About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW BY SOFREP




In the aftermath of 9/11, the bread and butter of the defense industry shifted in many ways from focusing on big-ticket Cold War items like tanks and fighter jets to the world of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. With this new paradigm came waves and waves of self-appointed experts, clueless academics, and hucksters trying to sell crap to the Department of Defense. This trend continues to this day, although it has been shifting into the even more nebulous area of cybersecurity, which is even better for contractors given that the 60-year-old men who run the Pentagon don’t know anything about computers. The situation is so bad in the Department of Defense that when you come across an “expert” who dubs themselves a COINista, you should run, not walk, away. These folks are the reason why we are fighting the same war today that we were fighting in Afghanistan 16 years ago.

One person who I always appreciated for having an actual track record of success is Eeben Barlow. Having served in the South African Defense Forces as a sapper in the Infantry and Special Operations, Barlow went on to found a private military company called Executive Outcomes. EO beat back UNITA in Angola for the democratically elected government before driving the barbarous Revolutionary United Front to their knees in Sierra Leone. Today, Barlow serves as the chairman of STTEP, a PMC that took the fight directly to Boko Haram. Oddly, the United States government puts pressure on the host governments to remove Barlow’s people just as they begin experiencing success in defeating anti-government forces.

Using his background in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare, Barlow has recently written a book titled “Composite Warfare,” and it is the go-to manual for warfare in Africa, written by a man who has experienced it. Barlow emphasizes an Africa-centric approach that eschews the over-philosophizing of political scientists, doctrine writers, and alleged COIN experts. Barlow wrote the book to pertain specifically to war on the African continent, but in this reader’s opinion, Barlow’s stripped-down language and no-nonsense approach to what is a normally convoluted subject in military literature makes this book worthwhile for any student of military history.

As Barlow writes in his book, “Part of the dilemma African armies face is the continued creation of new words, terms, and phrases to describe the same action or phenomena. This has led to a large amount of confusion for commanders and leader in the field.” Using graphics, bullet points, and written explanations, the author leads the reader to an understanding about the boots-on-the-ground tactical approach, from movement techniques and types of operations to the big picture that supports the pillars of government. “Composite Warfare” ties them together and demonstrates how a military campaign has to function as a mutually supporting effort that supports the state rather than undermines it.

Comprehensive in nature, “Composite Warfare” examines appropriate force structures, air power, reconnaissance, maneuvers, mobility, air power, intelligence, retrograde operations, developing military strategies, and plenty more. Barlow treats warfare in Africa with a cultural appreciation, as opposed to a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach frequently employed by U.S. Special Forces, who simply mirror our own force structure in the host nation counterparts they train. This is why the United States often trains foreign troops with tactics straight out of the Ranger Handbook, tactics that don’t work for indigenous forces.

In a past SOFREP interview with Barlow, he said that “poor training, bad advice, a lack of strategy, vastly different tribal affiliations, ethnicity, religion, languages, cultures, not understanding the conflict and enemy,” were hallmarks of Western training provided to African armies. “Much of this training is focused on window-dressing, but when you look through the window, the room is empty,” he concluded.

“Composite Warfare” is recommended reading for students of military history and strategy, including active-duty Special Forces soldiers charged with conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID). Although the book will prove especially helpful to those serving in African militaries, “Composite Warfare” will no doubt became a seminal work on modern warfare in Africa, one practitioners and academics alike will reference well into the decades to come. Let us hope that Barlow’s lessons are learned and internalized, lest we repeat the same mistakes in Africa for another half-century.


Monday, April 17, 2017

EXECUTIVE OUTCOMES: REVISITED AND REVISED


My book, ‘Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds’ will undergo a revision, a re-edit and then be republished sometime later this year. The book will also be updated with new material.




The book was initially published by Galago. However, since Peter Stiff’s untimely passing, the rights to the book reverted back to me.

Peter was the only publisher (both locally and abroad) that was prepared to publish the book as too many considered it ‘inopportune’ or ‘not politically correct’. I will forever remain grateful to him for his publishing courage.

Some wanted me to remove the names of their journalist friends I named as disinformation agents and outright liars—or of the duplicity of the then South African government. Other publishing houses informed me that the book ‘was not in the public interest’. Some simply ignored my initial manuscript.

Several book stores steadfastly refused to carry it on their shelves once it was published.

At that time, it was apparent to me that the book simply did not match the narrative that had been so successfully, albeit nefariously driven by several local and foreign intelligence services and media houses. For that reason, it had to be stopped.

Efforts to stop publication of the book bordered on the ridiculous. Threats of violence against me should I continue writing the book, as well as the burglary at my home where only my computer was stolen, were, I suspected at that time, part of the efforts to stop the publication of the book.   

Having gone through numerous reprints, there have, to date, been no revisions to the book.

Finally, I have an opportunity to revise the book, have it re-edited and also include new information as well as some information that was initially cut out in the final print editions.

The new edition will be a collaboration between my current publisher and Bush War Books (www.warbooks.co.za). There will also be a limited and numbered hardcover edition (most probably only 50 copies) which will each include an Executive Outcomes commemorative coin.   


  

An Artist’s rendition of the EO Commemorative Coin

The hardcover books with commemorative coins will only be available through Bush War Books. For anyone interested in the numbered hardcover copies, please contact Bush War Books directly as they will be the exclusive outlet for those copies once the revised edition is published.

My thanks to everyone who encouraged me to revisit the book and requested that it be updated and re-released again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

VICTIMS OF DOCTRINE—BECAUSE ‘THE BOOK’ SAYS SO!


As a young officer, I had little to no clue what our doctrine was or indeed even what ‘doctrine’ really entailed. I viewed it as one of those grey areas. I know it was taught but obviously, my mind was elsewhere at that time. Instead, I hid my ignorance by saying stupid things like “Doctrine can be really boring…”

Later on in my career, I finally understood that doctrine is merely a guide to activity and action. It sets out a way for us how to do things in certain situations but does not prescribe what we must do. I would later discover that ‘guide’ is the operative word.

However, I often found that many of my colleagues believed that our doctrine was written in stone…”Because ‘the book’ says so…” No deviation from the doctrine was allowed or, at times, even tolerated.

I had no compunction in deviating from ‘the book’ if I thought my actions and orders would save lives and result in success. I could always face the music later—and I often did. But, I fear we have become so caught up by what ‘the book’ says, that we set ourselves up for failure time and again. This strict adherence to ‘the book’ gives us a very blinkered and rigid approach to conflict and war.

Guided by ‘the book’, we consistently repeat the same mistakes until they become ‘muscle memory’—and simply the way we do things. In the process, we have become dogmatic, and predictable, thus denying ourselves agility, balance, flexibility, initiative, surprise, and speed of action/reaction when we need it most. Yet, despite the casualties, we seem determined to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory.

For decades now, African armies have been using outdated Western and Eastern doctrines and this is marked by a record of very little success on the continent.

Whereas these doctrines were, at a time relevant, I fear they no longer are.


The doctrines ascribed to by many Africa armies are unaligned, and have become stagnant and in many instances, irrelevant. Of course, certain elements may retain relevance but the time has come for African armed forces to revisit their doctrines and, with a very sharp knife, cut out what is no longer applicable or relevant—and replace it with doctrine that is applicable, realistic, and relevant. We need to shake off the outdated doctrinal shackles of World War II, some of it unconnected with todays’ high tempo, technology-driven warfare that is shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, these antiquated doctrines remain in use and remain unrevised despite many important lessons having being learned. And so, we continue to fail the National Security Strategy and ultimately, the National Strategy.

When assessing the inability of many African armies to perform effectively in the field, it becomes clear that there are numerous doctrinal failures and mismatches. There is nothing wrong with the quality of manpower, as long as they are trained, equipped and well led. Despite a measure of training, victory remains elusive as tactical successes are seldom, if ever, translated into operational or strategic successes.

Currently, the doctrines in use by many African armies are not aligned with the National Security Strategy, nor with the National Military Strategy and the subsequent campaign strategies make no allowance for complex AOs, have little regard for the environmental impact on operations, incorrectly assume all troops are trained to a high level, do not make allowances for a lack of equipment, take no cognisance of the threat or enemy, and so forth.

Being fortunate to be given latitude by some African armies, I have come to realise that doctrine needs to be simplified, made relevant and realistic, and then imprinted on the minds of soldiers as soon as possible.

Simplifying doctrine and teaching it to troops at a very early stage of their training has numerous advantages. Most importantly, it teaches them how planned combat operations will unfold, and how forces are integrated into a unified units and sub-units, and how and why their actions will support the combat operations to achieve the commander’s intent, and so forth.

Understanding a simplified doctrine that is devoid of ‘management’ terms, outdated and unconnected approaches, cumbersome, and irrelevant information has, in my experience, had a marked difference in how troops approach their missions and how they fight. I have witnessed that when doctrine is explained to them, a visible understanding occurs—and it then shows in how they approach combat operations.

But, we remain self-deluded with our doctrine, believing it is written in stone and therefore not subject to adaption, discussion or change.

As long as we do what the outdated ‘book’ says, we will remain victims of our doctrine as we will become what we want the enemy to become—confused and predictive.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OVERCOMING THE CRISIS IN COMMAND


The current crisis in command many African armies are faced with can be traced back to the manner in which current and future commanders are identified and prepared for their missions and roles. Commanding and leading soldiers—including airmen and sailors—in both peacetime and conflict is not a game to be played for personal gain.

When it comes to the national security of a country, difficult choices need to be made. When it comes to appointing those who are charged with maintaining the security of the state, even more difficult choices are called for.

The old adage ‘There are no bad soldiers, only bad commanders’ certainly holds true for many African armed forces. Soldiers can only do what they are trained and equipped to do—if they are correctly commanded and led. When command and leadership is lacking, soldiers become confused and lacking in direction and discipline, morale is negatively impacted, orders are questioned and disobeyed, and the combat efficiency of the armed forces rapidly deteriorates.

But command leadership is not ‘business management’.

Whereas ‘command’ ought to be emphasized in the armed forces, I have met commanders who are, sadly, unable to exercise effective command. Not because they don’t have the ability or personality to do so but rather because they have been appointed by a system that is failing them, the armed forces and the country. Their inability is then amplified by being taught ‘management techniques’ and thereby softening the already failing approach to command. This ‘business’ approach to military operations has resulted in some spectacular failures across the continent. It has also added to a deepening sense of self-delusion that needs to be exposed.




 On-going education remains important at all times


The armed forces cannot be equated to a business enterprise where management techniques hold relevance. Commanders are faced with vastly different situations and decisions than managers of business enterprises.

Whereas ‘command’ gives those who are entrusted with it the opportunity to use power for the good of the state, many use this as an opportunity to abuse power for personal gain and satisfaction. Abuse of power thus becomes entrenched and junior officers and NCOs follow the example and trend of abusing their power while ignoring their responsibilities.

Commanders need to realise that they command at the behest of the state and not for themselves. Commanding for themselves has resulted in numerous moral failures that include personal enrichment, corruption, and the misuse of state assets, to name but a few. This immoral view of command permeates through to the lower ranks encouraging moral failures amongst junior officers and NCOs. After all, this is the example their senior commanders are setting for them.

Command has also increasingly become synonymous with bullying.

Impacting severely on the current crisis in command many African armed forces face is the lack of selection, training, further education, and competence of commanders. To rectify this troubling situation, more promotions take place adding to an already top-heavy command structure. As and when the command structure, ie the officer corps, exceeds more than 10% of the force level, command problems are dramatically increased. (This has historical been proven on numerous occasions).

Whereas promotions ought to serve as an incentive based on competence and results, command positions are instead given to political appointees where tribal, race, language, religious or ethnic considerations are valued over competence. Thus when defence cuts are implemented, or budgets constrained, the command element remains in position, at all costs and instead, troop levels are cut, training neglected or critical equipment left to rot. Budget cuts also often see the command element increasing at the expense of combat readiness.

Without effective, disciplined command that follows the National Military Strategy and for the good of the nation and its people, an armed force has the potential to become a leaderless group of armed men. 

This, in itself, poses numerous grave dangers to the state and its citizens.

Regardless of thoughts to the contrary, African armed forces are currently facing a crisis in command that needs to be rapidly rectified. If not, our armies will continue to remain at a disadvantage.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THANK YOU ROOIPLAAS – AGAIN!

To say that I enjoyed myself at the recent Rooiplaas gathering would be somewhat of an understatement…
Conceived by Nico Beneke and ably assisted by Johan Landman - the Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively - Rooiplaas hosts several get-togethers throughout the year with the aim of bringing together ex-SADF airborne soldiers to socialize, make new friends, and reacquaint themselves with old friends. 
It has, since its inception, become a home for many men who served in the SADF’s airborne units and it is growing from strength to strength. What appealed to me is that this organisation is devoid of the politics and petty personal grievances some of the other veterans’ organisations are tainted with.  
Chappies van Zyl, the man who twisted my arm to join Rooiplaas

Chappies van Zyl, one of my ex-airborne sappers from days long past, eventually gave me no choice but to join the Rooiplaas community and Nico and Johan were very gracious to accept me into their ranks. And so it was that I was invited to attend their get-together in Bloemfontein on 23 February 2017.
On arrival, I was given a Rooiplaas T-shirt and cap just to make sure I was able to blend-in and not stand out like a sore thumb.
I was both honoured and privileged to give a brief discussion to the men (and their wives) on Executive Outcomes and STTEP, their founding, deployments, operations and so forth. Some of the talk was also centred on the disinformation and myths regarding both EO and STTEP.
After my talk, I was awarded my Rooiplaas Certificate of Membership (#0245) that will take pride of place in my study.
However, the success of any such event depends on numerous players who are not always visible but whose contributions make such an occasion a great success.
Thank you to Chute Systems who were kind enough to allow Rooiplaas to use their magnificent Bloemfontein facility. One of the owners, Waldo Krähenbühl, was on hand at all times to give his support and assistance wherever he could. Sadly, his colleague and co-owner, Douw Raimondo, was elsewhere and could not attend the evening with us.
Andre Botha deserves a special thank you for taking control of the ‘ kitchen’ and preparing a great meal for us. The meal was way better than any of us had ever experienced in our army days. Nico provided the food we all enjoyed.
Some of the Rooiplaas members

To the members of Rooiplaas and their wives, thank you for accepting me into your ranks and for not falling asleep during my talk.
To Nico and Johan a special word of thanks for organizing the get-together and for being such great hosts. A great thank you also to Nico Beneke for accommodating me at his wonderful guesthouse and for getting up early to make me coffee and see me on my way.
And finally, a special thanks to Chappies for twisting my arm…
I look forward to the next Rooiplaas get-together…






Friday, February 10, 2017

'INTO THE VORTEX' by TOM FULTON


I count myself fortunate that I was able to lay my hands on a copy of Tom Fulton’s book ‘Into the Vortex’. Despite the many books written about the wars and conflicts in Southern Africa, this book is worthy to stand on its own.

Perhaps it was inquisitiveness or perhaps I was trying to relive the days of growing up in a slow-boiling Africa through Tom’s eyes, or perhaps both. Regardless, Tom’s book did not disappoint me.

The book is a vivid and exciting glimpse into days long gone—days when boys were boys and were forced through circumstance, challenges and conflicting politics to grow up and stand tall as both men and soldiers called on to fight a dirty war.

Tom takes the reader into his home as a young boy growing up in a sometimes difficult environment, but there is no pity as that was how it was—instead he uses his humour to lighten the situations he and his brother frequently found themselves in.

His entry into the Rhodesian Army and the subsequent humour and oftentimes sorrow that followed is well written and intense.  Commissioned as an officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR), he goes on to discuss the bonds made and shared as only men under fire can do. Readers who are unfamiliar with Africa and the closeness and comradeship of black and white men at war will do well to take note of the respect they had for one another.

The scenes of combat are well and intensely described along with the tension before triggers are pulled and the exhilaration of success and survival when the guns fell silent. At times, the fast pace of combat is softened with humour and the aftermath of a deployment where young men go about their social lives—social lives that were lived and enjoyed to the maximum.

Tom’s easy style of writing brings to life many sad and traumatic events, yet there is no trace of victimhood—the mark of a man and a soldier with character.

As clichéd as it might be, ‘Into the Vortex’ will stand on its own as a Rhodesian classic.

Well done Tom Fulton!   


For ordering information
The book can be ordered directly from Tom at:


Monday, February 6, 2017

THINK QUICK OR DIE...BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE


Note: This is not a verbal attack on the KDF and I will not entertain comments in that vein.



The very tragic events at El Adde (Somalia) surrounding the recent fall of the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) base to Al Shabaab’s ‘Saleh al Nabhan Battalion’—al Qaeda’s East African affiliate—is a good example of how many things that are wrong with African armies came together in a perfect storm.

The video produced by the enemy is equally disturbing as it illustrates the unpreparedness of the KDF.

The video can be viewed here, but a warning: It contains graphic scenes that may be disturbing to some: https://www.funker530.com/brutal-al-shabaab-raid-wipes-entire-kenyan-army-unit/

Regretfully, African governments and their armies continue to ignore the warning signs that result in an inability to prepare and defend against the coming storm…it is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ the storm will make landfall and increase the damage to their countries and their credibility.

Africa is both today and tomorrow’s battlefield and it is being shaped today through a series of secret or shadow wars, proxy forces, covert actions, diplomatic and economic pressures, and domestic and regional terrorism. Added to this is a failure of governance that many African states exhibit and that has given rise to populism—a movement that is increasingly turning to violence and armed actions.

More worrying though, our armed forces are failing to keep pace with the ever-increasing speed of conflict and war. The pace at which technology has enabled information, intelligence, instructions, and disinformation to be transmitted via cell phones, social media and radio messages, has dramatically increased the pace and tempo of operations. It has also increased and underlined the requirement for in-depth intelligence operations to distinguish between fact, fiction and deception.

Filming these attacks, and highlighting many KDF failures, merely adds to the enemy’s propaganda efforts, and motivates and inspires potential recruits, when indeed, it ought to be the other way around.  

Armies need to realise that we need to think quick, act and react with agility and speed—or die. If quick thinking and agility is discarded, our armies may as well call it a day.  

Instead, we try to stick to what we think we know—ill-equipped, unbalanced World War 2 organisations totally unsuited to cope with the demands and fluid actions on the modern African battlefield.  This has resulted in poorly planned and uncoordinated operations, a lack of balanced forces, a lack of operational sustainability, a lack of momentum and great sluggishness when tasked to move rapidly—to name but a few.

These outdated approaches are then taught to African armies by trainers that have no or very little experience of the continent and indeed, seldom if ever, understand the enemy. Oftentimes, a different agenda is at play and the conflict is encouraged to continue as long as possible.

All too often, people want to point fingers at how bad their armies are, and the politicians are quick to blame them for a lack of battlefield success. But, the reality is that soldiers can only do what they are trained and equipped to do—and if they have the leadership they require supported with political and military will.

To fulfil their missions, African armies need to do a very serious doctrinal rethink, reorganize themselves to be agile, have mobility and firepower, ensure they have clear and unambiguous missions and mandates, and ensure the leadership group know how to lead—from the front.

The attack on El Adde ought to serve as a dire warning of what can happen to any armed force if we do not get our act together, sooner rather than later. Our armies need to be correctly trained, equipped, and postured, and not taught rubbish that is irrelevant.  

We need to start thinking very seriously before it is too late.



Note: For those interested in the developing situation in Kenya, more can be found by visiting Andrew Franklin’s Facebook pages at

https://www.facebook.com/andrew.franklin.5076?pnref=friends.search