About Me

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CONSIDERING THE USE OF A PMC OR A PSC

I have always advocated the use of a Private Military Company (PMC) or a Private Security Company (PSC) above that of the UN or a foreign armed force’s training teams. The recent revelations of UN corruption and sexual abuse towards those they have undertaken to protect has simply strengthened my thoughts on the matter.

My belief is that the professional PMC/PSC comes with no political strings attached, views its mission as a matter of honour, is subject to the laws of the contracting country and is contracted to achieve an agreed aim within a defined time.

The predicament many governments face lies in selecting the PMC/PSC - which company is professional and which is not. Which company has a credible history and not one consisting of fantasy? Which company will place its mission first – above its commercial interests? Which company will, regardless of the circumstances, deliver what it promises? Which company can substantiate its track-record with facts as opposed to bluster, false propaganda and lies? Do they subscribe to a high standard of training and advice and follow a strict code of conduct?

Adding to this problem is that there has been an unprecedented growth in PMCs and PSCs. But, as with all businesses, there are those that can add value to any contract they undertake. But there are also those companies that aspire to be PMCs or PSCs but are lacking in expertise, experience and any semblance of a reputation.

These imposters prey on vulnerable governments and/or corporations in Africa and the East. They cannot give a government sound advice on strategy or tactics. They have no real experience or expertise in the field they claim to be specialists in. Their conduct in the field is despicable. They ascribe to the lowest possible training standards. In short, they are fly-by-night con-artists who are out to make a quick buck at the expense of their client. In this process of deception and incompetence, they tarnish the reputation of the PMCs and PSCs who are able to deliver on their promises.

Some newly-established PMCs/PSCs scour the market place looking for people with a reputation to add to their list of contacts/associates/partners and directors in order to use these names to open doors for them. They believe that these names will bring in the business. They use these names to develop proposals on their behalf and then end up selling the proposals as their own work or without the permission or knowledge of the author. With this lack of honour towards those who they rope in to assist themselves, imagine their lack of honour towards their clients.

A number of PMCs/PSCs are sponsored by Western governments who have motives that are not always obvious. These PMCs become their favoured companies to use – and they act on behalf of the sponsoring government’s foreign policy and also act as intelligence fronts. They are not there to help clients but rather to advance their government’s agendas – usually to the detriment of the client-government.

I, like many others, know of some PMCs and PSCs out there, that thrive on false track records. They use the histories of companies they have never been involved with – and use the track-records of those companies on their glamorous brochures and smart websites in order to dupe governments and corporations into employing them. They claim to have “24-hour crisis response centres” – which don’t exist. The end result is that they cannot accomplish what they undertook to deliver or were contracted to do. They can (sometimes) talk the talk but are unable to walk the walk.

Perhaps the time has come to expose those companies that pose as Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies. It is time to name and shame those that make false claims to the detriment of their clients. It is time to stop those irresponsible companies that are ruthlessly exploiting under-siege governments and in the process damaging a very important industry. It is time the real PMCs stood up and cleaned up the industry, instead of waiting for the media or a foreign government to make that exposure.

I am sure that under-siege governments would welcome knowing who they can trust to deliver a professional service that will serve their interests and who to stay away from. As long as the poser companies are allowed to continue with their nefarious activities, governments will be left wondering.

Given the bad publicity that PMCs and PSCs have attracted within certain segments of the media – and not all of it has been unfair - a house-cleaning operation will not bring about much of a change. Anti-PMC/PSC sentiments will forever remain, especially by the UN, NGOs and multi-nationals with hidden agendas. But, if the industry is cleaned up from within, their calls for action against the industry will simply be hollow.

44 comments:

graycladunits said...

Dear Sir:

Did your company ever work with/help a PMC called the Northbridge Services Group? I once typed in a search for your company and somehow ended up at this company's website. I looked for it in your book, but I didn't find anything though I heard at one point that EO was bought out by them. I take it that was just a rumor.

Also, when EO broke up, did the remaining executives try to find job for the rank and file soldiers/support staff or was it every man for himself?

matt said...

Wow, I just read this, after I wrote up a deal about Doug Brook's interview with IA Forum. I will link to this article as well. Both Doug and David Isenberg were hitting on this very topic, and talked about the concept that it is time to re-evaluate the uses of PMCs. The best comment was from Doug.

Doug said, “…it’s very strange that the UN uses private security for their warehouses or personnel or their own headquarters, but they don’t use private security to protect people.”

And he also mentioned your company Eeben, and how the UN came to you guys to help stop the Rwandan genocide, and yet somehow that was turned down. And how many died during that deal? 800,000 to a million deaths? Shameful

Mr Brooks: The UN contacted [Executive Outcomes] and said, “Could you end the genocide in Rwanda?” This was probably about two weeks into the genocide when nobody else in the world was willing to go in there, to deploy their military. And so EO is sort of between assignments… They said, “Yea, we could do that.” …They got the tickets and were about to head to New York and got another phone call saying the deal’s off.

Outstanding article Eeben, and I am totally a proponent of some kind of PMC index. We must have a fair and universally accepted method of identifying those companies that are solid, and those that are downright deplorable. Common sense should dictate, but you often wonder how countries choose some of these idiotic companies to conduct such a vital service in their home. Excellent work. Cheers. -matt

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Northbridge Services were one of several companies claiming to be a reconstituted EO, GCU. They were NEVER part of EO, never worked with EO and no-one from EO ever worked with them. Initially, they even copied things off the old EO website and put on theirs. Also, it was not a rumour that they “bought out” EO – it was a lie.

I am not sure what happened to all the men when EO closed as I was no longer involved in the company. I did hear that a lot of men were poached by other companies and some went off to seek new careers.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the compliment, Matt.

Rwanda was a horrific UN failure where lives were equated to dollars. Doug’s comments aren’t entirely correct: EO wasn’t “between assignments” nor were we on our way to New York. The UN turned it down because we were “too expensive” – even though we were several hundred million dollars cheaper than they were.

It would be difficult to create an index due to numerous reasons. I think some PMCs/PSCs are good at some things, others good at different things. Instead there should be a shameful PMC/PSC index where everyone can see just who the con-artists are.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Thanks for the clarification Eeben. I also just posted a new article from the Economist about Somalia. In the article, they actually printed the mention of using PSC's in that country, as a possible solution to help secure the new government.
It is nice to see the Economist present the concept in an unbiased way as well. I have no clue if using PSC's would be a viable solution in Somalia at this time, but I did mention EO's success in Angola and Sierra Leone as examples of a PMC doing good things. Especially in places that have been written off by the rest of the world.
So let me ask you this Eeben. If EO was still operating, and the UN approached you about contracting the services of EO to help stabilize things in Somalia, would you accept? I know there are a lot of what ifs in a question like this, but is Somalia an impossible country for a PMC to take on, or not?
I would think the Shabab would totally play a PR game, that would make any PMC coming in, look like an evil foreign mercenary army, coming to take the resources of the country and kill civilians--and 'we are your saviors'. And then meanwhile, the Shabab beat and murder their fellow muslims, and implement Sharia law to the extreme. Would this be too difficult of an environment for a PMC like EO to navigate, or is it feasible? Thanks again, and this is certainly a fascinating look at the subject.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is interesting to see how the Economist has done an about-face on this issue, Matt. At a time, they were quite happy to write their own version of events on EO. Perhaps they are punting for a UK firm to get the job?

As far as using a PSC in Somalia: There are already a multitude of PSCs in Somalia. I believe that the Somalis will accept help from anyone who offers it but perhaps their financial situation is not currently able to sustain such companies. If I recall correctly, the French and the Chinese have also offered assistance in terms of training and funding and several Somalis are busy with training in Libya. The majority of these PSCs are offering counter-piracy solutions. But, as long as these solutions do not address the central issues, they will not be of much help to any government.

That said, if EO was still operating and the UN approached us, I would certainly have had a look at their requirements. However, we would have refused to implement any UN plan (these plans are usually fraught with errors) and we would have refused to work under UN command and control (their C& C systems are equally weak).

If on the other hand we were approached directly by the government, then we would have accepted such a challenge.

As you mention, there are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” but it is a problem that can be resolved. I believe the approach to the problem is the core issue at stake here. As long as governments, the UN, the NGOs, the PMCs and the PSCs ignore the causes, the situation will remain volatile.

So, if a PMC has the blessing of the Somali government, an effective PMC will be able to make a very positive contribution to stability in that country.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby Noel said...

FYI

Dogs of War: Blue helmets and
By DAVID ISENBERG

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Is the world ready to let private military and security contractors participate in U.N. peace operations? When I ask this, I'm not talking about Hollywood celebrities calling for the firm formerly known as Blackwater to work in Darfur.

In one respect, this is a trick question as contractors have been and are involved in such operations.

In the 1990s Defense Systems Ltd. provided security for the U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Lifeguard protected World Vision's operations in Sierra Leone. The U.N. World Food Program employed Hart Security. In East Timor, DynCorp provided logistics for the United Nations while KwaZulu Natal Security and Empower Loss Control Services provided local intelligence. In addition, demining has been contracted out to PMCs like ArmorGroup and Ronco (both bought up by Group 4 Securicor) as well as Saracen in virtually all recent U.N. operations, and DynCorp is one of three main preselected contractors for the U.S. State Department's mine-action programs.

The U.N. Security Council routinely turns to the commercial sector for the outsourcing of police, such as the International Police Task Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The U.S.-funded Pacific Architects and Engineers along with International Charter Inc. of Oregon provided logistical support to the 1999 Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Indeed, if one looks at the Feb. 24 U.N. list of registered vendors, one finds such firms as Aegis Defense Services Ltd., DynCorp International (NYSE:DCP), Hart Security, Ronco, and Steele North America, to name a few.

But beyond that, the subject of contractors being used as soldiers in peace operations, and not just providing support, is getting increasingly serious consideration. Remember that at the height of the Rwanda crisis, the Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Kofi Annan became so desperate for troops that he even considered hiring DSL to stop the genocide. Not one of 19 states then participating in the U.N. Standby Arrangements System chose to contribute military forces. Ultimately, Annan did not hire a private firm, saying, "The world may not be ready to privatize peace."

While the world still may not be willing to privatize peace, given that the word means not just transferring a capability to the private sector but giving it up entirely, many seem willing to subcontract it out.

Increasingly, military professionals seem to think that the idea is viable.......more

http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2009/02/27/Dogs_of_War_Blue_helmets_and_bottom_lines/UPI-23121235775226/2/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Robby. It is a good piece that David wrote.

Rgds,

Eeben

sugarmaple said...

The British Association of Private Security Companies http://www.bapsc.org.uk appears an attempt at self-regulation.

Unfortunately the PMC/PSC industry has become dogged with the "wild west" excess surrounding the American occupation of Iraq. The whole episode leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths.

Before the Iraq war, the public (American's at least) were little aware of PMC/PSC security services. Now nearly everyone is familiar with the general concept.
I believe there is a growing but reluctant acceptance by western governments that PMC/PSC's are OK for some uses.

What I find divisive is the defensive/offensive debate. For example, Erinys refers to itself as "glorified taxi drivers". Is there a future for those willing to step over that boundary?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Sugarmaple. Sadly, the unprofessional actions of a (relatively) few have tarnished the reputation of many. But, it is also the fault of the PMCs/PSCs for standing idly by and doing nothing to prevent these hooligans for carrying on the way they have.

As regards Erinys: Their founder Sean Cleary was “rewarded” with a contract in Iraq for the good work he did in running such a massive disinfo campaign against EO. Of course, as soon as it became obvious he was part of Erinys, he “resigned” from the company. A “peacenik” cannot be associated with such things, can he?

I believe that there is a future for PMCs/PMCs who are genuinely interested in supporting the clients. My attitude was that if a rebel killed one of our men we would go out and kill 100 of them. In the end, they didn’t want to fight our men and the client achieved both their strategic and tactical objectives.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby Noel said...

The thing that always really bugged me during basic training was why the whole had to pay the price of a few that being said accept the fact that we live in a world where those like you who have logic solutions to tough problems are passed over ....it leaves one to assume that political instability is the desired outcome by those that call the shots.....

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Basics was all about getting the group to function as a single entity, Robby. I too, however, hated that group punishment thing but even though I hated it then, looking back at the result makes me suspect that it actually worked.

Many politicians and businessmen work hard to create political instability. On the political side, I am not sure that it is always related to incompetence. On the business side, political instability is a great aid in accessing cheap resources and selling war material.

Rgds.

Eeben

Robby Noel said...

Basics was all about getting the group to function as a single entity,

I agree however the difference was we could beat the crap out of those that screwed up :-)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

But of course, Robby. That was part of the psychology…if Soldier X didn’t pull his weight and we all got punished for his actions, we could help him to give nothing but his best in future. Sometimes it did involve a good kick up the backside from us who had to take the punishment, a few hard whacks against his head – or whatever was required. Ultimately Soldier X gave his best and that was what the rest of us expected of him.

Rgds,

Eeben

Andrea Murrhteyn said...

Perhaps of Interest (quotes you Eeben):

BlackWaters New African Frontier, from MotherJones (Lefty Liberal Perspective)

Lara

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very interesting, Lara, thank you.

Africa is such a large continent in terms of problems and conflict that PMCs and PSCs could find themselves working here. My concern is – and will always be – the fly-by-night companies who are here not to do a good job but see how money they can make. Of course, then there are those that are simply here to gather intelligence and destabilise…

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Hi Eeben, a very well known American security provider has had the great opportunity of training the Iraqi police. After about 3 years and an enormous amount of US Dollars spent, it broke in the media, if I recall correctly The New York Times, that the whole training program was a complete failure. The only comment from this company was that they, under their contract, only had to provide the instructors, which the reckon they did, but apparently fell way short to supply the amount of instructors needed for this task, and that they also did not have to guarantee the success of the operation/program.
So, they only supply the instructors, get the money and if the program is a complete failure, they don’t care, cause they don’t have to guarantee any success.
To this day they still make millions in the security industry all over the world!
I think a lot of these companies would have been out of the game a long time ago, if it wasn’t for the US Government providing them with these lucrative contracts.
I really think this is the only reason why so many of them are still around. They are getting looked after by their respective governments.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many PMCs/PSCs would never have found themselves with contracts were it not for the US government, John. Looking at the drama unfolding in Iraq, it is astonishing to think that many of these companies were paid millions of dollars to do as little as possible.

I am sorry to harp on this issue but the US was one of the driving forces to get EO out of Angola and replace us with MPRI. Likewise, the US was “concerned” at EO’s presence in Sierra Leone. But hypocrisy has a strange way of finally creeping up on the purveyors of such actions.

It is also this type of “could-care-less” attitude of PMCs/PSCs that has placed the industry into such a poor light. Another fly-by-night outfit tarnishes many good companies and men.

But, I am sure the US government is satisfied with the lack of work done for maximum financial benefit. If they weren’t, they would have called the company you refer to, to account for their actions. But, we all know this will never happen.

And to think, these are the types of companies the US is promoting to get involved in Africa. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the US government’s foreign policy aims are.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Ok, question: Are the Los Zetas of Mexico a "private military/security contractor" in the sense that you believe? Certainly, they are doing whatever they can for their clients.

In a sense, what is the practical difference between a P(M/S)C and a paramilitary that crosses borders? An incorporation?

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Certainly an interesting question, Jared.

My opinion is that Los Zetas is an armed criminal organisation that cannot be compared to a PMC/PSC. Whereas they may be doing what they can for the cartels, their aim is to protect crime bosses and expand criminal influence in Mexico. Any respectable PMC/PSC would work at eliminating crime and not expanding it.

A PMC/PSC that works under contract to a government cannot simply cross borders – unless such a crossing is authorised by their client. A paramilitary is different to a PMC/PSC and often falls beyond such control.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Thank you for the reply.

In response, what if the gov't is a cartel, such as the recent "revelations" concerning Guinea and Guinea-Bissau? What if the aims of the political institution which hires the PMC is somewhat or totally corrupted (thinking in the extreme of Rwanda, but also Zimbabwe)?

By cross borders, I mean act in such a way as to be borderless/without nationality (like a multi-national). Not literally "hire or instruct to cross a border".

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Another interesting point, Jared.

I think responsible PMCs/PSCs will avoid rogue governments as such contracts will simply destroy the companies who try to get involved. The international pressure will simply become too much for the PMC/PSC.

Just by the way, the US military is heavily involved in Rwanda so where does one draw the line? Also, some Western governments have put a lot of pressure to topple governments who did not do their bidding. So I suppose the question is who decides if a government is rogue or not?

But, when the government in question takes power due to its criminal actions (there are a couple of those around) it becomes a matter of debate as to when such a government is “legitimate” or not.

It would be interesting to hear what others have to say about this issue.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

If someone were to construct a test to determine "quality PMC" or "not quality PMC", what would be the certifying factors? How would those factors calculate?

My previous points were to prove there are many permutations of private military's, at the root of the meaning of combining "private" and "military" as separate from "private" and "security".

It seems illogical that ethics and prudence are the only distinguishing characteristics between a legitimate PMC and a band of criminals with guns (no matter how professional). And I guess tanks.

Thanks!
Jared

userdude said...

Eeben,

Also, on the "who says they're corrupt" comment, that's a very good question.

From a nation's point-of-view, such as the US, Venezuela, Russia, Iran or South Africa, it is a function of policy to block/disrupt states they see as rogue and those states and persons that continue to deal with them through many different methods, including embargoes, tariffs, and such.

How does this effect a private military enterprise? I think what you are saying is that from an honorable point of view, you work for who hired you, but does that preclude a necessary question of sovereign and foreign collateral damage to the business?

If a PMC were otherwise legitimate with good experience, professional results, and equipped for a situation, when does the policy of a nation (such as those listed) begin to weigh on that company when accepting work?

Should it? To what extent? Is this honorable to the business needs? Does it matter?

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise several very important points, Jared. I know that Jake and Matt (CombatOperator and Feraljundi respectively) are trying to figure that one out. I however am a bit concerned as to WHO will determine this? Will it be a government that has used PMC 1 and can vouch for them or will it be some government’s State Department who wish to have their interests furthered by a certain PMC?

I believe that there are more than just ethics and prudence involved. As a matter of reference, when we (EO) were operational, we laid down our guidelines on clients we would refuse to work for. We followed those guidelines yet we were still attacked on a daily basis by most Western governments. Yet, as soon as we left those countries – due to international pressure, the governments who were critical of us immediately sent in their PMCs. That is where my problem with the PMC/PSC industry lies.

As soon as international laws – or even local laws – are broken, the PMC no longer operates within the law. It is then that I see them as “criminal” or “false” PMCs. And, looking at the behaviour of some so-called PMCs today, there are several that fall within that domain.

Furthermore, EO never possessed any weapons. We used what the contracting government had and just maximised the application of those weapons. Any contracted PMC must at all times operate within the law of the contracting government. If they don’t, they are not operating in accordance with their mission.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think that it is a question of where does one do business, Jared?

If foreign mining houses, oil companies, banks and so forth do business within a country, why should a PMC avoid that country? I believe it goes right back to where we started – how legitimate is that government? And who decides on the legitimacy?

I think this is an area fraught with problems. If a country approached me and asks to put together a PMC to assist them, I would ask certain questions:

1. Is this an internationally recognised government?
2. Is this government using their armed forces to conduct a reign of terror on its people?
3. Is this government planning to enter a religious war? And so on.

I think many PMCs follow a similar route but I must admit that there are countries where US PMCs are working that I wouldn’t work due to numerous factors. But, the converse is also true that if I were working in country X, many US PMCs may not want to be there for their own reasons.

A PMC should always consider the sovereignty issue. If the government is not sovereign, the PMC is transgressing international laws. But then again, there are foreign governments that support such states and that, according to law, seems to be quite acceptable.

In short, a debate that can continue for a long time.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

This is for sure a conversation that could go on and on.

Thank you for sharing your point of view and experience.

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think you certainly touched on something that is both pertinent and very relevant, Jared. Thanks for your input and questions. It might make for a very good subject to write about. Would you like to do so – I would happily post it on my blog if you wish?

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Interesting proposition - let me think about it.

Fleshing out the two missing risk components, from the PMC's corporate point of view:

* Strategic
* Political/Reputational
* Legal
* Operations
* Tactics

I am no international law/foreign policy, risk management or military expert, but I would think those two could inflict a good deal of harm and consequence if not conscientiously analyzed (and conversely be an opportunity for some operators).

Thanks!
Jared

esquire said...

Hi Eeben,

Great to follow your blog and read your valuable and factual comments on very imporant topics/issues. Sorry to hear about Duncan, our thoughts are with his family. His work and leadership in Irian Jaya, amongst others, won't be forgotten.

In respect of your segment on PCM/PSC's, the facts are obvious and I also agree with Jake's recommended internal “class-system” so that security and related contracts are solely discharged by legitimate companies complying with internationally accepted regulatory standards and the laws and regulations of that specific region.

What's your view on the consideration of incorporating a relevant non-profit regional associations that facilitates membership and a proper vetting process, allowing for Codes of Conduct/Principles, as well as rules/procedures for governance, etc.

Such an initiative for Africa has already been made active by a friend in South Africa, please see http://www.pasa-africa.org

Rgds,
John H

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think that regional implications ought to also be considered, Jared. I look forward to hearing what you decide.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for joining us, John – and of course, thanks for your comment re the blog.

Duncan was a character and a half. I knew him from way back, did courses with him and always found him unflappable and fun to be with. His death was really tragic. Just last night I was going through some old photos and found a photo of him I took a long time ago. My heart goes out to all of his family and friends.

Jake has made a very good point on this issue. My only concern remains WHO decides on the standards. I know from my limited experience that the PMCs that were forced on governments when we were pushed out (by the forcing government) were unable to do their jobs and the contracting government had to accept that as it carried a Western government’s blessing.…that is where I have a problem. Who decides on the standards?

I don’t believe that there is a single true non-profit organisation. All of those I am aware of make pretty substantial profits with membership fees, vetting fees and so on. In principle, I am not opposed to the idea but again I say that PMCs have themselves to blame for the feeling towards them. A visitor mentioned a specific company in Iraq that broke all trust placed in them – yet they still continue to operate with State Dept blessing – with MoD contracts. That is part of the problem.

I am aware of Chris’ initiative. I do however believe that there are some issues that he needs to clarify. Again, in principle, it is a good idea – also started in SA - and I am sure that once issues are resolved, he will get support.

Rgds,

Eeben

alanh2 said...

Hi Eeben,

What is your take on the current PMC environment in Iraq as I believe the Coalition Forces are in the process of reducing their presence in the cities and towns - prior to the (oft) stated withdrawal of American forces by 2011?

With the military hunkered down in their bunkers how is the PMC (let alone a civilian contractor) going to survive in that environment?

I stand corrected, but I believe PMC’s are not allowed to purchase military spec. vehicles and are not allowed to carry anything larger than 7.62 Nato. With PMC’s limited to side arms, M4/M16’s, Minimi’s, etc. and armoured SUV’s they appear to have squat chance against IED’s, RPG’s and the like without some military back-up when things get really ‘hot’.

When the final CF elements depart is it going to be like Saigon prior to it being overrun by the NVA - i.e. holding a perimeter at BIAP and nearby rooftops and praying you can hitch a ride on the last aircraft out of the country?

No Neil Ellis with a Mi-24 or some EO BM2’s to call up when the proverbial hits the fan.

Alan H.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am no expert on Iraq, Alan H, but I believe the initial strategy was fatally flawed. This brings me to the saying that you cannot correct a bad plan with overwhelming firepower. However, overwhelming firepower can give you some breathing space and in Iraq, the military has that element – something a PMC does not have.

If the US forces are confined to barracks or withdrawn in total, it will create rather serious problems for the PMCs as they will find themselves operating in a hostile vacuum. That will change the rules significantly.

I am not sure how they will continue their tasks but I suspect it will be difficult.

Rgds,

Eeben

niels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am still around (at times) Niels. By the way, I was not sure what to do with your second post (AS) so I assumed it is your real name and deleted it? Was I wrong to do so??

I still get calls from some of the “old guys” from EO asking when we will be working again. But, given South Africa’s stance to PMCs via the Foreign Military Assistance Act, it is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Maybe one day, the SA government will realise that it shot itself in their foot with that bill as everyone else is sending their PMCs to Africa to project influence and stability.

I believe that only Africans can solve Africa’s problems. But we no longer have an ability to do so…

Rgds,

Eeben

Gordon said...

Sir,

I am a veteran of the contracting world, and based on my recent experience in Afghanistan, I would like to say that all the hype about Contractors aside, I found that working a contract in a country where corruption runs very broad and deep, this presents some very unique problems while working with post conflict countries and particularly those with fragile infrastructures.

While the US is pushing forward the ACOTA initiative, all of the well known large PMC's are currently waiting to see who gets awarded this contract. It will be interesting to see if such contractor allows for congressional oversight while operating as part of an overall US policy (as it relates to the newly formed AFRICOM)

In respect to the issues relating to corruption, it may be noteworthy to mention, Africa has almost a unique corruption issue as it relates to buying loyalties, from the metro elite to the provincial elite.

(Depending on the state)

However, the ACOTA initiative is aimed at supporting the 22 partner nations, and seeking support of AFRICOM which is a hybrid command in that there is DOS / DOD seats in the same command.

My thoughts are with some of those states in the partner nations have so little to offer, how will this effect those states with more resources and greater material contributions to the effort.

In your opinion is the US with the ACOTA initiative & AFRICOM command on the right track with the USE of PMC's in building / training peace keeping forces in states that have no ability to sustain them?

or , are the setting themselves up for failure?

Personal Best !

Gordon

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise some very valid points, Gordon. However, I believe that a mistake that is frequently made is to judge Africa by “western” standards and not by African standards. This leads to a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings. I am not advocating that corruption in Africa is “good” or that it should be accepted but what we may consider to be corruption is not considered as such in Africa.

The US’s interest in Africa has grown as the resource pool of Africa has become more obvious, especially as the Chinese have long recognised this. However, the past history of the US in Africa is not one that the US can be proud of. I therefore see ACOTA as a move to negate China’s role in Africa and instead impose a US system on the continent that will ensure resources for the US. But, Africa has a long memory and whereas any foreign funding will be gladly accepted, the betrayals will also never be forgotten.

The ACOTA/AFRICOM initiative needs to take cognisance of the fact that PMCs who UNDERSTAND Africa can make a valuable contribution. However, having visited Africa for a week or so makes no foreign PMC an “expert” on Africa. If training is not tailored to a nation’s requirements, it will not succeed.

Conflicts in Africa are not driven by technology but by the ability to use basic weapons and equipment to achieve an outcome. The US approach to swamping a conflict with technology and then realising that technology is merely a force multiplier may well bring its own set of problems to Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben

Maciej said...

Dear Mr. Barlow,
I am writing master thesis, which argues that PMCs could be effective intervention force in peace enforcement missions. My argument is based on case study of EO in Sierra Leone. However, sources tend to contradict each other so if you could answer few of my questions I would really appreciate it.
1. Why did the president Kabbah terminate contract with EO?
2. According to the sources, when EO left Sierra Leone, the government still owed company some $18 mil dollars. Was this debt ever paid? And if yes, who paid it?
3.There are a lot of accusations when it comes to breaking of the human rights by EO in Sierra Leone and practically no examples. The only one that I found is connected with the situation during which helicopter pilots contacted base and informed it that they located group of people in the jungle. They added that they were not able to say if they were civilians or rebells. Officer of SLA who was in command ordered to kill everybody. How would you answer this accusation?
4. There are quite few good things written about EO's personnel treatment and cooperation with local populations ie., personnel helped locals to grow food, evacuated orphans from interiors to Freetown. Is there anything else that you could add?
5. How helpful were the Kamajors in achieving victory against RUF?
6. What would you answer those accusing EO of creating another political actor in Sierra Leone by training and providing Kamajors with equipment?
7. What would you answer those who say that security crated by EO in Sierra Leone was short lived?

Sincerely,
Maciej

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I covered all of that in my book, Maciej. But, I‘ll answer your questions with short answers.

1. Kabbah was instructed to do so by the World Bank who wanted the UN to rather be in SL.
2. The debt was never paid.
3. A lot of allegations and even after years and years, no shred proof. One only has to look at who made the allegations (RUF and UN). Furthermore, look at the abuses by the UN’s peacekeepers. EO had letters of thanks from churches, aid organisations and even an award from Children against War. So, I rest my case. The “incident” you write about was started by someone in the media and was entirely fabricated.
4. What EO did has been well documented. Assisted with crops, medical aid, purified water, rescued villagers, saved babies about to the slaughtered and eaten by the RUF, etc.
5. Once EO had trained them, they were good guides and trackers. However, EO did the bulk of the fighting with the others tagging along.
6. The Kamajors is but one tribe in SL. EO didn’t provide them with equipment – the government did. Go and read the history of the conflict please.
7. Look who made the allegation – the UN. They had to cover their incompetence of taking 17 000 men to do what our 250 men did and then losing control over the situation. EO did what it had to do better than anyone else ever did. EO created security – the UN lost it. Simple as that.

Good luck with your thesis.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gordon said...

The second paragraph nailed it Eden, I particularly like the time line part.

Military efforts quicly lose momentum, lack conviction and are easily bogged down with excuses.

This is the biggest crime of our time, endless resources and technology to toss at a realtive small problem.

Any time the UN is involved in anything, you can take the military factor described above, ad languge and cultural barriers, and you will find an even more cumbersome and intrusive force, stumbling over its self imposed mandates.

No, what is needed in todays world is a model of success, a model of small units operating effectively using effective time proven tactics then execute. EO has provided this model already, and I dont beleive Eden wasted one minute on extensive powerpoint presentations and through endless resources at the problem.

it is cunning, prudent and wise to eliminate the problem swiftly, as opposed to allowing Military or worse yet the UN to allow conflicts to continue on.

The UN does have good qualities but are more of a Post conflict asset.

Cheers!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Military efforts lose momentum because of poor planning and a lack of initiative, Gordon. Despite the massive resources and technology available, there seems to be a distinct inability to plan to use these assets correctly, effectively and efficiently.

We believed that we had a model for success, especially in Arica, but no-one wanted to listen to us, hence my decision to write a book on warfare in Africa. What we did learn from others was NOT to use PowerPoint – that is in essence a case of bluffing your way through with pictures. Sadly, when the bullets start flying, those pictures hold no value.

As for the UN: We could have been a great ally to them and we could certainly have helped them a lot in Africa. Instead, they chose to lie about EO and work at deceiving whoever they could regarding EO. Instead of gaining a friend, they gained an enemy. That said, I have yet to see what good they have brought to Africa in terms of ending conflicts or even policing the end of conflicts. I also believe that their incompetence and duplicity in Africa needs to be exposed.

By the way, it is “Eeben” and not “Eden”.

Rgds,

Eeben

mathias84 said...

Eeben I read your post on Northbridge Services and you mentioned how you were unsure where personnel from EO may have ended up. I understand that Saracen International is headed by
Lafras Luitingh and he was a member of EO and and a major in CCB before that. I believe you were a region commander in CCB at one point. You think any other men from your company may have made their way over there too?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am not sure where most of the men are Mathias84. I would surmise that some may have joined Lafras but who I do not know.

As for the conmen at Northbridge masquerading as “Executive Outcomes” I can only feel both pity and anger: I pity people who try to use the success of others in order to falsely secure contracts – anger because they know they are lying and would most probably not have lasted a day in EO yet they continue to perpetuate their deception.

I was the Region Commander of Region 5 (Europe and Middle East) – that was a secret until Military Intelligence leaked it to the media. However, Lafras did not work with me and although we were both in CCB, the one did not know the other was there. It said something for some of the compartmentalisation we had.

Rgds,

Eeben