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.

Monday, December 2, 2019



I was recently asked to comment on the Russian PMC Wagner’s role and their current lack of success in Mozambique.
I do not usually comment on the work of other PMCs, but as some in the mediavery falsely and stupidly—alluded and/or claimed I was part of Wagner’s creation, I feel I ought to voice my opinion. Others in the media, again very falsely, claimed that STTEP had submitted a proposal to the Mozambique government, but that it had been rejected—especially as no such proposal was ever submitted.
It is sometimes very difficult to counter the media’s constant lying with reference to EO/STTEP as people tend to believe the ‘creative journalism’ they read in the media without any verification of the story. I have been down that road before…
Equally dim-witted is the assertion that EO/STTEP were/get paid in ‘resources’. (It is very difficult to pay employees in barrels of oil, carats of diamonds, or whatever other resources I/we supposedly get paid in). I suppose by padding their stories with lies, some of these ‘journalists’ feel they are worthy of some journalistic prize.
Back to Wagner: It is a well-known fact that they are in Mozambique. It is also a well-known fact that they have found themselves totally out of their depth. I recently commented that arrogance and over confidence can result in disaster for those who are unprepared for deployment in Africa. Africa does not take kindly to a Western or Eastern doctrine, or such approaches to conflict as a template that can be superimposed on the continent.
I also commented that a lack of their understanding of the impact of the Operating Environment (OE), the Area of Operations (AO), the terrain, the threat, the customs and traditions of the local people in the AO, and so forth all indicate a definite lack of preparation.  As intelligence drives strategy, and tactics is related to terrain, it is apparent they missed that part as well.  
However, the mere fact that a Russian PMC is in Mozambique, is an indication that the Mozambique armed forces need help, and that South Africa missed a golden opportunity to project force by providing robust and effective support. Many African armies have become victims of their own making. But that is another argument for another day…
I certainly do not applaud the fact that Wagner suffered casualties. Rightly or wrongly, they are there to do a job—and if they are successful, much of Sub-Saharan Africa may benefit from their success. If they fail, the threat will simply be incentivised and gain additional support—and that ought to be of grave concern to the Mozambique government, and many other governments.
Am I pleased that Wagner are in Mozambique? No, as I believe there are other PMCs way better qualified and with a better track record than they have, but it was a decision taken by the Mozambique government.
Perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures…But ultimately, you get what you pay for.  

Friday, October 18, 2019


The disinformation piece published by ‘The Bell’ on 29 January 2019, seems to be steadily gaining traction, and creeping across the informational domain. I initially thought that people would see through the deception in the article, but sadly, they didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
The piece, titled “Private army for the president: the story of the most delicate assignment of Evgeny Prigozhin“ (https://thebell.io/41889-2/) tries to connect Executive Outcomes (EO) with the formation of the Russian PMC ‘Wagner Group’, and furthermore implies that I am/was an advisor to the Russians. The Bell’s article, amongst other ‘valuable insights’, states:

“In the official program of the St. Petersburg economic forum in June 2010, Barlow’s name is listed as a participant in one short session …. the main reason for his visit was a closed presentation for a small delegation of the General Staff”.

It is sometimes difficult to defend oneself against a lie that has gained momentum. I can only suppose that it is irrelevant that such a ‘closed presentation’ with the Russian General Staff was never on the cards and never happened. Another irrelevant fact is that I certainly wouldn’t compromise EO’s reputationor even that of STTEPin favour of a foreign government-sponsored companyespecially in Africa.
The origins of The Bell can be found here: https://thebell.io/about/?utm_source=desktop_topline
The same piece, with ‘additional reporting’ recently surfaced on ‘Veterans Today’  (https://www.veteranstoday.com/2019/09/13/russia-a-private-army-for-the-president-the-tale-of-evgeny-prigozhins-most-delicate-mission/), dated September 23, 2019. Veterans Today puts itself out as ‘a journal for the clandestine community’.
When a journal that supposedly focusses on ‘clandestine operations’ get its ‘facts’ so wrong, it becomes suspiciously clear that they base their ‘clandestine intelligence’ on disinformation, and definitely not on irrefutable and verifiable facts. Basic research is no longer a requirement; instead, acting as an extension of a Russian disinformation piece is. It seems Veterans Today are trying hard to give credibility to a Russian disinformation pieceI wonder why?  
The fact that the original ‘journalists’ were paid to produce this masterpiece of deception came as no great surprise to me. Their paymasters are also no great surprise to me. Apparently, the fact that EO closed its doors more than a decade before the Wagner Group was even a thought in the minds of the Russians also seems to have passed them by. But then again, EO/myself have frequently been blamed for things that happened long before the company came into being, and even long after the company closed its doors.
Although I cannot comment on the rest of The Bells piece, I feel I am more than qualified to comment on EO/myself.
What was a fleetingly nice comment was that the ‘journalists’ promoted me to the rank of Lt GenI almost fell for this promotion until I realised I was reading a carefully prepared piece where fact and fiction were interwoven with one another to create a specific narrative and perception.
Given that I have also spoken, lectured, and participated in numerous forums in the traditional West, I suppose EO/myself were also instrumental in creating all of the foreign PMCs now running around Africa, and acting as their advisers as well.
Sometimes, I can only shake my head and wonder why, in this world of scientific wonders, a tablet has not yet been developed to counteract stupidity. The reality is that in our interconnected world, deception, through mobilising disinformation and fake news, now sadly carries more weight than verified information.
A shame indeed, but I suppose ‘The Bell’ and ‘Veterans Today’ also took some of their lessons from the EO-era SA Intelligence Services and the media, and achieved their deceptive aim.
After all, if a lie is repeated enough times, it eventually morphs into the ‘truth’. As Lord Tim Bell, the founder of the disgraced and now defunct PR company Bell Pottinger once claimed: “Why tell the truth when a lie will do.”
The Bell seems to have adopted that approach.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


(This is neither a media statement nor an invitation for party political rhetoric)

(Adapted from a talk I gave at the Rooiplaas gathering on 6 April 2019)

South Africa’s national security ought to be above petty party politics. Unfortunately, it is not.
I believe that many people in our government, and indeed most of our citizens, are unaware of the fact that, as a country, we are being targeted by Fourth Generation Warfare (FGW). I wrote about this phenomenon in my book Composite Warfare under the heading of 4th Evolution of Warfare.
I hope that I am wrong but what I see unfolding is not merely a clash between different ideologies but a concerted effort to bring about the collapse of the country. This will impact negatively on every citizen of the country regardless of colour, language, and religion, and unless there is dedicated, driven, and urgent intervention—supported by all political parties—the momentum will merely build up over time and will become increasingly difficult to stop.
Like any other conflict in Africa, FGW is about influence, interests, power, and resources.
FGW is characterised by the following:

1. It is multidimensional in nature and of long term duration. The build-up is gradual and its escalates over time
2. It includes acts of armed action, terror, sabotage, violent protests, and violent crimes driven by different ideologies that act as the glue holding it all together
3. Its support base is decentralised, and it (usually) enjoys covert financial support
4. It is a direct attack on a target’s culture, past, style of governance, and its support base, and includes attacks on—and the wanton murder of—civilians
5. Hate-speech is a vital component of this type of warfare as it adds to anger, division, tension, militancy, and hatred
6. It is a highly sophisticated psychological warfare and propaganda campaign conducted through mainstream and social media manipulation, internet/cyber warfare, internet trolls, and bots
7. All potential targets are placed under pressure ie political, economic, governance, social, law enforcement, and military. This is to create the perception that the government’s security forces are either unable or unwilling to intervene, or that they cannot be trusted to secure the populace
8. It contains threats of punishment, violence and/or sanction against any person or party that wishes to intervene or counter its end-goal. This will usually be driven by a small but vocal group of people who will use a distortion of both history and facts to justify and propagate their militancy. In this process of created anger, they will threaten to resort to an armed uprising  
9. It occurs in conflicts that are usually low intensity in nature and includes participants from all political and ideological sides
10. Non-participants (the populace) present the security forces with strategic, operational, and tactical dilemmas, but to the proponents of FGW, the populace standing between them and the government/security forces are merely collateral damage
11. It lacks an apparent and defined hierarchy
12. It appears small in size, but uses a vast and all-inclusive network of communication, media coverage, soft power, and financial support
13. It employs the use of tactics such as violent organised crime, violent and destructive protests, sabotage of state infrastructure, threats to disrupt and/or erode the health services, industry and food security, and even terrorism and small guerrilla actions.
14. Political warfare plays a large role in FGW to breakdown resistance.

Many of the above characteristics are already very visible in our political landscape.
I believe we are where we are as we do not have a coherent and realistic National Security Strategy to advise, support, strengthen, and guide our National Strategy. If a strategy is good but cannot be implemented, it is a waste of time and effort—and it gives the initiative to the bad guys.
Sadly, as seen from the recent report on our state intelligence services (SSA report), the SSA became a fiefdom and partisan intelligence organisation aimed at protecting personal interests instead of collecting intelligence on national interests. This placed us on a very dangerous trajectory of strategic failure. It has also eroded the pillars of state to such an extent that they are close to collapse.
This can only be turned around by reassessing these strategies, stopping the divisive and violent political rhetoric that is taking place, and re-establishing the rule of law. Just these few actions will go a long way in partly negating the political warfare/FGW campaign that is currently unfolding. Unless we do that, we will continue sinking.
As a result of these failures, the President can be likened to a ship’s captain that has a blind navigator. He knows where he wants to go but won’t be able to get there as the navigator has no clue where the map is, and he cannot see the iceberg that is rapidly approaching.

Monday, September 10, 2018


(Please note that racist, party political, and religious comments will be deleted)

This is the only country most of us have. If we don’t work at making it a success, we are digging our own premature grave.
Given what appears to be the increasingly fragile political trajectory we have now embarked on, it is increasingly difficult to remain optimistic and positive about this great country’s future. Government plans and policies aimed at promoting progress are countered, stifled, and denigrated by ruling and opposition party members alike. Calls for anarchy are becoming the order of the day as lesser political parties are given major media play. The silent majority in our country are muzzled as their words carry no weight. The voiceless remain without a voice. Yet the silent majority and voiceless are the prime victims of the unfolding chaos.
I have always maintained that I would rather be part of an imperfect solution than a forced participant in a civil war. Yet, it seems that many across the political, racial, and religious divide are calling for exactly that—armed conflict within our own borders. Their calls are increasingly and disturbingly gaining traction, not only from the uneducated, impoverished, those who have lost hope, and those that were misled with false promises, but also from senior political figures and perception creators who are intimating ‘blood must flow’.
To prepare for the bloodletting, some political parties and minority groups have already established so-called ‘military wings’. Others have already begun stockpiling weapons and ammunition…
The reality is that the political clock cannot be turned backwards. Nor can it be fast-forwarded without considering the chaos and uncertainty it can create.
What is cause for some concern is that those who seem to be calling for an immediate fast-forward to encourage conflict and war in our country, have very little to no idea what they are truly calling for. I doubt they have walked through the figurative rivers of blood, or seen and smelled the bloated bodies of the dead.
Perhaps they should be sent to DRC, Libya, Nigeria, Niger, South Sudan, or Somalia to get some sense….
When one reads, hears, or sees the daily news, regardless which medium is used, it is obvious the calls for an armed uprising are steadily increasing. The snowball effect an armed uprising brings to South Africa is a lack of domestic and foreign investment, destruction of the country and its infrastructure along with property, the killing of fellow-citizens—and ultimately, national bankruptcy and abject failure. The rhetoric that is currently being spouted by the conflict callers and false prophets of doom, complete with ‘false facts’, is adding to the looming chaos.
The path from ‘reasonable economic and political stability’ to state fragility is gathering momentum, and is being fuelled on a daily basis. The lessons of history have conveniently been ignored by those who should know better—but don’t.
In my book ‘Composite Warfare’, I listed what I believe to be the most common drivers and elements that constitute a fragile state, and I believe we are either very close, or have already arrived there. Not only that, our fragility is gathering momentum and leading us headlong towards a failed state. Indeed, several elements of a failed state have already manifested themselves.
State departments, municipalities, state-owned enterprises, and large critical service providers are collapsing and, in some instances, have already collapsed. Coupled to this sorry state of affairs, corruption, blatant theft, financial mismanagement (another term for theft), industrial action and sabotage, a shrinking economy, rising unemployment, organised crime, incompetence, protests, strikes and violent marches, hate speech, and more, have simply added to the steady degradation of the Pillars of State. Our falling currency does not help matters.
Paid-for services can no longer be expected—instead, one is deemed fortunate if they are indeed even delivered. Taxpayers are being slowly choked to death or forced to leave the country. Others are driven away by an increasing crime wave. The homes of those that can afford it are now secured by walls, gates, electric fencing, cameras, dogs, and private security guards.
Every traffic light hides a potential ambush, carjacking, or robbery. Political rhetoric has successfully divided the country along economic, racial, and tribal lines. The sense of entitlement that has permeated our society is now considered the new norm. In fact, ‘entitlement’ has become institutionalised.
Our Constitution has become a document that holds no value to some. All constitutions are occasionally subjected to debates, reviews, and changes, but to rewrite elements thereof to suit a specific political narrative is a folly that will result in massive political and economic aftershocks, and upheaval.
Attempts by the Presidency to halt this mess and restore order are being met with fierce resistance by those whose who appointed themselves the sole beneficiaries of the country’s wealth. The very emotive issue of land has become a major political stage that is being exploited by all sides.
Over the past weeks I have watched us slide deeper towards chaos. It has also made me realise that attempts at finding a solution are rapidly becoming wishful thinking.
Whereas governments may come and go, the State remains. We seem to be heading towards a failed state that will need to cope with generational and institutionalised damage. I have no desire to be living in a failed state. And unless drastic government intervention is exercised, it seems it is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’.
It is no wonder that so many beyond our borders and our shores view us as an overripe banana republic, where some are even trying to steal its bruised skin.  

Monday, August 20, 2018


A rising tide of violent crime, a lot of it perpetrated by children and teenagers—themselves often the victims of violence at home, or under peer pressure, or under the influence of alcohol and drugs—has resulted in many blaming the failure of law enforcement agencies, the schools, and the government. Few parents are willing to point the finger at themselves. However, parenting comes with numerous responsibilities, as no child asked to be brought into this world.

Crimes committed by minors are not unique to South Africa—it seems to be an escalating international trend, if one is to believe numerous foreign publications and reports. Murder, rape, robbery, arson, stabbings, lack of respect, vandalism, and so forth, seem to increasingly be the order of the day.
In Africa, numerous armed anti-government forces make extensive use of children. Minors are either forced to join their ranks, or kidnapped into a life of armed conflict to serve as spies, ‘soldiers’, load carriers, prostitutes, and such like. Others are coerced into becoming suicide bombers.
A Ugandan academic recently compared the children recruited to serve in the gangs on the Cape flats to ‘child soldiers’. Not surprisingly, they bear many similarities to the child soldiers running around across Africa, and causing mayhem with a large degree of impunity.
Minors commit their crimes with no conscience or indeed accountability. Some do so as a result of peer pressure. Others are attracted to a life of ‘glamourous violence’ such as they see on TV; they want to become criminals as it gives them a ‘family identity’, a ‘uniform’, a sense of belonging, and the bling that goes with being a gangster.
With little to no education, and trapped in a cycle of ongoing violence—coupled to an increasingly high rate of unemployment, dysfunctional families,  and a loss of hope (especially in impoverished communities), these child-gangsters opt for a life of violent crime, with the misguided belief that it will stand them in good stead and improve their quality of life. In some instances, their decision is driven to initially survive. Ultimately it gives them power over people.
Yet, a life of crime can also lead to a very short life. Some get killed, and others end up in a bad space. Those who wish to walk away from the gangs they belong to, face almost certain violent retaliation at the hands of those they intend to abandon—or possibly compromise.
These young criminals have no fear of the police, the laws of the land, or the communities they reside in. Life and property are merely there—and theirs—to be taken. They have also learned that ‘crime does pay’—a view that motivates others to join the on-going crime spree, and this merely accelerates the growth of the child gangster phenomenon. This form of ‘violent entitlement’ is gathering its own momentum and will become increasingly difficult to stop.
By the time most of these child gangsters reach adulthood, they are already hardened criminals. 
We are quick to blame the failures of law enforcement on containing this ever-growing problem. Yet, the law enforcement failures—of which there are many—cannot be blamed solely on the policemen who serve.
Law enforcement officers are a reflection of the society they represent, but they also reflect how and what they are trained to do. In some instances, they also represent the crime syndicates.  This has resulted in many people losing faith in the South African Police Service. There are some policemen that are willing participants of crime, but not all of them are. This has, however, resulted in these young criminals either being protected by corrupt police officers, or developing a misguided sense of entitlement with no fear of legal or judicial action against them. This merely accelerates the growth of child gangsters.
Our education system, as broken, eroded, and withered as it is, is there to supposedly teach our children, and prepare them as the future leaders of South Africa. Like all things, education starts at home and it is here that discipline, manners, and respect for self and others ought to be imprinted—not only at school. Schools should desist from propagating politics, and should instead focus on education. But a crumbling educational system with a dire shortage of qualified teachers is increasingly unable to prepare the youth for the future.
Government also has a role to play in this growing problem. It has not done much to stimulate the economy, incentivise businesses and entrepreneurs, or allay the investor and citizen fears it has helped to create. It must act decisively against crime and violence. Its daily failures with regard to collapsed municipalities, degrading infrastructure, and an ever-decreasing interest in its people, are well known. Its actions have, in addition, strangled taxpayers and degraded business enterprises. This has created a shrinking economy and rising unemployment. Unemployment, and a loss of hope and income are the breeding grounds for criminality.
The role parents ought to play in the development of a responsible human being can never be overlooked. Many parents are so busy trying to survive in very difficult economic times, and they tend to become so focussed on family survival that they neglect their parental duties.
According to a recent assessment of violence, more than 70% of children have witnessed violence, either at home or elsewhere, have been the victims of crime, or know someone who has been impacted by crime. What does that tell us about the country’s future leaders?
With poor or no education, trapped in a cycle of poverty, and an evolving history of crime and violence, things are unlikely to improve.
Unless there is urgent intervention on many levels, we are setting up our country’s future—and that of our children—for a spectacular failure.  

Monday, April 23, 2018


It is very evident that there are people—and civil leaders—from across the political spectrum that are intent on ensuring that divisive politics, crime, militancy, and racial and religious tensions are fuelled, and anger and dissent encouraged. Social media platforms and some mainstream media outlets are increasingly being abused, used, and exploited, to convey disinformation, lies, and hate speech.
Social media abounds with official looking documents, along with dated photographs and video clips (often ‘posed’), sometimes accompanied by voice notes, and is being used by opposites across the political spectrum to further the aims, agendas, intentions, and false narratives of those who are sowing the seeds of panic and calling for an armed uprising in South Africa.
Perhaps they believe that our country would be better off if it ended up looking like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen?  Perhaps they ought to read the story of agent ‘Curveball’ and how his disinformation, lies, and fake intelligence resulted mass damage, death, and destruction in Iraq? Elsewhere, the story is much the same…Is this the ends they are working for?
Many of those who continue to call for confrontation, conflict, and war, probably have very little to no clue what an armed uprising and civil war truly involves. ‘Opinion makers’ should desist from hoping and wishing for conflict and civil war—they might just discover too late that their hopes and wishes have become reality as every action has an (often unequal) opposite reaction: this calls for thinking before speaking or writing.
People should be wary who they accept their ‘news’ from. Blind acceptance of what we hear or read makes us mere sheep in the eyes of those driving the destructive agendas and narratives.
Even more surprisingly is that some people believe that some ‘foreign ally’ will rush in to save the country when it is burning. It is time to seriously readjust that thinking as it is both foolish and delusionary—especially as some of these ‘foreign allies’ are aiding and abetting the growth of conflict in our country.
It is perfectly understandable that not all of us share the same political, racial, or religious ideals, or view life through the same prism. We all have our own unique views regarding ethnicity, language, race, religion, politics, and so forth—after all, that is what makes us who we are.
To merely watch and wring one’s hands, and allow the problems to take their (usually) criminal and destructive course is to transform evil and hooliganism into a ‘legitimate’ worse. It is equally irresponsible and criminal to fuel the flames of these lies, and feed the destructive narrative.
Taking up arms may be one way of resolving the many problems we face but it is the most devastating option of all—and many of us have witnessed first-hand the devastation this brings. But, there are other options available—if only we are willing to look for them.
Many mainstream and armchair journalists seldom disseminate ‘real news’. Instead, they create lies or ‘fake news’ to create negativism, demoralise people, fuel anger and hatred, and impart (or rather try to force) their warped opinions, views, and beliefs on others. After all, they need to protect the narrative they propagate.
Many others swallow these deceptions and lies, and pass it on to anyone who is willing to read or listen to them—after adding their own spin, opinions and views to increase the fakeness under the guise of ‘truth’.
Fanning the flames of conflict and war by blaming everyone else for our woes, and blaming the past for our present failures, is nothing short of refusing to take responsibility for our current position.
It is said that when lies become the truth, there can be no turning back.
We only have one country and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we do not go down the path of conflict and war.
I would rather be part of an imperfect solution than part of the massive and destructive problem—where there will be no winner.

Friday, April 13, 2018


The book ‘Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds’ was finally signed off this morning and is due to go to print.
Revising and updating the book was a bumpy and at times, a painful journey. However, a great editor and an understanding publisher made it easier to finally reach the end of the road. I am happy with the final result, and I hope the men who served the company so loyally will also be pleased with the end result. Obviously, it was not possible to mention everyone by name who served in the company, but those who served know who they are. They can be justly proud of what they achieved.
The book (770 pages) contains a lot of new information and photographs. It not only covers the contracts EO engaged in, but also a lot of new information on the devious role played by elements of Military Intelligence, and their lackeys—including some very unethical journalists who used their poison-pens to further their own personal agendas. The double-dealing of our politicians of that time, and their efforts to deceive the South African public, is also discussed.  
The cover of the book was changed as the publisher felt it necessary to break from previous covers—including a book written by someone else that used virtually the same cover.
My thanks to everyone who encouraged and supported me in getting to the end of this road. My thanks too to the Military Intelligence officers who found the courage to come clean and finally speak to me.
I truly hope that the book will finally lay to rest the many ghosts of the past and expose the false and misleading ‘intelligence’ and ‘news’ for the lies they were.