Paramilitary: Rapid Action Battalions


May 27, 2006: Bangladesh formed an elite paramilitary force two years ago, the Rapid Action Battalions (RAB), and found that these well paid and carefully selected troops were the solution to growing civil disorder. Bangladesh is a poor country with a lot of crime, several leftist rebel groups, many smugglers and some Islamic terrorists as well. The national police force of 170,000, is poorly paid, corrupt and not very effective in maintaining order among the population of 144 million. This was particularly the case when crime, terrorism or rebellion occasionally combined to get completely out of control. The army has been called out on those occasions, but this was an imperfect solution.

The RABs are unique among elite paramilitary forces (which many nations have). First, the RAB members are drawn from the police (44 percent), the armored forces (44 percent) and border patrol 12 percent), and only serve for 2-3 years. While it is a temporary assignment, the troops receive up to 70 percent more pay, better food and accommodations. They also know they are part of an elite force, which does wonders for morale. Currently, the RAB has ten battalions, and 8,000 personnel. The availability of the RAB is considered major factor in the destruction of the Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) Islamic terrorist organization. Before that, the RAB was responsible for shutting down several major criminal organizations.

The RABs do raids, intelligence collection and analysis (but not detective work) and patrolling. When not on assignment, they train hard. They are armed only with small arms, but wear distinctive uniforms. The mixture of men from police and military units brings together lots of new ideas for all of them. This has led to the development of new, unique and very effective tactics and procedures.

The constant infusion of new manpower not only reduces the chances of corruption, but keeps the force fresh. Police and troops going back to their old assignments feel a lot better as well, as they have seen what honest and well executed policing can accomplish. It is hoped that the long term effect on the police, especially, will be positive.


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