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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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

THE END OF ANOTHER YEAR


2015 is now approaching its end.

As was to be expected, Africa remained a target of destabelisation hidden under the auspices of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, and ‘human rights’. Armed conflicts have remained on-going along with foreign covert and overt attempts to ensure they remain on-going.

It was a year in which the blood of innocents was again spilled by Daesh and its many affiliates and supporters. It was also a year in which we had to witness more lies and deception by foreign powers targeting African governments with the ever-present threat of regime change if they do not do as told. Deception, lies and political correctness are providing the threat networks with massive advantages in their quest to spread terror and chaos.  

It was, however, also a year filled with good memories and bad: STTEP’s men made a very positive difference in Nigeria until we were forced to leave but we also lost 3 of our men in Nigeria; we had adrenalin rushes, expectations, waiting, laughter, highs and lows, cheap airlines, rundown airports, meetings, proposals, headshaking, briefings, presentations, bad food, terrible water, long hours, little sleep and some blood, sweat and tears.

On a personal level, I was again privileged to be invited to lecture at the SA Military Academy as well as some other African defence institutions and colleges. I was likewise honoured to have been invited to lecture beyond our shores as well as partake in the workshop on the African Stand-By Force in Stellenbosch.

As for my book: I have become incredibly frustrated by the publishers and the amount of toing-and-froing that has taken place. Contracts have been changed and disputed, publishing dates moved, disagreements and/or threats between different publishers have taken place and so forth. To say I am sick of the lack of professionalism I have had to deal with would be an understatement.  IF this book will ever see the light of day early next year remains to be seen. All I can do is apologise to those who placed orders and who have yet to be advised what the status of publishing is—but I too am equally in the dark.

The last months of this year also saw me being rather ill and it has taken me some time to recover. Making it all the worse, I gave up smoking in late-November 2015 so I am still battling the nicotine withdrawal as well.

My thanks to everyone who read and contributed to the blog throughout the year. I appreciate your comments and views on matters related to security and defence in Africa even if we do not always agree. Your thoughts give me a new perspective, and allow me to broaden my own knowledge base.

To everyone who is far from home at this time, and to those who are deployed in the conflict zones around the world, beit as soldiers, sailors, airmen, law enforcement officers, spooks or private military and security contractors, keep your heads down, your eyes peeled, your weapons close at hand, stay safe and be ready to do what needs to be done.

Let us also remember those who will not be able to be share this time with those they hold dear as well as those who have lost friends and loved ones. They should never be forgotten. Nor should the sacrifices they have made ever be forgotten.

I would also like to wish each and every visitor to the blog a blessed festive season. To those who celebrate the meaning of Christmas, I wish you and your families a blessed, happy and joyous festive season.

To those who do not celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, I wish you all a time of happiness and peace with your families and friends.

I would also like to wish each and every one of you—and your loved ones—a great 2016. May the coming year be filled with good health, happiness and safety.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you all next year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

AFRICA MUST STOP DEMILITARISING ITS MILITARIES


Having sat through numerous debates and discussions on ‘peacekeeping’, I have always been surprised and disappointed that this costly and failed approach to security and stability is, for some very (not so) strange reason, still being advocated and encouraged. 

The truth is that without sustainable peace, Africa will never see real development and prosperity. Economic development and stability is ensured by good governance, law and order, and the application of sound policies. But if the policies and approaches are wrong, no amount of strategy and tactics can provide peace and stability.

Ending a conflict or war can only be assured when the state has the political will and the military might—and will—to engage the enemy. This must result in the enemy or threat being decisively beaten, and begging and pleading for mercy to save it from complete annihilation. This requires a strong and capable deterrent force with strong military policies in place.

If a government cannot negotiate from a position of total strength, it is merely giving the adversary time to rebuild and rearm its forces and continue the conflict.  Besides, the terms of negotiation must be dictated by the government and not by the enemy or threat. Indeed, it must be an unconditional surrender or nothing at all. During negotiations, the enemy or threat must be subjected to intense intelligence scrutiny to ensure that the call to negotiate was not a deception measure aimed at reducing pressure on the crumbling threat forces.

A well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and disciplined armed force, correctly postured and able to rapidly project decisive force, is a significant deterrent to an armed adversary. So why have some African governments decided to demilitarise their armed forces and instead turn them into ‘peacekeepers’?

The mere thought of ‘peacekeeping’ when and where a conflict or war is raging is nothing short of idiotic and suicidal. But in order to remain politically correct, and in the good books of the UN and those governments driving the (failed) peacekeeping approach, this new form of ‘un-warfare’ has taken hold in some African governments whilst emasculating their armed forces.

Simultaneously, it has expanded the current and future market for ‘peacekeepers’ and other ‘partnership forces’ to enter fragile and troubled countries—the results of which, to date, have been catastrophic, disgraceful, and disastrous to say the least. The numerous scandals created by these forces have simply added to the already tarnished image of the ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘partnership’ approaches.

Besides, if peacekeeping was such a valuable tool in the arsenal for halting the spread of conflict and war, why aren’t these forces standing between the warring parties in Nigeria, Libya, Cameroon, Niger, Burundi, and so forth? And if they are there, such as in Mali, South Sudan, Somalia—why aren’t they keeping the peace?

Sadly, many African governments have allowed themselves to be cajoled and hoodwinked into training their armed forces for peacekeeping missions—a euphemism for demilitarising and emasculating the armed forces. Soldiers have now become ‘peacekeepers’ and ‘nation builders’ and time and money is spent on irrelevant ‘free’ training programmes supposedly aimed at keeping the peace and building nations—especially where there is no peace and governments have become fragile or failed. Soldiers have become quasi-policemen as opposed to fighting men who can and will fight to annihilate armed opposition or enemy forces.

The demilitarising of African armed forces has had serious knock-on effects such as a lack of intelligence gathering capacity—especially HUMINT, an inability to fight to decisively end conflicts and wars, a neglect of doctrine development and training, the neglect of essential combat equipment along with the procurement of unsuitable equipment, a watering-down of essential combat skills, the acceptance of bad advice, and so forth.

This, however, suits those powers who have encouraged a mission diversion to ‘peacekeeping’ as they are guaranteed that African governments and their armies will be required to call for foreign help when the wheels fall off. And fall off they will—and are.

Anyone who dares criticise the farce of ‘peacekeeping’ is shouted down and viewed as a warmonger. It is, after all, not politically correct to criticise a failed approach that gives violent and murderous threat forces—viewed by many in the West as ‘moderate terrorists’, ‘pro-democracy fighters’ and ‘freedom fighters’—the advantage. Also, ‘human rights’ have overridden common sense as national armies are expected to show tolerance and understanding to the very people trying to kill them, murder and terrorise the populace, destroy infrastructure, and collapse the government.

The ‘peacekeeping’ mantra has become a dangerous cancer that is eating away at the combat effectiveness of African armies—and it is subsequently endangering the populace, destroying societies, and eroding the stability of states.

For Africa to survive in an ever-increasing turbulent environment, be independent, and ensure the safety and security for its people, the concept of ‘peacekeeping’ needs to be given a very serious rethink. 

Perhaps the time has come for African governments to stop demilitarizing their armed forces and instead redefine their missions—away from peacekeeping and towards enemy and threat identification, deterrence, targeting, and annihilation.

After all, that is what the armed forces are supposed to do—isn’t it?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

THE TRAGEDY THAT IS LIBYA


The end result of “regime-change” in Libya has brought nothing but bloodshed and misery to the majority of Libyans whilst giving radical Islamists another foothold on the African continent. Libya has become a failed state. Its infrastructure is in tatters and its oil exports rapidly dwindling. It has indeed undergone “regime change”. And while Libya burns, the world talks.

Two governments currently “rule” a divided Libya—maybe soon to be three different governments. One government is recognised by the international community, the other by the hard-line extremists. The plan to divide Libya into two or perhaps even three different states seems to be nearing completion.

I was never a fan of Muammar Ghaddafi or a supporter of his style of government. But, it is almost inconceivable that the plan to oust Gaddafi and his government did not appreciate or even consider the consequences of his demise. It did not require a very intelligent person to foresee what was coming.  Libya rapidly went from controlled hell to uncontrolled hell.

During 2013, I was invited to address the Libyan authorities on several occasions. We were asked to assist them develop a strategy aimed at containing what was then already becoming a highly toxic situation. Matters have since deteriorated significantly into a far more complex and dangerous situation and is unlikely to get better soon—if ever.

On each visit I undertook to Libya, I tried to impress on the Libyan government (at that time) what was likely to happen in their country if no drastic intervention was considered and decisive action taken. I believed that Libya would become an uncontrolled, divided tract of land where conflict between tribes and competing terror franchises became the order of the day.

On my last visit to Libya in July 2013, I was promptly apprehended on arrival in Tripoli, my passport forcibly taken from me (I stopped protesting when a rifle was shoved into my face) and I was locked in a small room in the immigration hall. After several hours, I was finally taken to see the Chief of Intelligence (who incidentally was the person who had invited me to Libya) where he apologised for the “harsh manner” in which I was received on my arrival but claimed that a foreign government had requested they no longer speak to me. I, in turn, wasn’t too happy especially as I was supposedly a guest of the Libyan government and was there only because they had invited me to speak to them. The Chief of Intelligence also informed me that our assessment and prediction of what was coming for Libya was deemed to be “incorrect and alarmist” by Western governments they had met with. Sadly I had heard that story before.

So, it is with almost morbid fascination that I now watch the daily fumbling of foreign powers trying to contain a very cancerous situation that could have been prevented a long time ago. The “democracy” and “freedom” they promised the people of Libya has come to nought. Instead, the chaos and destruction of Libya has become a rallying point for extremists from Africa and beyond.

The negative fall-out has resulted in what I refer to as “terror-creep” as the extremists expand their areas of influence and interest across North Africa, reaching as far afield as Nigeria. Left unchecked, they will expand their influence even further into Europe and deeper into Africa.

Air strikes may degrade some of the terror forces and disrupt their logistical and other support structures—for a while. But unless the results of the air strikes are immediately exploited by well-trained and correctly equipped and led ground forces, the effects will remain negligible, unexploited, achieve only minor success and simply harden the resolve of those who thrive on terror and misery.  

Sometimes I recall the GOC of the Indonesian Special Forces commenting to me many years ago that the West will one day learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists over a cup of tea.

If the current “peace talks” fail, then perhaps it is time to put the tea away and start doing something other than talking.

Monday, July 6, 2015

COMPOSITE WARFARE: THE CONDUCT OF SUCCESSFUL GROUND FORCES OPERATIONS IN AFRICA





As a continent, Africa presents her armies with a vast, dynamic and multidimensional operating environment. It has numerous complex and diverse ethnic, religious, cultural and tribal interests and loyalties, along with many multifaceted threat-drivers coupled to varied and infrastructure-poor terrain plus vast climatic variations. The continent is, furthermore, characterized by numerous half-won conflicts and wars fought by incorrectly structured, inadequately trained and ill-equipped armies. For many reasons, these forces have difficulty adapting to the complex, demanding and rapidly changing environments they do battle in. Similarly, the armies have difficulty in decisively defeating the various threats they face. Many of these problems stem from the fact that numerous modern-day African armies are merely clones of the armies established by their once-colonial masters, their Cold War allies or their new international allies. Many of the principles and tactics, techniques and procedures they were - and still are - being taught relate to fighting in Europe and not in Africa. Some of these concepts are not even relevant to Africa.
This book is intended as a guide and textbook for African soldiers and scholars who wish to understand the development of hostilities, strategy, operational design, doctrine and tactics. It also illustrates the importance of nonpartisanship and the mission and role of the armed forces. Officers, NCOs and their subordinates need to, furthermore, understand their role in defending and protecting the government and the people they serve. They additionally need to know how to successfully accomplish their numerous missions with aggression, audacity, boldness, speed and surprise. The book provides the reader with valuable information relating to conventional and unconventional maneuver. It also discusses how African armies can, with structured and balanced forces, achieve strategic, operational and tactical success. It covers the role of government along with operations related to war, operations other than war and intelligence operations and how these operations, operating in a coordinated and unified manner, can secure and strengthen a government.
Composite Warfare draws on the author's experiences and lessons in Central, Southern, East, West and North Africa where he has served numerous African governments as a politico-military strategist, division commander, division adviser, battalion commander and special operations commander.

 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

UPDATING THE NIGERIAN NARRATIVE


There have been, since my posting “FEEDING THE NARRATIVE”, numerous media reports on STTEP’s work in Nigeria.

I, on behalf of STTEP, gave only one interview. I spoke on behalf of the company and not on behalf of the Nigerian Army as any such an attempt would amount to a fraudulent representation of the Nigerian Army. (By the way, I did not run to the media as some have alluded. The media in SA began their usual campaign of condemnation and my one interview was aimed at countering the false narrative they were so keen to propagate to benefit Boko Haram.)

The remainder of the so-called news reports that followed consisted of information lifted off the SOFREP website and many reports were padded with innuendo and fabrications. Some of the journalists even intimated that they had interviewed me when they hadn’t.  

Whereas I fully understand that some in the media need to ensure that their misleading narrative gets as much media play as possible, it is nevertheless a blot on the integrity and honesty of the many good journalists out there trying to make sure they report on real happenings and not figments of their imaginations—or that of their handlers.

I do not mind the mainstream and social media ageing me, demoting me, spelling my name incorrectly, using a stock photo from 1993 (I am told I looked a lot better then than I do now!), and claiming to know my military record. However, these “forgivable errors” merely point to a lack of very basic research. And by the way, Google is not a research asset.

I have no intention of trying to defend either the Nigerian Army or STTEP against fabrications and deception as that would require a book on its own—and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to do so. I do, however, need to point out some of the more obvious deceptions they have tried—and continually try—to carry out:
 
1.    I was a co-founder of Executive Outcomes: This lie has been repeated ad nauseum and forms the foundation of much of the rubbish written about EO. As it has been repeated so often, it has now become “the truth”. Any person who claims that he founded EO or was a co-founder (other than myself and a person who very briefly held shares in the company in 1989/90) is a liar and that can be proven by a quick search at the Registrar of Companies in Pretoria, South Africa. As EO was established in 1988/9 and worked under the radar, it only came to prominence in 1993/4. There are however some who lay claim to founding or being co-founders of EO. Basic research will prove them to be nothing other than liars. Some of these liars have even turned their claims into a business.

2.    STTEP was driving around in tanks in Nigeria: This remarkable comment was made by a journalist who obviously does not know the difference between a tank and an MRAP but who is still deemed to be a “defence journalist” and who happens to be a suspected intelligence agent. I rest my case.

3.    STTEP consists of white racists: Ironically, these reports attempt to create racial tension and nothing else. I am not too sure what race has to do with competence and effectiveness but apparently it means a lot to those journalists. Truth is that the company has white, black and brown Africans in its ranks, some coming from national armies and others from those who fought national armies. Plus, many of our applicants are black which makes a mockery of this comment—unless they too are “white racists”.

4.    EO/STTEP have invaded in Africa in attempts to “colonise” it: Neither EO before it nor STTEP have ever engaged in anti-government actions—anywhere. Some ex-EO men were recruited (several years after EO closed its doors) by a man who (still) puts himself out to be a co-founder of EO (a blatant lie) and he misled them regarding a coup attempt that failed. The initial comments regarding EO “invading” countries was however written by a well-known foreign intelligence asset, despite EO being invited there by the legitimate government to assist them.  Besides, how do Africans colonise Africa especially when invited there by the government of the day? The stupidity of this comment boggles the mind.

5.    I lied to men regarding medical and CASEVAC procedures: This comment by an internet troll claims I lied to my men regarding medical and CASEVAC procedures and options and left wounded men to die. Ironically, as an ex-SADF transport officer who was never part of either EO or STTEP, this troll also appears to know more than I do. No person in his right mind would want to work for a company that treats its employees in such a manner, yet we are overwhelmed with applications… Or is this lie being bandied about for another reason?

6.    I alone was responsible for the training and deployment of 72 Mobile Force in Nigeria: The journo who wrote this has no clue about something known as “team work”. I lay claim to nothing and all credit for the training must be given to the STTEP leader group and training team who achieved a remarkable result in a very short space of time with very little equipment and under extremely difficult and trying conditions.

7.    I sit in my office and expect the men to do what I won’t do: There are those who know me and then obviously many who do not. Suffice to say, I will never ask anyone to do something I am either unwilling or afraid to do. Many who have worked with me can attest to that.

8.    I recently gave a lecture in Europe on STTEP’s tactics in Nigeria: This comment was the result of a poor deduction made by someone who read my blog entry on the RDDC. The journalist who wrote that comment also hinted that he had actually interviewed me—he hadn’t.

9.    We trained the Nigerian Army (NA) in “relentless pursuit”: This comment was way off mark. Relentless pursuit is an element of exploitation and not an operational approach on its own. Another journalist then went on to claim that STTEP was using Boko Haram’s tactics against them!

10. STTEP only consists of ex “apartheid-era” soldiers: Shame, but something must be said to create the perception that we are white racists who harbour the politics of a previous government. Of course, whatever can be said to create racial tensions must be said. And of course, no mention is made of the many black Africans who wish to join STTEP as that would totally upset the narrative. And by the way, many who work with us are not ex “apartheid-era” soldiers.

11. STTEP gets paid for its work: This shocking revelation has truly exposed us as getting paid for our services. The journalist who wrote this obviously works for free. Yes, we do get paid but we get paid a LOT less than foreign PMCs who operate in Africa will multi-million dollar budgets, funded by foreign governments. In this instance, we were a sub-contractor and had no room for any negotiations regarding payment. STTEP has done contracts where it worked for zero-profit to support those who needed help but of course, that must never be mentioned.

12. STTEP is a threat to Africa’s security and stability: It appears that working to ensure an end to conflict, as quickly as possible, constitutes a threat to Africa’s national security and stability. I suspect this comment is made because STTEP is actually seen as a threat to numerous nefarious foreign agendas and interests, not to mention some NGO’s who thrive on conflict as it fuels their income.

13. STTEP has claimed the credit for Boko Haram’s losses:  Unlike those who make false claims, STTEP will NEVER take credit for something it didn’t do. This pithy comment is merely aimed at trying to discredit the Nigerian Army and attempt to create antagonism between the NA and the company. False claims that STTEP rescued hostages in Sambisa forest is another falsehood as that was done by the NA.

14. STTEP engaged in a “secret” war in Nigeria: This sensationalist comment apparently expects the Nigerian Army to send early warning to the enemy that they are about to launch an attack. Maybe the journalist felt that “secret” would add a sinister twist to his story. Or maybe he felt that the Nigerian Army were “playing dirty” by not telling the enemy what their intentions were?

15. STTEP engaged in a “dark war” against Boko Haram: I am not too sure what a “dark war” is. Perhaps the foreign news editor who came up with this comment could enlighten me what it actually means. Or maybe his “sources” that never existed would know what he meant.

16. STTEP is part of the “Executive Outcomes Group”: The so-called “EO Group” (http://www.eogroup.biz) are conmen who are trying to use a defunct company’s name and reputation to gain contracts—albeit under false pretences. Despite being (telephonically) confronted over this fraudulent business practice, they still persist in their deception. Maybe the media should talk to them as they claim—on their website—they have “10 000 employees working in 70 countries”. 

I suppose I could go on and on…but my ramblings will merely become boring—even to myself. Besides, it gives the media the opportunity to say I ramble on and on…

Perhaps now the many decent and honourable journalists will understand our suspicion talking to them. They have been tainted by their very unethical, unprofessional and unscrupulous colleagues who continually abuse their positions to feed a false agenda and narrative—and who, apart from their salaries, most often get paid by their shadow paymasters as well.

Does that make me hateful of the media?

No, only very cautious as trust is not given unconditionally, it is earned.

Friday, May 8, 2015

SUCCESSFUL COMBAT OPERATIONS


Whereas influences such as adherence to the principles, air superiority, relative strengths, selection, training, equipment, doctrine, communications, leadership, terrain, operational design, and so forth play a crucial role in determining the outcome of any combat operation, I believe the most important criterion for ground forces to attain victory on the battlefield are:
 
  1. Timing: The timing of any attack or strike is crucial to throwing an enemy off balance and seizing the initiative, especially if the enemy’s intentions and routine are known and the forces are able to conduct both day and night operations. Climatic conditions and variations, along with terrain, must be considered to enable the timing of the attack or strike to place the enemy at a distinct disadvantage. The timing for lifting stand-off bombardments and air delivered fire must enable the ground forces to close with the enemy and annihilate him. Timing can increase operational and tactical surprise and result in increased momentum and tempo.  
  2. Synchronicity: The manoeuvre of forces along with direct and indirect fire must be synchronised with close air support to achieve the best effect to degrade and destroy the enemy and his materiel. This requires the force to have good communications at all times. Similarly, swarm attacks must be synchronised to coincide with other operations in the enemy’s deployment area.
  3. Surprise: Surprise is a force-multiplier and is the result of agility, speed, shock action, operational security and deception. Its aim is to throw the enemy off balance, regain and maintain the initiative and momentum, and disrupt and exploit the enemy’s confusion. The enemy must be forced to defend over multiple fronts against both conventional and unconventional direct and indirect approaches. Surprise must always be exploited.
  4. Tempo: Tempo is the result of momentum combined with speed of action/reaction. Aimed at forcing the enemy into a defensive or reactive posture, it enables the attacking forces to increase momentum, pressure and shock action and thereby force the enemy into a disadvantage. High-tempo operations must give the enemy no respite but must be logistically sustainable.
  5. Manoeuvre: Horisontal and vertical envelopment/manoeuvre options are dictated by terrain and the manoeuvre assets a force has at its disposal. Rapid manoeuvre, ever-increasing momentum and tempo, and synchronised firepower is essential to annihilate the enemy.   
  6. Firepower: Focused firepower is required to overwhelm and annihilate the enemy. All direct, indirect and air-delivered fire must be coordinated and synchronised to achieve maximum effect. Uncoordinated firepower will not achieve a decisive result.
  7. Speed: Speed of action/reaction is required to disrupt the enemy’s intentions, increase momentum and tempo, place additional pressure on the enemy and buckle his defences or disrupt his intentions. Speed of action and reaction can seize the initiative from the enemy and surprise him. Manoeuvre assets add to speed.     
  8. Logistics: An efficient and functional logistical system is required to sustain operations. A failure in logistics will reduce momentum, tempo, manoeuvre, firepower and speed and thereby cede initiative to the enemy. A force lacking in logistics will lose momentum and become a vulnerable force that is unable to withstand enemy attacks.
However, the manner in which the armed forces are organised, structured, trained, equipped, and led will determine the manner in how they will fight to achieve victory—or flee the battlefield in disarray.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

THANK YOU RDDC!




It was a great honour and privilege to have been invited to Copenhagen, Denmark, to address interested parties and Masters-level students at the Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC) on “New Wars”.

Whereas my contribution to the seminar and the subsequent debate as well as the lectures on New Wars was miniscule at best, it was heartening to see the interest shown by those I engaged with regarding the many conflicts we experience – and will continue to experience – in Africa.

The visit to the RDDC also allowed us to discuss numerous issues such as politics in Africa, the development of conflict and war, why governments fail, the scourge of poaching and where they think Africa is possibly going wrong.

We also discussed issues such as the threats facing Africa, the role of foreign powers, the UN and PMCs and why many if not most of these interventions fail or deliver very little results – in many instances only escalating the already-existing tensions and conflicts. 

These discussions made me realize that the intent of those I spoke with at the RDDC have a genuine desire to see an improvement in Africa’s lot. To Africa, that can only be good.

My sincerest thanks to the Royal Danish Defence College as well as everyone who partook in our discussions and in particular to Professors Thomas Mandrup and Stig Jenson for the friendship and the opportunity given to me.