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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. I am a contributor 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.

Friday, February 6, 2009

THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICAN ARMIES

Speaking to a friend of mine a while ago, I was somewhat taken aback when he intimated that he had a good chuckle whenever he was sent to do training in Africa. He was a serving soldier in a European army and part of his country’s “aid package” to Africa, was – and still is - to train African armies. The reason for my surprise was not that he told me that the country they train becomes beholden to them for its weapons of war, political goodwill and aid – I have suspected this all along – but that their brief is to purposely train the African armies badly.


The more I thought about this sneaky approach to training, the more agitated I became – especially as I consider myself an African living in Africa.


I have, for a long time, known of both the West’s and the East’s efforts to continually sabotage Africa. I have also witnessed first-hand the betrayal of entire nations – African and otherwise- by the West when it suited their aims. But, as long as conflict rages in Africa, resources remain cheap and the desire for war material remains at an all-time high. The poorer these armies are trained, the easier it is to defeat them with insurgent forces – the rebels, in turn, often supported by the very people that trained the government forces. When I suggested the reason of their brief – to ensure instability - he very reluctantly agreed with me. It also made me understand why some African armies are often unable to contain even small rebel groups.


From my experience, a disciplined, well-trained, well-led African army is more than a match for any other army, let alone a rebel group. I base this comment on the time I served with 32 Battalion’s Reconnaissance Wing, the African Special Forces members I trained in covert operations, the work of 101 Battalion, Koevoet and the like. Many of these men later joined Executive Outcomes where they continued to give outstanding work. They never ran from a fight, followed their orders to the letter and never complained. They didn’t need to watch television every night, get “time out cards” when the going got tough, live off balanced diets, rely on technology to win the battles they fought and so on.


My experience of working with African soldiers is that they are men who are loyal to a fault, take well to discipline and harsh combat conditions, they are adaptable, they are willing to follow orders exactly, they fight like lions, they follow their commanders and yet when the smoke clears, they are still proud to be soldiers. But to achieve this, they need good training, leadership and discipline.


However, looking at the conflicts in Africa, it is very clear that the military “aid packages” foreign governments are keen to hand out are serving their purposes very well. African armies are poorly trained, poorly led and purposely kept weak.


When African governments realise what is happening, and dain to approach a PMC to ensure that they are given the best, non-political, no-strings-attached training they can get, they are very quickly condemned. Suddenly no consideration is given to the fact that the PMC is made up of ex-professional soldiers who want to ensure that the government in question gets the best training it can afford. The off-key chorus is then led by the “aid giving” government who, when it had a chance, did everything in its power to sabotage those armies with an evil agenda hidden behind a smile, condescension and false kindness.


The PMC industry does, however, have its own bad apples to contend with. It is the bad apples that create the stink surrounding the disciplined, efficient PMCs. Whereas PMCs are quick to blame the media for their problems, they will find their problems a lot closer to home than that. (The modern-day PMC does not have to fight the mass media as EO did). It is the PMC-poser companies that need to be exposed for what they are. But it is also a responsibility of the real PMCs to expose the fly-by-night companies out there operating on someone else’s reputation and in the process discrediting everyone.


The reality is that a professional, disciplined PMC will provide a better, more cost-effective and more efficient service than a government armed force, especially as they come with no hidden agenda. But, those that do get exposed for having a hidden agenda need to be taken to task and their contracts immediately terminated, along with international exposure.


An African government, like any other government, can decide on its own destiny. It can approach that destiny in a prepared or an unprepared manner. Yet, when it decides on its own destiny, it suddenly discovers that it is not allowed to do so unless it is willing to pay the price of international condemnation, sanctions and isolation. Obviously, the UN does not want this to happen as their incompetent and corrupt peacekeepers will be without work. NGOs will, likewise, condemn this as they will be caught with reduced funding.


The African Union’s dismal performance is further testimony to this “strategy” of “train badly, lose easily”. But where does the blame lie and who benefits from this? One need look no further that the military-aid giving government.


I believe the time has come for African governments to look at a “no-strings-attached” professional PMC to train to their armed forces. The result will be a better trained and led armed force, increased stability and no international political-, financial-, and social blackmail threats to contend with.


My next post will take a look at the difference between strategy and tactics.


Added on 7 February 2009: Please see http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?art_id=nw20090207091706646C101041&set_id=1&click_id=68&sf= This illustrates, as a recent example, what I had written about. Poorly planned and Western encouraged to ensure even more problems in the Great Lakes area…no doubt the blame will be placed on the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force while the US military will claim its innocence at the incident. But until such time as African governments decide on their own destiny, these things will continue to happen.


86 comments:

matt said...

Intense article Eeben. It is shameful to think of all the ways the west and the east has screwed with Africa, and the impact it has had.

The other thing I wanted to mention was that some of the finest security contractors I worked with in Iraq were South African. Loyal is right, and extremely motivated and professional. One of my co-workers that was killed over there was from South Africa, and his loss was a big hit on the team.

Even the equipment from your country was significant to this war. I drove Mambas and Casspirs all over the place in Iraq, and those vehicles were awesome(even for their age). If you look at today's MRAP or Buffalo, you can see the influence for those vehicles came from the SA designed vehicles. Cheers. -matt

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am somewhat passionate about Africa, despite all of its problems, Matt. But, I will always believe that Africans must solve African problems and a few professional PMCs will certainly go a long way to making sure that Africa can withstand the attacks it is subject to by so-called insurgents.

As a South African, I am proud of the manner in which many of my old colleagues approach their work. Of course, we also had our bad apples – everyone has them – but in general, they give their all, regardless of skin colour. I therefore found your comment on the South Africans a great pleasure to read.

As we were so isolated by the West, we were forced to develop our own equipment to cope with our combat situations. Those old vehicles you refer to were real life-savers at times. I recall a sneering comment once made by someone in the British “establishment” at how ridiculous-looking our vehicles were. Now they too want those “ridiculous-looking” vehicles. But, the reality of it all was that we had no technology and were forced to think of ways to counter our threat(s) at that time. When one has nothing or very little to fight with, you are forced to think what can be done.

I was in one of those ridiculous-looking vehicles, known as a “Buffel” (Afrikaans word for “Buffalo”) that hit a double British Mk7 anti-tank landmine on 1 January 1980. None of us were killed. The Buffel was recovered and subsequently repaired and was soon back in action again. TO me, that said a lot.

Rgds,

Eeben

bulletbunny said...

good on barlow for exposing the sickening truth behind foreign military aid to african countries. let us hope african countries will find the courage to kick out these deceitful bastards who are leaching this continent of its resources while showing nothing but contempt for its people. let africa sort out its own problems, using its own people. there are many white africans who care passionately about this continent without wanting to usurp black governments in the process. barlow is obviously one of them.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

One either loves Africa or hates it, Bulletbunny. I happen to love Africa and care deeply about what is happening. Those of us who live here, know that we have many problems that even we don’t always fully understand or appreciate. But I, like many others, have nowhere to “flee” to and I would rather work at being part of a workable solution that part of a bigger problem.

For too long African governments have been exploited in a very negative manner as far as their armed forces are concerned. I believe the time has come for these governments to stand up and make a decision to use African resources to resolve African problems. I do not imply that foreign PMCs must be excluded but I would want to see use of dedicated, professional PMCs aimed at making a marked difference.

Those of us who live in SA, saw how the British Army’s BMATT decimated the SADF to create a new incompetent SANDF. This type of “strategy” is costing Africa dearly not only in terms of lives lost but in terms of stability and growth.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Hey Eeben, I just read that article in your edit, and that just blows me away on how that operation was handled. Here is an excerpt.

"The officials said a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon's new Africa Command worked with Ugandan officers, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1-million in fuel.

No US forces were involved in ground fighting, the Times said, adding that human rights advocates and villagers said the Ugandan and Congolese troops did little to protect villagers from the attackers.

US officials admitted that villagers were left unprotected.

"We provided insights and alternatives for them to consider, but their choices were their choices," the newspaper quoted a US military official who was briefed on the operation as saying, in reference to the African ground forces.

"In the end, it was not our operation," the US official said."

If it's not your operation, and you don't want to own up to your assistance and the reason why you are there in the first place, then these guys should not be in the business of messing with Africa. Either you are there to impact positive change, or you are not. It sounds half baked to me, and look at the results. The rebel group went on a murder spree. Pfft.

I then think about what EO could do with that same amount of money that this team was willing to throw around, and just shake my head. Or look at what MPRI did with Croatia? What the hell are we doing in Africa? Look at Somalia even? What the heck was that? We convince Ethiopia to go in with troops and they get their ass handed to them, and then they cut and run leaving the extremists even more powerful.

AFRICOM would do well to talk to an Afrikaner like yourself Eeben, and start practicing what the war planners have been preaching. Are they learning organizations, and are they reaching out to those that are uniquely qualified to discuss such things?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My point exactly, Matt. Whereas the US could be a force for positive change, they seem to have been faffing around in Uganda. If this is how AFRICOM plans to “help” Africa, they had better leave soon. That said, there are many people who live in Africa who could give AFRICOM good advice but again it goes back to the “couldn’t care less factor” we keep witnessing over here.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Hi Eeben, yes it’s very clear that the West’s main goal is to actually destabilize Africa. They have no interest in a stable and prosperous Africa. That is also why they sacrificed two “pro- western” governments of Rhodesia and South Africa to be taken over by communists, in the same era when they were “fighting” the so called cold war i.e. Anti communism.
It’s also very clear who is behind the destabilization of the East DRC and the rest of the Great Lakes region for that matter, where unimaginable human suffering and slaughter is taking place.
They are also very hard at work in destabilizing the Sudan not to mention other African countries, and all this because of the vast mineral riches they can have for virtually nothing. Democracy is a word only existing on paper for the West!
Thanks for the interesting articles!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sadly, South Africa and Zimbabwe/Rhodesia will never be on the West’s conscience, John. The “progress” we see in Zimbabwe is a direct consequence of the West’s “help” to Africa. Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, DRC to name a few have been brought to their knees by the West’s “aid”.

It has nothing to do with pro-Western governments in Africa but everything to do with destabilisation. This is the picture the West is keen to paint as “democracy” and it is no small wonder Africa questions this political system. As long as the West gets its access to resources, they couldn’t care less what they are doing to the content we live in. I often wonder what the US would do if EO was brought back to life and went off to create chaos in South America.

AFRICOM may have been a good idea at the time but its methodology leaves much to be desired. Of course, it is these very actions which make one realise what its true intent is. After this botched deniable AFRICOM operation that was aimed at convincing Uganda to carry out the operation, I am sure that President Museveni of Uganda will now be targeted to discredit him and the UPDF. The fall-out of this will suit the US and its allies greatly. Of course, the UN will see this as a great opportunity to jump on board and add to the chaos – while making money.

I see on Jake’s blog (http://combatoperator.com/blog/) that Norway is to soon deploy its “military experts” to the DRC. Now what on earth do they know about warfare in Africa? I suppose that is meant to pacify us all…

I just wish African governments will realise that Africans should be used to solve Africa’s problems. As long as they allow themselves to be manipulated and abused, these problems will flourish.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Eeben,
This is scary stuff. I recall doing some joint training with an Asian ally of the U.S. ostensibly to help then be more effective in their low-intensity border conflict with one of their neighbors. As a young 2ndLT I was told nearly in plain terms that we were not to go into any real detail about our methods or tactics. We were simply to execute the predetermined program. In other words to go through the motions with these guys for about two weeks instructing them on all kinds of rear-echelon stuff like weapons maintenance, etc, etc. When I inquired why we could not use the valuable time with these guys to teach more advanced infantry skills such as call-for-fire, etc,etc I was told flat-out that we need not make them 'too good' lest we destabilize the whole region. Now I am sure that nothing I would have taught them in 2 weeks would have had a destabilizing effect but my point is that looking back on it was clearly the policy to minimize the amount of knowledge transfer at the company and battalion levels. No doubt some deal had been struck between the governments at high levels to 'provide aid and know-how' but the kind of aid and know-how we were providing was so rudimentary as to be worthless.

This brings me to another way of looking at this problem. I recall having several officers from traditional allies such as NATO as well as new 'friends' like Slovenia and Croatia in a number of my advanced infantry courses. These guys were young, smart and motivated. The point was to train only a few of them and presumably they would take this knowledge back to their home units and implement it. So, ss opposed to bringing PMCs in to physically train African officers locally which always seems to meet with great political resistance, why couldn't courses be set up where African officers 'went away' to receive the knowledge necessary to be effective upon their return?

Jake

matt said...

Hey Eeben, here is AFRICOM's psuedo blog. Maybe they could use a little shared reality? lol You never know, someone might actually listen to a guy like you--that's if they truly are a 'learning organization'. Cheers.

http://www.africom.mil/africomDialogue.asp

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your posting is definitely scarier than mine, Jake, but it simply reaffirms the continued duplicity that is going on. Thank you for your courage in passing that very valuable and insightful comment to us all.

As for PMCs presence creating resistance, the resistance emanates from foreign governments that view themselves as the only entitled to be working in a specific country. It is time Africa stood up and said “Go away!”

I would rather train troops in the area they will have to work in themselves one day as opposed to a third-locality. This will allow me to see the terrain, weather, operational environment and so forth in order to build a better picture of how best to approach the training. But then again, that’s just me.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Matt. As regards shared reality, I doubt whether AFRICOM would even respond to a message from me. I have already had a few emails griping at my “attacks” on the US and AFRICOM. The authors obviously don’t know the difference between criticism and attacking but as I am seen as constantly attacking, I suppose I have been placed on a “wanted” list.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Eeben,
I completely agree with the preference to train forces locally and specifically in the terrain, weather and equipment that will be seen during operations. I was merely suggesting that an alternative, in light of the resistance to the preferred approach, could be an 'academy' of some kind be arranged somewhere else where a smaller number of leaders are trained?

Most certainly this would need to be done very discretely so as to avoid the usual objections.

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am afraid I don't know, Sonny. I will have a look and let you know if I come up with anything.

Rgds,

Eeben

(PS: For those who are wondering what this is about, Sonny asked me a private question)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I misunderstood your comment, Jake, my apologies.

Yes, I am sure such an academy will be of great value. I was approached about a week ago to plan a similar type of set-up, more a combat-school for senior officers and NCOs. The idea is to initially work with own forces and later build it up to include allied forces.

The approach “train the trainers” seems to be taking hold and it will be a good thing for Africa is we can get it running successfully.

Rgds,

Eeben

Sardonicus said...

Hi Eeben,

Great article. Although no expert at all in these sort of matters, it had always occured to me that African armies were more of a tool for political oppresion for any given regime in africa ie. for fighting and subjugating the country's civilian population rather then defending against insurgents or other armies.

Would this not be an issue a PMC would take into account when undertaking the training of an African army?

Love your blog, very entertaining reading - RJ

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

African armies are generally the way they are for various reasons, RJ. Probably the most important reason is that pride in themselves and their army, along with their responsibilities, are never taught to the soldiers of the armies. When their “training” is finished by the helpful foreign governments, the soldiers know very little except that through the gun, they wield power. I recall working with African armies who are proud of being soldiers and who now realise that they serve the government of the day. I have also met many African officers/NCOs who are very dedicated to their roles.

But, poorly trained soldiers are easily politicised and manipulated. The day African armies are correctly trained for their missions, are apolitical, disciplined and correctly led, our continent will be a different place.

I believe that when a government asks a PMC to assist it, it will be willing to listen to what advice is given. But that advice will go right back to the grand or national strategy, the military strategy, the NIE and so on. It will not be a matter of walking in and simply training. Of course, if the government is at war, the equation changes and training will then focus simply on winning the battle. However, a problem many governments face is that they are having their armies trained on so-called “military assistance programmes” whilst at the same time, the aid-giving government is supporting and arming the insurgents.

As for political oppression: A valid point but the problem needs to be traced back to its origins.

Rgds,

Eeben

E Richard said...

Hey Eeben,
This all seems too surreal. One can't even figure out who your friends are, and if they are can you trust yourself enough to support them, or who will change their alignment first.
From nothing more than a managerial standpoint, how could you delegate a mission like this, and then go back up the chain of command and have the guys at the top look at it. Who comes up with these ideas? What in the hell is accountability. Intellectual IDIOTS.
Maybe one day our foreign policy my equal more than money made and spent, but for now, more of the same.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Welcome back, ER.

It is pretty frightening when one looks at it all clinically. But, Jake also confirmed the “strategy” when he was sent off to do training elsewhere. Who decides on these things? Those who need to protect their own interests at the expense of others. Whereas I understand a little about foreign policy, I am always amazed at how the power-that-be can establish alliances only to covertly betray their new-found allies. Simply put, it is batting for both teams in the belief that if one team eventually wins, they will have an ally.

Africa has been befriended by many and betrayed by many. My only hopes are that one day we in Africa will look inwards at resolving our problems and become the continent we ought to be.

Rgds,

Eeben

Sigurdur said...

I would not include the United States in this, as US Special Forces have trained competent African soldiers, and some African leaders have been trained at US Staff Colleges. Today, the Liberian military is being trained by American drill sergeants as part of the military assistance package, and not known for the excesses of the past.

Samuel Doe was trained by US Special Forces, overthrew the corrupt Liberian government, and dodged over thirty attempts on his life. I don't know what they told him, but it must have been pretty good.

Paul Kagame, while serving as Museveni's director of intelligence was sent to the US Army Command and General Staff College. Judging by the effectiveness of the RPF in their march on Kigali, and the competence of Rwandan-backed forces in the wars from that period onward, and that nation's development and effective grand strategy under his administration, it is safe to say that he was not 'intentionally trained badly'.

Therefore, I am comfortable in stating that at least in the past, the United States has invested the effort to train African soldiers at all echelons well.

The recent incident in Uganda is similar to the US military assistance to the Ethiopians in Somalia. The United States Military is able to provide air, ISR, special operations, and material (hardware sales) support to allies, but is not able to provide the men who make up an army. The Ugandans did about as well as the Ethiopians, and better than would be expected.

It is impossible for the 'political army' of a government afraid of coups to become a disciplined fighting force. Besides, African leaders are notorious for lack of follow-through, just look at the retreat of the Biafran army when given the chance to march across Nigeria on the capital, for fear of being 'cut off' by an army that did not exist!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You make some valid points, Sigurdur. However, I have to disagree with you to some extent.

I recall Paul Kagame approaching me in the 90s. It was clear that his misunderstanding of what I was telling him was not purely related to phraseology and terms. There was a lot that he did not know - and someone who had been to a Staff College ought to have known what I was talking about. He was given a LOT of advice by myself and someone who was with me. I am not saying that he subsequently did what we suggested – what I am saying is that there was a heck of a lot he just didn’t know.

We can debate the issue for eons and whereas I am sure that the trainers give good training within the bounds of their mandate, it is not a comprehensive mandate.

Again – and I speak frequently to Ugandan officers – the same applies.

As regards your comment on a “political army” becoming a disciplined fighting force, I again beg to differ. As I live on this continent and speak to many soldiers of several countries on the continent, this is a gross generalisation. Part of the problem has been that “aid packages” are aimed at subtly politicising the armies.

The Biafra-fiasco was likewise a result of a poorly trained army (I am in contact with several of the “old men” who fought there) pitted against another poorly trained group. However, that was at the break-down of colonialism and the chaos that ensued.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sorry - I forgot to thank you for the other info you sent Sigurdur. I have taken note of your request and shall honour it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Sigurdur said...

Eeben,

I defer to your experience in dealing with African armies, and would point out that it is possible that the Americans are sincere but incompetent--they did not fare well when they fought in the jungles of Vietnam and Central America, and may simply be teaching what they 'learned' to Africans, who are putting theory into practice and finding it lacking.

When I said 'political army', I believe I meant what you mean by 'subtly politicized', as across the world, armies which become heavily involved in politics typically have their effectiveness as a fighting force drastically reduced for myriad reasons.

I apologize for providing incorrect information, according to a reputable source, Kagame attended, but did not graduate the CGSC, as the RPF became involved in heavy fighting while he was supposed to be attending.

Sonny Cox said...

Thanks Eeben
I'll keep him posted.
Maybe he can play in one at our MOTH Shell Hole (Chilly Trench) Roodepoort. Hehehe
B

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I believe that you may have hit the nail smack on the head, Sigurdur. The vast majority of Americans I have met have been sincere but I believe that as soldiers, they obey orders, and must present the training within certain parameters. This is something TCO (Jake) confirmed in an earlier post.

I think that the reason behind politicised armies in Africa could be numerous. But, as you rightly point out, operational effectiveness is drastically reduced when that occurs. Across the world we have all witnessed what happens when “Politics dictates Strategy and Tactics”. Whereas the politics of the day ought to give rise to the entire strategic thinking process, the folly lies when it becomes a personal quest.

Apologies not necessary – thanks for submitting source – I just happened to have met Kagame at that time and as a young soldier, some of my instructors had been part of the Biafra/Nigerian situation, been in the Congo with Mike Hoare and so on. I was always keen to listen to what they had to tell me. As an SA soldier in various guises I had also travelled and worked in Southern, East, Central and West Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Tell him to mind his fingers when he closes the hatches, Sonny.

Rgds,

Eeben

xEMPIR3x said...

I trust that you are who you say you are so I am going to ask a question which I am investigating in my research paper. I regret finding this blog so late in the process since my paper is due this sunday the 15. I want to ask though since I have become awkwardly passionate (im only in highschool but I plan on entering the military upon graduating college) about the subject of PMCs and PSCs and the hard work I have put into this since the reviewers and graders of my paper will be mostly of a liberal viewpoint with views which were built on the reports of Blackwater in Iraq.
So my argument is, The use of PMCs, not PSCs, as a peacemaking and peacekeeping force. I am using your company Executive Outcomes as my main arguement on how companies like yours have the opportunity to do a great deal of good in this world. I comment and provide proof through scholarly journals and books on how EO affected the countries it entered (training/training success, free medicine distribution/ general aid, ie. clean water, and the big one... PEACE, in the war ridden countries of Sierra Leone and Angola).
I guess what I am asking of you is do you believe that in todays politics that your company's actions can be repeated and publicly accepted, and if so IS there a company that exists today that has the capability in your mind to achieve what we might ask of them.
Thank you for answering if you answer, your answer or comment will not be cited in my work or in any questions I might be asked on my subject this is purely my personal interest.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am who I say I am xEMPIR3x and I can only give you my view of things. My answer is, given my experience, therefore possibly subjective.

Today’s political arena is filled mainly with self-interest, vindictiveness, greed, power and deceit. I base these comments on what I have seen and experienced insofar as the West’s attitude towards Africa is. All so-called aid packages come with a condition – cheap resources and political blackmail topping the list in order to help drive the West and the East’s economies. Instability in a country furthermore ensures cheap resources, boosts arms exports and is an ideal platform for political and economical blackmail.

The role of a PMC contracted by a government is simply to help that government. If the aim is to end a war, train its armed forces, gather intelligence or whatever, it is contractually bound to fulfil its mission within a specific timeframe. The PMC’s mission and timeline is negotiated at the beginning of the contract. Furthermore, the contracted PMC is subject to the contracting government’s laws and must operate within that legal framework. That assistance is not welcomed by organisations such as the UN, NGOs, multi-nationals and governments who hold a vested (financial) interest in the conflict area.

In order to prevent the PMC achieving its mission, the mentioned players will resort to whatever means are necessary. This inevitably implies using the media to discredit both the contracting government and the PMC. This is done by deliberately feeding false information – which is often hidden under a “security classification” – to selected journalists to give authenticity to the deception. Bear in mind that the media simply reports what it is given and is not really the guilty party.

That said, if the PMC is part of the overall political aim of a specific government – an example is Iraq – then the media will report with much less bias. If at any stage the PMC becomes a liability to the government, the situation will change towards that PMC.

So, the answer to your question has two possible answers “Yes” and “No” – depending on whose interests are at stake.

Is there a company who can follow in EO’s footsteps? I am sure there is. I know that with a few phone calls to many ex-EO men, they will come back. But that is something that is not likely to happen.

I hope this in some way answers your question.

Good luck with your assignment.

Rgds,

Eeben

gerald said...

Polititians ...... I once became part of a battle in the DRC by circumstance. Fighting side by side with a rebel group.

I fought like a wounded buffalo that day/s. I was particularly touched by the unity and courage of this group. As you say, they fight like lions, even when outnumbered breaking of into 2 and 3 men teams with precise "targets" and "manuevers"

The woman traveling through the jungle by foot to look after their own in battle.Improvising and staying alive, keeping direction with only nature as their guide.

They cared for me untill fully recovered,whilst at some stage a NGO Medical company did not even take a second look at me, drinking coke and flying off.

Needless to say some time later I met up with some of them in a border town.Well they definately lost some weight after that .....

I have great compassion for these people, each and everyone battle weary and have not known peace since the day they were born.

You will never be judged by colour, but by heart.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Africa can be a strange place, Gerald. Your story is not unique in that there is compassion. But alongside that compassion is a brutality in the continent and its people. Maybe it’s the way things ought to be or maybe they have become like that through circumstance. But when the chips are down, they fight like lions possessed.

As for many NGOs, I place them in the same category as I do the UN. They are not there because of a deep-seated desire to make good. They are there to make money – as that is what conflicts give them. So who is the worst: the PMC trying to end the conflict or the NGO who hopes it continues?

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Just stumbled onto your site and excellent article. In support of your comments, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck did pretty well with his Askari in the first war as I recall, retiring his forces only after the formal German surrender in Europe. Effective leadership is definately the key to success. With regard to the United Nations, it has been my first hand experience that anything the UN touches falls to kak in fairly short order. Bit of irony it is, regarding a comment about the current and future fielding of IED vehicles in the Iraqi Theater of Operations. These vehicles bear a striking resemblence to die Spinnekop en Buffel of another era. History fails us often and we sometimes catch on slowly here in the west. On the upside however, due to our recent slobbering embrace here of socialism and Messianic directives regarding the evils of government contracting, etc, your business should soon be improving.

Groete,
Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Von Lettow-Vorbeck believed in leadership, discipline and through planning, Alan, hence he was able to, despite the odds, continue with operations even when Germany was stumbling.

I have for a long time despised the UN, especially after I saw their behaviour in Angola and Sierra Leone. This behaviour has been expounded on in the DRC, Sudan – in fact wherever they stick their noses into. Then of course, there were the recent revelations concerning their involvement in crime, weapons trafficking, child-prostitution and so forth. Despite their noble mission statement, they remain, as far as I am concerned, the largest sheltered employment agency in the world – and they are proud of it.

I note that our old Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) are in great demand. The irony is that in the 1980s, no-one was willing to give us the time of day. We were considered the scum of the earth by those countries that now want these vehicles. The terrible irony is that now that they want these vehicles, ARMSCOR/DENEL are unable to produce them…strange indeed.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Yes, as you say "considered scum of the earth" by some in the west but bloody good enough to keep the communists at bay for a few dacades. Good enough to help keep the lid on in Iraq as well, hat tip to Aeigis and a few other brave lads. A bit of finger waging at Bob and Grace but not much mention of our lovely Chinese friends and financiers in Zim or the Russians elsewhere on the continent of course. Lots of rhetoric about GITMO, but nothing at all on those held at Black Beach prison. (would appreciate an update if anyone has it) More irony I suppose. Smith was right about the Lancaster House accorts and the Great Betrayal. Now as the betrayal continues, we have the communists here in the States baying for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and tossing around the "aparthied" label. Wat goes around appears to have come around. It's a bitter cup we're sipping I assure you, this wonderful blend of Kenyan native governance. We'll all be pledging a Muma wa Uiguano soon, he'll have our wallet on Tuesday. Please forgive my rant.

Extending my condolences to the 45th Commando for the ranker lost in Afghanistan yesterday.

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well, we have a pretty good idea about betrayal, Alan, by the West, our own politicians and our erst-while generals. A great irony to me is that I was recently given a few medals, awarded some years ago – although the battalion had requested them, they were given to me by the ANC.

The tragedy happening in Zimbabwe would never be allowed to happen anywhere in the West. Of course, this is Africa and no one really cares. Although as a soldier, I, like many of my colleagues, fought against Cubans, Russians, East Germans, the PLO, ANC, PAC, Angolans, Namibians, et al, none betrayed us more than our own government. Fighting in these wars only made us more vulnerable to what we would later receive as thanks from De Klerk’s government.

Ironically to me, I am treated better by African governments than I was by the government I served as a soldier. There was a time when I lost interest in helping Africa but the manner in which some African governments have approached me and treat me, has made me more determined to help them where I can.

I am hopeful that Africa will one day resolve its problems – and there are many. But the West’s problems are really just starting. Perhaps we in Africa are already some way down that path?

I always find it sad when a soldier has died in service of his country. But we also know that that is the nature of war.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Yes, we're just beginning our trek with socialism. I feel a bit like immigrating to Oriana at times, but Knysna suits me better when visiting your mooi land....Kingklip, prawns, and beer. We have our very own De Klerk in the person of former president Jimmy Carter who lives just a short distance south of me. Glad your lecturing is in demand and all is going your way.

Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the comment, Alan. By the way, you wouldn't be Alan S would you?

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

No, I've been called many things but not Alan S. I'm a US Army retiree/pensioner, infantry, para, the usual. Seldom heard a shot fired in anger, hope to keep it that way. Of late, former gov't, sabbaticalized contractor, novincial political scientist with more reading and google time than my wife can quite tolerate. Something of an apprentice of all trades, journeyman of none.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My apologies, Alan – there was something in the idiom that made me ask – an Alan I knew from a time ago. Seems like you keep busy…

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Excellent article in The Times by Makhanya. Too lengthy to post. URL link below.

Regards, Al

http://www.thetimes.co.za/article.aspx?id=944074

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Alan.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Congo, U.N. to step up ops against Rwandan rebels

KINSHASA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Congolese soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers will launch a new wave of operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels despite the planned withdrawal this week of Rwanda's army, Congo said on Monday.

Neighbouring Rwanda sent thousands of troops into eastern Congo's North Kivu province last month and the former foes are conducting joint operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels that have been at the heart of 15 years of conflict in the region.

The operations are politically sensitive for Congo's President Joseph Kabila given that Kinshasa has frequently accused Rwanda of abuses and looting natural resources in the east during Kigali's past forays into Congo to hunt rebels.

Rwanda has said its soldiers will withdraw by Wednesday.

More at link.
http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLN47145

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan. It however remains to be seen what the UN will really do. But from their past track-record, I doubt we should hold our breath.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Agree, the UN will bugger it up in their usual style. Better ring up the 2eme REP in Corsica. They did a splendid job in Kolwezi back in 1978, and took few casualties. Believe it or not, our won Jimmy Carter actually provided the airlifters. Belgian and French troops did a groot job of bringing salvation to Mobutu's Army. Not surprisingly however, as the French and Belgi's pulled away and the multi-national Afri force took over, the locals quickly slipped back into their tribal ruts. History, who needs it, eh?

Cheers, Al

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, you are correct, Alan. The UN will want to talk about it over a cup of tea and end up doing nothing as usual. When they finally decide to do something, it will be dependant on how much money they can make in the end.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

SWJ article - General Mattis: U.S. Must Prepare for ‘Hybrid’ Warfare

Some might say a blinding flash of the clinically obvious. Appears we may be catching on at last. In any case, an excellent read.

Cheers, Alan

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2009/02/general-mattis-us-must-prepare/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

When I read the article, I recall thinking that this mind-shift is LONG overdue, Alan. As you remark – the US may be catching on at last. There is a time for the heavy armoured units but that type of warfare is somewhat silly to attempt in certain conflicts. I am pleased that General Mattis has done some thinking.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben: This must surely be the year of the "community organizer."

Cheers, Alan

guardian.co.uk The Observer
Alex Duval Smith The Observer, Sunday 1 March 2009

Winnie set for shock comeback to ANC politics. The shock emergence of Mandela's first wife as a top ANC candidate for April's election will cause dismay, reports Alex Duval Smith in Cape Town.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/01/winnie-mandela-mp-south-africa

Alan said...

Time for some humour I'd say:

Author stumbles on G-Bissau drama

Author Frederick Forsyth has told the BBC of his surprise to find himself in Guinea-Bissau on the day the president and army chief were assassinated.

Balance at the link.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7921847.stm

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suspect one can call that being at the right place at the wrong time, Alan.

It must have, nevertheless, been pretty worrying for him.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Passing along a EO business development opportunity.

Cheers, Alan

Terror for 1,200 Britons as Somali pirates with rocket launchers attack cruise ship
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:34 AM on 05th March 2009

More than 1,200 British holidaymakers on a round-the-world cruise came under a terrifying attack from pirates armed with rocket launchers.
The 715ft-long Balmoral came under fire four times from Somali bandits, a crew member said.
The 43,000-ton cruise ship was forced to zigzag violently to evade its pursuers as the pirates gave chase in two small craft in the notoriously dangerous waters off Somalia.
One crew member said in e-mails to her boyfriend back in Britain that the pirates circled the ship and came within 400 yards of the cruise ship, The Sun reported.


'I stood on the deck and watched through binoculars at men in the fishing boat armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers,' she said.
'People were all over the place and everyone was in tears.
'We could hear shooting. It started following us and we had to call the US Navy.'
Many of the passengers 'were in tears and frightened to death', she added.
The alert was raised on Tuesday morning when the boats appeared out of nowhere and closed in rapidly.
Alarmed by the 'suspicious' activity of the unidentified craft, the Balmoral's crew made emergency calls, holiday firm Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said today.
They also sent up distress flares and the ship's staff toted fake 'guns' made out of pieces of wood, hoping the pirates would be deterred if crew appeared to be armed, according to reports.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1159564/Terror-1-200-Britons-Somali-pirates-rocket-launchers-attack-cruise-ship.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the article and link, Alan. However, had EO still existed, I doubt if we would have looked at this type of scenario. We learnt the lesson well in Indonesia when we rescued the hostages that were held in Irian Jaya by the Free Papua Movement – some of whom were UN personnel. When they were finally rescued, some couldn’t control their bladders and proclaimed their joy with tears at being rescued. Some Western Special Forces even claimed the credit for the operation and when it was finally discovered EO did it, those who had been rescued were of the first to condemn EO.

So, had EO existed, we would have stayed away from this type of baby-sitting operation. As they say, “Once bitten, twice shy”.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Fully concur. Appears "Once bitten, twice shy" is making the rounds. If not bitten by the principal, bitten by the client or both. Nothing is too good for the government contractor, and that's generally what he gets! Blackwater, now XE Inc. update follows. Interesting they've gone with a two character name:

Groete, Alan

Blackwater gets new name, work
Mich. native founder quits firm, now called Xe, moves focus away from security contracts.
Mike Baker / Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Blackwater name is gone. So is the focus on the security business that made it famous. Now the founder who built the private company into one of the world's most respected -- and reviled -- defense contractors is stepping aside as its chief executive.

Michigan native Erik Prince's decision Monday to relinquish his role as president and CEO underscored how hard the company now called Xe -- pronounced like the letter "z" -- is working to bury the Blackwater brand and move its focus further away from the security contracting that severely tarnished its reputation.

Prince appointed a new president and chief operating officer in a management shakeup that he said was part of the company's "continued reorganization and self-improvement." It comes less than a month after the company's name was changed to Xe in an effort at rebranding.

"As many of you know, because we focus on continually improving our business that Xe is in the process of a comprehensive restructuring," Prince wrote in a note to employees and clients.

Although Prince will retain his position as chairman of the company, the company said he is removing himself from the day-to-day operations. Joseph Yorio, recently a vice president at DHL and a former Army special forces officer, will serve as president, replacing retiring executive Gary Jackson. Danielle Esposito, who has worked within Xe for nearly 10 years, will be the new chief operating officer and executive vice president, the company said. The CEO position remains open.

With an auto parts company inheritance, Prince founded Blackwater in 1997 with some of his former Navy SEAL colleagues. They initially envisioned a world-class training facility to support law enforcement and military. But after Sept. 11, the bombing of the USS Cole and the start of the Iraq War, the company started providing private security.

Prince is a Holland, Mich., native whose family fortune was made in the auto parts industry. His sister, Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, is married to Dick DeVos, a Republican and Amway Corp. heir who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006.

The company's lucrative contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq comprises about one-third of Xe's revenues, but the State Department announced it would not rehire the firm after its contract with the company expires in May.

A 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square involving Blackwater guards drew outrage from politicians in Baghdad and Washington and demands that the company be banned from operating in Iraq.

Late last year, prosecutors charged five of the company's contractors -- but not Blackwater itself -- with manslaughter and weapons violations.

http://detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090304/NATION/903040323

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan.

Rgds,

Eeben

Pray for war said...

I have read all the articles on your blogg and agree with you wholeheartedly, but I must have my ten cents worth! I disagree with your liberal use of the term “African armies” as there is no such thing, I believe the term should be “rabble in what at times appears to be uniforms”! To refer to them as African armies would insinuate that they could be compared to the once mighty SADF! According to Mike’s big book on the world’s armies, there is a criteria that an “army” must subscribe to! Firstly, the leader element must be White, the foot soldiers can be of any persuasion, as discipline can be beaten into them, but an IQ over 90, a sense of humor, the correct up bringing, a moral code of conduct, a sense of self awareness and most of all a culture based on science not hoojar, this is the basis for a disciplined army, and discipline, is what separates armies from rabble! No comparison between the “old” SADF and any current “army” in Africa can possible be drawn, as they are nothing but criminals and rapists with guns and a hatred for the “other” tribes! It is only that propaganda machine Hollywood that would dare to portray the majestic rabble warriors in a science fiction manner so as to convert obese Americans that all is “well” on the dark continent.

I read your book, and you should know that history will prove that you made all the correct choices!

Best
Mike (of the big book fame!)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have never insinuated that the “new” SANDF in any manner or form compares to the “old” SADF, Mike. Indeed, I was very critical of their actions (read: inability) during the incredibly disastrous incursion into Lesotho. I have been equally vocal on their abilities as so-called “peacekeepers” as I have been on the UN’s inability to achieve anything resembling peace.

Re African armies, I would disagree with you that they are all rabble in uniforms. I would however be the first to admit that training, discipline and C3I is lacking in the extreme. Military strategies too are often non-existent. But, when one looks at who is actually training these armies (UK, USA, France, etc) one notes a “couldn’t care” attitude insofar as training is concerned. It is also because of a lack of professionalism in many of these armies that the possibilities of military coups exist.

I have come across African armies that are proud to be serving and want to learn as much as possible. However, when there are no people to give them good training – or the training is done in a slap-dash method – they believe that they have been trained. That is until someone gives them decent training.

But that is my perception – and of course, I can never advocate that I am correct. I have great empathy for these armies for the chaos that some “Western allies” are creating on this continent.

I appreciate your comments re being judged by history. Many thanks!

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

You don't have a spare copy of your book stuck behind the seat of your bakkie by chance? Amazon has a "used - but nice" copy on the web for just under R1900. May have to sell my Obama commemorative coin and plate collection in order to place that order. Please advise

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am astonished at that price, Alan. A new book costs about R 250, 00 (I think). Have you tried the publisher? Please see www.galago.co.za. If you don’t come right, let me know and I will see what I can do to help you. So, please do not sell your commemorative Obama stuff just yet…

Believe it or not but I don’t have a copy of my own book – nor do I drive a bakkie. Horses are much cheaper on fuel.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Thanks much for the link. My commemoratives are saved, but their values are falling precipitously and the Poms are now angry! Something about plastic, Chinese made helo's. Thoughtless, last minute gifts for Gordon Brown from the White House gift shop. Barry isn't doing well here at the moment. I'll run the link it to ground later today. You own a Basuto by chance? Never rode one myself. But I've read they are favored there.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased to have saved you selling those commemoratives that you hold so dear, Alan.

No, I don’t ride a Basotho – my favoured horses are Quarter Horses, Paint Horses and Boerperde. Of all of them, the Boerperd is the toughest horse with the best temperament of all. But I digress from the subject at hand…

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

One of the lads who worked for me in Iraq last year was a member of this ODA. Fine officer I might add. Not of the category of Deneys Reitz, but a wartime horse story I thought you and your readership might enjoy nonetheless.

http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2006/11/2146103

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A fascinating story – thanks for the link, Alan. We also used horses in the SWA/Namibian operational theatre and they had many advantages.

Ah, Deneys Reitz – a man among men…

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

More trouble in paradise. I suppose it would be too much to ask for the wonks in Stuttgart and the UN to keep their noses clear of it. They'll be solving 'global warming' in Namakwaland soon.
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/international/2009/March/international_March652.xml&section=international

Lekker sojur tunes vir jou - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/international/2009/March/international_March652.xml&section=international

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Madagascar could truly be paradise, Alan. I recall being asked to visit Pres Ravalomanana a few years back and warned him of the pending problem, which at that time was simmering on the sideline. Again, he was told (by guess who?) that I was exaggerating the problem as there was no problem.

Now, where did you learn to speak Afrikaans?

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Never been there myself, but I've been told by hikers, kayakers, etc. that it really is a nature paradise. No sarcasm intended. Oh the Afri....? Novice in the extreme, self taught Die Burger reader. Can you believe, the Army never saw fit to use it? I must have been the only one, who knew? Wahahha. Please blame one time presidential candidate Evita Bezuidenhout. Listening to folks laugh at Pieter-Dirk Uys was too much for me. I had to learn a bit. Deploring oppression would have been enough however, without a visit to Darling. I'm also a huge Zapiro fan. Please send both of them to us. We need some humour about now, voter's remorse, etc.

Geen boer, geen kos.

Alan

Alan said...

I've never visited Madagascar, but I'm told it is indeed a hiker, kayaker, fisherman, outdoorsman's paradise. No snark or slight intended. No need to export our very own national pass time.

In reference to your visit with.
Pres Ravalomanana...."Again, he was told (by guess who?) that I was exaggerating the problem as there was no problem." That would be the Swedish Defense Attache of course?

My failing Afri? If you must, blame former EPP presidential candidate, the 'Darling' Ms. Evita Bezuidenhout. Watching everyone else laugh and being totally clueless led me to study, and struggle through Die Burger. I practice on a local restauranter from Durban. He tolerates me, and his wife's Malva pudding is to die for. We are richly blessed with nearly 30k of your kinsmen here in the Atlanta area. Back to Evita, your Pieter-Dirk Uys is a national treasure, as is Zipparro. If you ever tire of them, please send them on over.

Ek bid, en my vrou ooks, vir jy mooi land... and hope to return someday. Until then, I'll just keeping polishing my commemoratives, wahhahaa.

Sincerely, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

If ever you get the chance to go to Madagascar, take it. It is truly exceptional. No, it wasn’t the Swedish MA – but close.

Pity the Army so seldom recognises what talent they have lurking in their ranks, Alan. Your Afrikaans is brilliant and with all of the practise you seem to be getting, it will only get better.

We are fortunate to have people such as Evita B, Zapiro and others who give us the chance to laugh when there isn’t much to laugh about.

Talking about Malva – we had some last night. A truly great delicacy, especially when served with warm custard and ice cream.

Thanks for your prayers. Ons waardeer dit baie!

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Ever wonder what a G5 155mm HE round going off just below ground level looks like? Here's a Improvided Explosive Devise (IED) implant class that won't have to be concerned with the new Justice Department terms of reference or conditions at GITMO. The training session appears to have gone dreadfully wrong. A bit of.... red wire - blue wire confusion it would appear.

Regards, Alan

http://mrusofababy.multiply.com/video/item/12

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That looks like a serious error of judgement, Alan.

Let me bore you with a story: In 1984, I was part of our EOD/IED teams. We were called out to a suspect limpet mine on a fuel bowser. After we had gone through our RSP, under the watchful eyes of the police at a cordon about 500m away – it was in a busy part of the city, it turned out to be a hoax. Upon return to HQ we were asked at the debrief what steps we would have taken had it been a limpet. Without hesitation, my No1 said “Great big bloody steps – in the opposite direction, Sir”.

Although unrelated to your link, it made me realise how many people are “instructors” in something they know little about. The consequences are usually devastation.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Never boring Sir.

Some interesting items coming to light recently, Mobile Training Teams (MTT's) in the 1970's, former President Jimmy Carter, Mugabe's ascent to power, etc. Your comments on the attached if you're obliged.

Regards, Alan

http://yidwithlid.blogspot.com/2007/07/mugabes-zimbabwe-reign-of-terror-jimmy.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Jimmy Carter and Andrew Young were instrumental in ousting PM Smith and installing Pres Mugabe, Alan. But, that is the nature of US foreign policy…Sadly, those two will never be called to account for the actions and the resultant situation in Zimbabwe.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Yes indeed. Our politicians seem to have been extraordinarily adept over the years at picking the wrong side and leading everyone else to the light. I'm a hundred pages or so into Smith's facinating book, 'Bitter Harvest' and enjoying it immensley. A few of my former colleagues assisted the RLI effort a few years back...quite a few years now. Some paid dearly. And you are entirely correct. No accounting will likely be made this side of eternity. Please rest assured, not everyone here thinks like Carter and Young. Comrade Mugabe's scheme has worked so splendidly in Zim, we're now attempting to replicate it here! If it gets too unbearable here, I know of a lovely B&B in Patternaster run by two happy chaps who can cook up a storm. Enjoy your week.

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is strange how politicans want to hold everyone accountable, except themselves, Alan. But such is the world of the politicians. Ultimately, the armed forces need to be called in to rectify their blunders – and usually at a huge cost.

There are also good B&Bs other than Paternoster…

A great week to you as well, thanks.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Lengthy, but a good read.

The Commencement address for the recent graduation ceremony of SFQC Class 242 was present by BG Sacolick, DCG, USAJFKSWCS, Fort Bragg. This theme was "What's so Special about Special Forces".

Since 9/11, there has been significant discussion on the need for America’s conventional
military forces to be more like Special Forces or “SOF Like”. I completely endorse this
proposition, assuming it is not a knee-jerk reaction to our current conflicts but a conclusion
drawn from our potential 21st century adversaries. There have been numerous forecasts describing our future environment- an environment without any peer or near-peer competitors, one in which our most likely threats will resort to an alternative to conventional military confrontation such as irregular warfare. Special Operations Forces are specifically trained and
equipped to combat irregular warfare, so I can’t argue with our military commanders when they
propose the requirement for more small combat and advisory teams along the Special Forces
model or that we need more troops who are culturally adept and comfortable working outside
the conventional structures of the Army or Marine Corps. Joint Forces Command recently created a Joint Irregular Warfare Center, headed by a Special Forces officer, to guide their efforts in shifting general purpose force capabilities more towards a Special Operations Forces approach to fighting. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reinforced the necessity for more SOF-like forces when he said, "The one requirement that jumps off the page is the requirement for all services to be SOF-like--to be netted, to be much more flexible, adaptive, faster, lethal, and precise.”

From my vantage, that of a career Special Operations Officer currently assigned as the
Deputy Commanding General of the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the organization charged with assessing, selecting and training the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets), I thought it would be helpful to describe the complexities associated with
creating Special Forces Soldiers and the unique role they will play in the execution of American
foreign policy both now and in the post-Iraq/Afghanistan environment. I chose Special Forces as
a representative example of SOF because they are the largest single component assigned to
the United States Special Operations Command.
One common denominator in the SOF community is the requirement to pass a challenging pre-selection screening process and/or qualification course. In order to attend our Special Forces Qualification Course, for example you must first pass a rigorous 19-day Assessment and Selection process where we evaluate three important qualities: Character,
SOF or Special Operation Forces describes forces of all services that are specifically organized, trained and equipped to conduct special operations. These forces are assigned the United States Special Operations Command of which the largest component is Army Special Forces, otherwise known as Green Berets.

Commitment, and Intellect. Character goes to a candidate’s moral and ethical foundation;
commitment determines the soldier’s level of physical and mental preparation, and intellect is indicative of their ability to conceptualize and solve complex problems.

Those few Soldiers who eventually become Green Berets have demonstrated the highest standards of discipline, dedication, integrity and professionalism. That is why approximately 73% of the young men who try out for the challenging year-long, Special Forces Qualification Course rarely make it past the first few months. We demand that each Special
Forces Soldier master hundreds of tasks specific to his specialty, plus an array of advanced
war-fighting skills that are critical for survival on today's complex battlefields. For example, our Special Forces Weapons Sergeants are trained to repair any known weapon, foreign or
domestic, and are able to make it work properly in our indigenous partners hands. They are also
trained to survey our battlefields, to identify the threats and to leverage the proportional force necessary to defeat the enemy, protect the team and accomplish the mission. Our Special Forces Engineers can precisely calculate and employ any type of explosives with the precision necessary to destroy enemy forces or structures without injuring their teammates who are
usually in close proximity to the blast. Our Special Forces Communication Sergeants can design
networks and establish communications with Air Force or Navy close air support aircraft,
medical evacuation helicopters, higher headquarters, and adjacent military units both foreign
and domestic. Our Special Forces Medics provide medical and trauma care to coalition troops,
host-nation personnel, and enemy combatants. They can treat one patient with pneumonia, and
perform a lifesaving field surgery the next, such as performing a tracheotomy or insert a chest
tube into a casualty. When immediate medical evacuation is not possible, they have the skills to treat, and stabilize the wounded, keeping them alive until evacuation is possible. They also
routinely establish local clinics where they offer free medical care to our indigenous partners
and their families. Some consider our Medics provision of care as one of our most effective methods in building host nation rapport. And all of our Special Forces Soldiers have the mental discipline to perform their duties under any conditions, in any type of weather, in or out of enemy
gunfire. They possess the physical strength to carry their 90 pounds of assigned individual gear
into battle, and if required, carry their wounded teammates to safety, because we never leave
our brothers behind.

If this was not enough, every single Green Beret learns a foreign language - hard
languages like Russian, Chinese, Korean, or Arabic, and then demonstrates proficiency in this
language before they graduate. But most importantly, Green Berets must demonstrate maturity,
judgment, courage, initiative, self-confidence, and compassion beyond what we expect from
members of any other profession.
In order to appreciate why these qualities are so important, we need to put them in the
context of our assigned mission which is to win the War of Terrorism. Recently, the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert Gates said that “The most important military component in the
War on Terror is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable our partners to defend and govern their own countries.” The true beauty of Special Forces is that we are a fighting force inherently designed to execute the Secretary of Defense’s guidance. In other words, Special Forces Soldiers are specifically trained and equipped to assist the indigenous security forces of troubled countries and to build their capacity to defeat terrorism before these conditions become a threat to our country. This has been a core task of Special Forces since our inception in 1952 and nobody does it better. However, in order to accomplish this task, we
need access to these troubled countries, and this access requires a continued policy of Global Engagement - the strategic use of development, diplomacy, and defense to advance our political agenda in areas like economic prosperity and international cooperation.

As I alluded to earlier, the intelligence community agrees that our foreseeable future
guarantees to be one of persistent conflict between third world countries, insurgencies and
terrorist organizations, fueled by poverty, illiteracy, injustice, expanding Islamic extremism, as
well as competition for energy, food, water, and other resources. Although our homeland has
not been attacked recently, international terrorism is still spreading, and, similar to the Cold War, there will never be one decisive battle that will win the war and bring stability to the world. But I believe that a strategy of Global Engagement, employing Special Forces Soldiers, may be our best bet at winning this War. Terrorist organizations like the Taliban, Al-Qaida, Hamas, and Hezbollah must be defeated at the local, grass roots-level by a combination of development,
diplomacy and defense, hence Global Engagement.

Green Berets are the United States’ only trained warrior-diplomats, the only force we
have that intuitively understands the balance between diplomacy and force, and the only force
that possesses the judgment to determine which actions are most appropriate in any given
situation. We specialize in coaching, teaching, mentoring, motivating, and training local security forces, and we do this with the patience of a diplomat and in their native tongue. Special Forces Soldiers understand that the key to success is through “the indirect approach” - working “by, with, and through” host-nation forces, because ultimately the most powerful message is one delivered by our partners to their own people. Additionally, it is the ability to instinctively understand the equilibrium between the two opposite notions of diplomacy and force that makes our Soldiers so remarkably valuable and quite possibly our best military solution to the War on Terror.

In Afghanistan, less than 8% of our overall force structure belongs to a Special Operations Task Force. In one recent 6-month rotation, these Special Operators conducted hundreds of operations, engaging and killing thousands of Taliban insurgents. However, what is most noteworthy is that they also medically treated more than 50,000 Afghanis, delivered over
1.4 million pounds of aid, and established over 19 radio stations. They also distributed 8,000 radios, so the country’s populace can now listen to an Afghani voice of reason as opposed to the extremists’ ranting of anti-American, Taliban rhetoric. Granted, most of these activities were in conjunction with other United States government agencies, but Special Forces Soldiers were
instrumental in both the planning and execution of these activities and are usually the first ones
on the scene. It is not just food and radios, either; our Soldiers facilitate the construction of
bridges, schools, clinics, wells, and other critical engineering projects in places where other
government agencies would not dare to go without Green Berets by their side.

This effort is but one example of what is being duplicated around the world by other Special Forces Soldiers. As of March 2009, we have Special Forces Soldiers conducting various Global Engagement activities in 39 countries. Special Forces soldiers are not just training host-nation forces, but they are teaching their military personnel about democracy, human rights, freedom and dignity; while eating, sleeping, living, working, planning, and, if necessary, fighting with them. Our Soldiers, our warrior diplomats, are building a coalition of partner nations around the world to help share the burden of global stability.

We send our Special Forces Soldiers to the far corners of the world, working in their 12-
man operational detachments, isolated and far removed from any support or protection, other
than that provided by the forces they are training. Consider that responsibility - consider the
trust required to train those who provide the blanket of security under which you live, work, and
sleep. The men of the Green Beret live that reality every single day. This is the expectation that
our country places upon our Special Forces Soldiers, and this is what them special.

I would like to offer just one last thought on the uniqueness of Special Forces; one characteristic that resonates above all others; Special Forces is a family business. Our Soldiers develop powerful relationships with the men on their teams. This bond drives them to train harder, fight harder, and go further than they ever would have on their own. They are born into the family that begins during the Special Forces Qualification Course and continues long after retirement. This fraternity is inclusive of our wives and our children, as well as the wives and children of our fallen. In many respects, it is also inclusive of our indigenous partners that we train with and their families also.

Our future may produce more challenges than Special Operations Forces alone can effectively respond, hence the critical requirement for more SOF or SOF-like forces. However, despite the doomsday forecast we see in the media, the United States remains the most prosperous; power nation in the World and with this greatness comes responsibility.

Many Americans believe that our continued engagement in the affairs of our foreign partners is
counterproductive. However, our security and prosperity, as well as, the safety of our families
and our homeland are inextricably linked to the international community who consistently turn to
the United States for their own security guarantees. Right or wrong, the mantle of leadership
has been thrust upon us and there is no other nation more trusted, more suitable, or more capable to assume that role than the United States. It is also in our best interest to serve as the
guardians of democracy, while protecting trade, promoting finance, and maintaining our own
access throughout the world. This all translates into a sustained and continuous process of Global Engagement and nobody in any military does this better than the United States Special
Forces.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very good and interesting address Alan, but I do not agree with all of the points made, especially in terms of the comment “nobody in any military does this better than the United States Special
Forces”. Furthermore, I do not believe the modern war will be structured along the lines of Special Forces detachments.

Special Forces have a major role to play in most wars but will never be the answer to fast, mechanised warfare actions.

Whereas the US Special Forces, like many Special Forces men are trained to operate in numerous environments, they too have their limitations. My concern is that too much emphasis will be placed on Special Forces, the expectations will become too great to “perform” and this will lead to its own unique set of problems.

In a COIN or guerrilla environment, Special Forces do come into their own but they can never be the only answer.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

Eeben's comments are, in my opinion, more precise than the original article. SOF of course have an important role to play and perhaps the U.S. needs more of them both in real numbers and a '% of total force' basis. But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that abandoning conventional military capabilities is the answer, it is not.

Secondly, the proposal to do this, while interesting, is simply not workable even if one decided it needed to be done. SOF forces are, as the article indicates, generally more mature (read: older with more experience). So you could not have SF without the conventional side in most cases. They are the pipeline to the SF community. Or atleast they should be. In recent years the U.S. Army has started a program that takes people directly into the SF community 'off the street' without the benefits of having served in the regular forces for 4 to 6 years. This is a recipe for disaster is not managed very very carefully.

Not to mention the fact that the training of one SF trooper costs 10X the amount of a conventional soldier. So unless you are prepared to pay taxes at a much higher rate and have enough citizens willing to sign 10 year enlistment contracts this idea is a non-starter simply from a practical perspective, putting aside its lack of tactical merit.

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The conventional military, whether we like it or not, will always be the mainstay of the ground forces, Jake, so I in turn, agree with you.

Costs are high due to the training and equipping of such forces, as are operational deployments. Selection poses its own unique “weeding out process”. I think I mentioned it before, but during our war, more than 100 000 men applied for Special Forces selection – fewer than 480 made it past selection. This was less than 1%. So, if selection is watered down, so will the determination and fighting ability be watered down.

Again, I somehow think that the plan may be to use SOF as a strategy and not as a deployment. I am always wary when folks expect too much from the Special Forces and see them as able to achieve the impossible. Granted, Special Forces from many nations in conflict have achieved incredible results – but those results were attained in a specific theatre of operations and the men were carefully selected, correctly trained and they did what they were trained to do.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and Jake;

Having been on both sides of the conventional - uncoventional fense, I concur with your assessments completely. While operationally, I cannot speak relative to the elite forces of other nations, SAS, Légion étrangère, Recces, etc. I can attest to, as you have mentioned, the dangers and consequences of both inflated expectations and an improper 'one size fits all' force application.

Another pox that I have witnessed is that of inflated attitude, or looking down the nose at the conventional force and common ranker as inferior or less a solution to the overall combat equation. Smith writes in 'Bitter Harvest', upon meeting the late Antonio Salazar of Portugal, "his actions were dignified, and everything about him depicted modesty, that characteristic which is probably the most important ingredient of civilized man." I believe Smith was spot-on regarding the civilized man. I would say the same programme applies to the soldier. Thank you both for your comments.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Unfortunately, it is this very essence of civility that has gone lost, Alan. It seems to be more a situation of civilised equals weak in today’s world.

You make a very valid comment re unconventional vs conventional. It is time senior officers/politicians realise that everyone has their role to pay and one cannot be boosted at the expense of the other. I too have straddled a couple of sides of the fence – conventional to unconventional (clandestine) to covert. I never cease3d to be amazed at how little kingdoms seem to be built – we are all supposed to be working for the same ultimate goal. Sadly some seem to not realise that.

Rgds,

Eeben

TCO said...

I concur. Both sides of this fence often fail to appreciate the other sides role and capabilities. Forces are simply tools for solving specific problems. Some are more akin to a 10-pound hammer and others have the ability to serve as a surgical scalpel. The fact is it's nice to have both tools and the whole spectrum in between in your toolbox provided you know when to use the right one. It's no more an either/or case than asking someone which is more important your lungs or your liver? The fact is you need both.

Jake

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well said, Jake. It is high time some people realised this fact.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and Jake:

I enjoyed your perspectives and dialogue reference the proper military applications issues.

The attached link and very graphic photos are a dynamic we're wrestling with right now along our southern border. Believe it or not, our military has not been brought to bear and horseback volunteer patrols are strongly discouraged. Making matters worse, the politicians are now pointing to cross-border weapons trading as a primary cause. Most here are confident this is only a canard, enroute to their ultimate leftest goal of weapons seizure. You have Beitbridge, we have the ditch but no one appears to have a solution.

Regards, Alan

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/03/mexicos_drug_war.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alan. What I really enjoy is reading the valuable comments everyone contributes to each posting. It makes me believe that I am not wasting my – and every visitor’s – time.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Why should we be surprised.

New HQ Video Shows American Leading al Qaeda in Somalia Attacks.

http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/197048.php

Alan said...

Eeben:

I know you prefer to steer clear of politics, but since this was written by one of your countrymen I thought I'd pass it along.

Groete, Alan

A warning to Americans; a message from a South African
by Robin Noel

http://www.milsurps.com/showthread.php?t=7507&highlight=robin+noel

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alan. It certainly makes one think...

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

These things are actually scary to see, Alan. Thanks for the link.

Rgds,

Eeben