take, so don’t get discouraged too quickly if things don’t go perfectly.

The second option for the FCNA brigades is to send some of them through the mountain pass (4808-4707-4608) to get into the valley, where they can either attack Baramulla from the flank or turn toward Bandipora.  They will be out of supply from the 2nd hex on, but can still attack with 2 factors per brigade, so not totally incapable, and this is one of those times when position is as important as being in supply.  As mountain infantry, the brigades can make the move in two movement phases (2pm in mountains vs the usual 3MP).

A final option to consider is what I call the “Kargil Gambit”.  This sends most of the corps through the gap in the high mountains against the town/airfield hex of Kargil (4913).  Unless you have an MSU adjacent you’ll quickly end up OOS.  However, an attack here pins down most of the XIV corps, which makes it easier for other elements of the FNCA corps to get through the other approaches already discussed.  If you use pre-game movement to get in place, you’ll probably get at least a couple cracks at the town before going out of supply.  And, if the Chinese are around, an airmobile mission to cut the road to Srinagar (likely supply depot location) can help things along.

 


 

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Pakistan’s I Corps is the most powerful Pakistan Army corps and also the one with the most options for its deployment.  It is the main reserve corps in the Army in this region of Pakistan, used for counter-attacking on the defense and (for our purposes here) likely leading the main attack on the offense.  How this corps is used by the Pakistan player can determine the outcome of a game.  I Corps has two infantry divisions, the powerful 6th armored division (one of only two in the Pakistan Army) a separate armored brigade, and a separate light-infantry brigade (the 5th).  So, in addition to the armor punch it has the only airmobile-capable unit in the Pakistan Army, giving this corps unique options for using airmobile movement to turn a flank, cross a river, etc.  Three of its units are “elite” as well, with 6 EF ratings.  While it’s a lot to cover, there are at least five ways to employ this powerful corps on the attack.  The four arrows in the image show the main attack options, with the 5th option being holding the corps in reserve and seeing how the other corps do, and then reinforcing where other attacks have chewed up the Indians and weakened the line.

Starting on the left side, option one is to use the highway to move the corps to and through Lahore in order to reinforce the attack by IV Corps on Amritsar.  The main challenge to this approach is finding room to deploy the corps initially, as it may stack up behind IV corps before the line of Indian fortifications is breached.  Here, the airmobile brigade can be used to try to cut off Amritsar from Indian reinforcements.  The flat terrain here (and for option 2) makes for maximum use of the heavy armor in I Corps.

The second option is to attack through the “Narowal Gap” (my term, not anything I read anywhere) which consists of the three flat hexes from 2715 to 2916.  If the HQ is positioned properly, an HQ bridge can be used to attack across the Ravi during the exploit movement/combat phase on the first turn.  That, combined with an airmobile move over the river, can quickly unhinge the defenders, evnwip_pp2_12en if the Indian side stacks up combat outposts in those 3 hexes.  Such an attack turns the flank of the Amritsar defense, and makes life very difficult for the overstretched Indian XI corps.  It also opens up an avenue to attack toward the “VP Blob” near Pathankot (3220).  Using an HQ bridge, of course, has risks since its placement is not guaranteed and the Indian player can destroy them in several ways.

Option 3 is using I Corps to reinforce an attack on Jammu/Trikuta Nagar by XXX Corps.  Like supporting IV corps, initially there won’t be room to properly deploy all of I Corps, but sending in here adds a lot of combat power to the attack in this tricky terrain.  The airmobile unit can be used to get behind or on the flank of Jammu and/or Trikuta Nagar, greatly helping the attack.

A fourth option is to use I Corps to attack into the Jammu  Highlands.  This has the disadvantage of attacking into the rough terrain where the armor isn’t as effective.  However, doing so frees up the X Corps discussed earlier to focus all its combat power on Kashmir since a I Corps attack into this area will both pin the Indian XVI Corps and shield Islamabad from direct assault.  The airmobile brigade also gives some options here that X Corps doesn’t have on its own since it can get behind the defenders quickly. If you go with this option, considering holding back the armored division in reserve, or sending it elsewhere with better terrain.

As mentioned above, the fifth option with I Corps is to just hold it in reserve and see how the other attacks develop.  It can then be committed together to provide the final push needed to break through or as an exploiting unit once a big gap in the Indian line opens up.  Another variation on this choice is splitting up the corps and sending individual divisions/brigades where needed most.  While less efficient in terms of HQ support, this can be a way to help more than one sector while keeping back a division or even two as a strategic reserve for late in the game.


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Pakistan’s reinforcement corps consist of XXXI, XII, and XI corps, which come in as reinforcements in the Kashmir (XI Corps), Lahore (all three) and Enough! (all three) standard scenarios.  All also appear as reinforcements in the Border War and Unification advanced scenarios.  In Loose Nukes they start on map.  They are a mixed bag in terms of contents, with mostly standard infantry divisions and armor brigades.  However, XXXI Corps does include the big 26th Mechanized Infantry division.

So what to do with them?  XXXI Corps comes in on the far left side, upper corner of the map.  So, it is best used for reinforcing an attack into Punjab by II Corps or an attack on the Amritsar area by IV Corps.  It comes in near a highway, so in an initiative turn (3 moves) it can get into action pretty quickly.  XII Corps comes in in the middle, top of the map.  It does not come in near a highway (there are primary roads) so it takes longer to get into action.  This central location gives players the option of sending almost anywhere except Kashmir, which would probably take too many turns to be worth the effort.  XI Corps comes on the top edge near Islamabad.  It is well positioned to support earlier attacks in Kashmir, the Punjab Highlands, or even down around Jammu itself.

Next up in this series of posts will be an overview of India’s big strategy choices as well as a detailed breakdown of Indian Army corps deployments and potential operations.


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One thought on “Next War: India-Pakistan – Pakistani Strategic Choices, part 2

  1. Great article, Doug! It’s great to hear these things fleshed out by a professional. I have a subfolder in my NWIP folder, in which I keep all these articles, for continued study. BTW, it would be cool to play NWIP with a proper umpire, a la Kriegspiel… but, as it is, I’m stuck playing solo. (Luckily, acting comes naturally… and I can also cook up my own odds tables, to pick between options with the help of the die). As a lifelong fan of Liddell Hart, Fuller and Guderian, armour was always a temptation; as it turned out, I became a naval officer (with an inauspicious-but-honourable career) instead… but the fascination never died, and I love to study armoured (and ground) warfare. For the record, I think you’d give Guderian, Manstein, Rommel & co. a run for their money! 😉 How ironic, that the pure ground of NWIP is what attracts me the most; will have to pick up Taiwan in October, to get a taste of the proper naval stuff! 🙂 Cheers… and keep rockin’ the (commercial) wargame that matters most! Your analysis is worth its weight in gold… and it could very easily matter in real life, in the coming decades. Cheers!