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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I continue to be amazed at the amount of time, energy and money expended on the theory and practice of “peacekeeping” in conflict zones on the African continent. Conferences are held to debate the value and role of peacekeeping operations. Academic papers are penned extolling the virtues and successes of peacekeeping operations - truth be told there aren’t any to boast about. Committees are formed to monitor the players in the peacekeeping process. New NGOs spring up to play their new-found role in this on-going, lucrative farce.

Whereas keeping the peace is a very noble idea, does it really work in practise? Do those innocent people who are caught up in the conflict gain anything from the peacekeeping operations? Does fleeing their homes in terror in the middle of the night and becoming refugees something they must supposedly look forward to? Does having their hands and ears hacked off, their wives and daughters raped, their families murdered and so on give them hope? Does watching their crops and meagre possessions being destroyed while the peacekeeping forces look on helplessly, continually switch sides or turn away something they should be happy about? I doubt it.

It appears that the true winners are those who partake in these so-called peacekeeping operations and judging by their results, they really couldn’t care less about “peace” and the civilians they are supposedly there to protect. Poorly-trained and inadequately-led peacekeeping troops lead to more instability. Continued instability and conflict equates to continued income for the peacekeepers and those followers of peacekeeping missions that exploit the conflict situation.

Africa is a dangerous place and it is kept that way by wars, coups, crime and violence – often purposely – and often by very powerful behind-the-scenes players. Some of the players are foreign governments and others are multi-national corporations. But conflicts fuel the arms trade and make resources cheaper to buy. Other avenues for business are also opened up. But, the roles of these behind-the-scenes players are seldom if ever investigated. Instead, their political influence and profit margins continue to grow – as does their influence.

I have made my thoughts known on the utter and dismal failures of the UN’s so-called “peacekeeping” missions in Africa and the misery these missions have brought – and still bring - with them. Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia are but some of the missions that have simply prolonged the state of conflict. True, at times a stalemate is achieved – but what then? However, more often than not, the rebels or terrorists (as that is what they usually are) continue to maintain the initiative.

But a question no one has ever answered is “how can you keep peace when there is no peace?”

Surely, that is a pretty simple question to answer?

When an internationally recognised government comes under the attack of so-called rebels, guerrillas or a dissatisfied political opponent and the antagonists resort to murder, terrorism, destruction, crime and chaos, what purpose do those who rush to “keep the peace” really serve? Would their noble mission not be better served if they hunted down those who committed the atrocities and brought them to book? If the peacekeeping forces are too useless to do their jobs, then perhaps the UN and those who claim to wish for peace should rather contract PMCs that have a desire – and a track record - to end the conflicts. Besides, elections, democracy and peace remain a pipe-dream as long as there is instability.

All conflicts involve players with their own aims and objectives. If an under-siege government asks for foreign forces to assist it in ending the conflict, isn’t that exactly what should be done? If foreign forces are despatched to help a government achieve some stability, isn’t the logical step to first end the conflict and then to maintain the peace?

Shouldn’t the peacekeeping forces only arrive once there has been a cessation of hostilities and a declaration of peace? Trying to do this about-face is somewhat senseless as one cannot enter a conflict zone and simply claim to be “keeping peace” thinking that it will suddenly end the conflict.

Peacekeeping missions seem to be driven by achieving a “ceasefire”, a method for rebels to simply gain time, re-arm and continue with the conflict. There is nothing noble or humanitarian about this apart from allowing the civilians caught up in the conflict a few days or months respite – and often in total misery.

If the UN is so concerned at keeping peace, why doesn’t it dispatch its “peacekeeping forces” to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the countless other conflicts and bring with them the peace they boast about? I never saw them rush off to Georgia to “keep peace” during the brief conflict that took place there. Or are these conflicts too dangerous for them?

Unless drastic action is taken to end conflicts, they will simply continue - and “peacekeeping” will continue to remain the profitable farce it is.


Alex said...

Hey Eeben,

Nice to have you back a bit earlier than expected!

I'm really glad you wrote this article and explicitly addressed these issues here. My view consistently remains that to create peace you must first destroy the cause of conflict. Some of the parts of 'Against All Odds' I most enjoyed were the often tremendous successes EO achieved against these cancerous groups (I'm thinking in particular of the RUF, but I'm sure you know of many others that would benefit from similar treatment) and the ability of the company to effectively beat back their forces. People who consider mass rape and hacking off children's limbs acceptable strategies of warfare are not worth the time trying to negotiate with, as you're certainly more aware than me.

Personally I'm sick of the complete lack of will or ability of anyone, seemingly apart from EO (and possibly you know of other companies or entities which have taken similar standpoints to yours) to simply root out and destroy these groups and their members and leaders, and it's not even my continent they're messing around in. Your points about Africa's weakness and chaos being beneficial to so many are well made, and unfortunately this is a truth unlikely to change anytime soon.

However, to state the obvious, there are no simple solutions to this. Regrettably it appears no one has emerged to take the place of EO as an efficient fighting force willing to conduct competent and offensive operations against such groups. However I did come across an article that caught my attention in the Guardian recently, so I'll post a link here. As both an African and someone with extensive background in these sorts of affairs I'd be interested to hear your opinion.


Humanitarian intervention, while probably never occurring without certain agendas attached, seems to be, in part, the direction warfare is taking in this century. If countries with the resources and organisation to carry out effective operations are willing to commit the troops and equipment simply to end conflict where it occurs, it may have positive long-term impacts. I'd be very interested to get your input on this side of foreign involvement in 'other people's wars', especially potentially in your own continent. In the UK this week we've had a lot of coverage of troop deaths in Afghanistan as our toll there has surpassed that of Iraq, and the view seems to be emerging again, at least among the public, that it's 'not our war'. However, while it's hard to dispute such a statement, if countries like the UK and US don't step in sometimes (and I'm by no means defending the foreign policy of either nation in an overall sense), who will? The life of a Western European or an American is worth no more or less than that of an African or an Afghan, and since the militaries of the world often like to speak of being a 'force for good', I would say using that force to end festering conflicts, or even effect regime change in certain scenarios (and I do realise the danger of setting such precedents) could be a very powerful part of foreign policy in the coming years.

The atrocities committed in today's wars are too numerous and appalling to effectively recount here, and the aftermath of RUF attacks you describe in your book are as good an example as any. Personally I don't want my country to sit aside with knowledge of the scale and horror of such events and refuse to intervene due to wooly political considerations (state sovereignty will have to take a back seat to basic considerations of when it is wrong to do nothing) or a lack of direct national benefits.

That's probably enough out of me for the time being, suffice to say I'm in agreement with you over the farcical role of 'peacekeeping' in many conflict zones, and the ridiculousness of much of what the UN tries to achieve (well intentioned though some of it may be). I look forward to hearing what you and other posters have to say on these issues.



Gordon said...

True, your views and opinions are deeply appreciated and well respected.

Having said this, one must further understand why their failure is so complete?
The obvious points to the hopeless quagmire of self defeating mandates, and double standards.
For an example: One of the UN mandates prohibits the use of PMC's in the role as "Peace keepers" while the UN uses PMC's to provide security for their own warehouses and equipment.

So, let us further define and characterize by what standard are the success of "peace keeping" missions measured by?

I think we can all agree that in simple terms the success would be measured by time, combined with the absence of conflict.

Hence the UN finds itself stumbling again in that the prospects of "Peace making" is nothing more than the continuation of conflict through to its fruition / Victory. Which the UN can not participate by virtue of Mandate.

Victory belongs to those who desire it most.

History is full of examples where peasant states have taken victory from seemingly impossible odds,by taking on super powers. Vietnam & Afghanistan come to mind.

However this is not to say the UN has no place as "Peace keeping" What needs to be recognized is the difference between "peace making" and "peace keeping".

While peace making requires a victorious party/ State, it also requires a legitimate governing party and the infrastructure / ability to open commerce to support the prospects of peace, security, and prosperity right down to the peasant farmers.

Those states that have little infrastructure and means to support commerce will need assistance from the outside world in the form of micro investments from the bottom up and large scale assistance from the top down.

While the world powers are quite happy to extract the natural resources from the continent. Africa seems quite happy to take outside assistance, and therin lies the tragedy.... an unworthy exchange when viewed with the millions that suffer and the few that benefit.

While at the same time "Peace making" needs to be to topic of key interest, with Africans being the primary concern.

Making Peace is a bloody, grueling prospect at best, and those most qualified to carry out this task in Africa, are Africans.

The AU provides the proper platform, let us hope that with the assistance of outside sources, be it Military of Private, take to heart the importance of making peace the priority over making commerce, and in addition but not least, is the welfare of the African people.

Perhaps after peace is established the UN can perform its role as "peace keepers, but not under its current mandates.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Alex.

I too am sick and tired of watching the chaos and mayhem spread across the continent where the UN is supposedly on duty.

No solution is ever simple but to be successful, someone needs to sit down and do a long, hard think about what is going on. Everyone is keen to shout about “democracy” but elections in Africa mean nothing if there is no stability. To bring about the stability, the cause of instability needs to be located and destroyed/neutralised – as you rightfully point out.

Thanks for the Guardian link. Humanitarian intervention is a noble one but again, there needs to be stability. When countries with the resources and willpower commit troops to end a conflict, it certainly has a long term impact and benefits. Of course there are foreign policy agendas tied-in with such assistance but then again, the under-siege government needs to decide if it can live with them and the foreign forces need to know their “enemy” and respect the laws, cultures and traditions of the country they are deployed in. When this happens, they will be welcomed by the people caught up in the conflict. With local support, ending these conflicts becomes somewhat easier.

Whereas I cannot comment on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – my knowledge of these conflicts stems from the media – I can only sympathise with the troops in those conflicts. But, for a long time there have been reports about British troops being poorly equipped for their mission– and that is criminal. The recent losses are terribly sad and the blood of their lives should be on the hands of the politicians who sent them there. But, if the politicians who sent them there were forced to do a tour of duty in those countries, I am sure the equipment problems would be very quickly sorted out.

Atrocities are to be condemned. But, in order to remain politically correct, they are seldom covered in any great depth. Taking a decision to “step in” and resolve a conflict such as many of these in Africa requires boldness on the part of politicians – but does it exist?



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You raise some very good points, Gordon. The self defeating mandates and double standards are simply proof of the UN’s inability to take effective decisions and see them through with boldness. For an organisation that puts itself out as the world’s policeman, this ought to anyone wonder what they are really aiming to achieve.

If, as you mention, peacekeeping success is measured in terms of time and absence of conflict, then the UN has failed miserably. Yet, as an organisation, it lays sole claim to “peacekeeping” – something that I find incomprehensible.

As you point out, there is a difference between peace-making and peace keeping – something I have for years been saying. If the UN had focussed on making peace – and had been successful – I am sure the world would view them differently. But, right now, they are the laughing stock of “peace” – and with it, the cause of a lot of misery where they are.

Assistance to struggling states remains a noble gesture. But, again, those states on the receiving end of assistance need to decide if they can live with the political strings that are usually attached to assistance. In my experience, if the assistance is genuine and has no small print or hidden agenda attached, they will accept it. But it also boils down to a matter of trust. But, returning to conflicts in Africa – Africa’s natural wealth is also its tragedy and the cause on many conflicts.

Whereas the people most suited to resolve Africa’s problems are indeed Africans, we sadly have no PMC able to achieve conflict resolution. In South Africa, PMCs have been legislated out of existence by short-sightedness – with the encouragement by the UN and several Western governments. Why? To prevent South Africans from resolving conflicts in Africa. Sad but true. Yet, there remains a desperate need for such companies to assist African governments bring about peace – as peace brings investment and investment brings economic growth.

Unless the UN recognises the fact that it is incapable of achieving anything under its current self-imposed mandates, it will get nowhere in its role of “peacekeeping”.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have deleted your comment, Matthew T, as it made absolutely no sense to me. Perhaps I am just being thick but it was also irrelevant to this topic.



Alex said...

The lack of proper equipment for British troops has been a sore point for several years now, and yet it still seems not to have been rectified fully. One current problem seems to be that vehicles are simply not protected enough to survive blasts from IEDs, which seems something of an oversight to say the least when it is by far the most numerous threat faced by troops in Afghanistan today. Without wishing to become sycophantic, it sounds like you nearly killed yourself making sure your guys were supplied in Angola in EO's early days, and it's just a shame there seems to be no such drive in the British political establishment to do the same. Perhaps I am being unfair, but whatever the desires to help the troops, it's small consolation if you or a loved one are caught in the next blast.

As for political will to intervene where necessary, the trick seems to be finding the courage to stick it out once the casualties start mounting; the US lost eighteen men in Mogadishu in 1993, and the political and military establishments became 'Somaliaized' as a result for about a decade, certainly having an impact on the decision not to intervene in Rwanda the following year. I don't know what impact the Obama administration's ideas will have on US policy, but it is conceivable that having a president with African heritage (and I dare say possibly more of a grasp of the issues than the last one) will have an impact on US policy in this sphere. We can only wait and see.

After the re-commencement of Sierra Leone's civil war it was eventually, in part, British forces who spearheaded the final offensive against the RUF and associated forces, but that was only after several British soldiers had been captured by the West Side Boys; intervening simply for the sake of it being necessary and possible doesn't seem to have entered into it. At least EO's achievements are now generally recognized, although that may come as small consolation to you after having been kicked out of the country for political reasons.

Of course the problem of setting precedents by intervening is also dangerous; my understanding is that the now-signature tactic of African militias using amputation as part of their strategy was originally used by European colonists, so it would be ironic to say the least for these same countries to come knocking once again, taking over wars and deciding the fate of whole countries, something I'm sure many Western leaders would be uncomfortable doing. However, as you say, it comes down to what's worse; having swathes of your country controlled by drug-addled psychopaths with machetes, or having to put up with foreign agendas in return for a semblance of stability. Not an easy decision for anyone considering the long-term to make.

Theory aside, the practical considerations of fighting in places like the DRC are nightmarish for both politicians and the military commanders and personnel who have to actually go there, especially when doing it on someone else's turf. Which again circles to the problem of equipment; without enough helicopters, APCs and so forth, there's no point going as no advantage will be conferred over the opposition. I realise you've known all this for much longer than me, it just helps to round off my argument!

Grand designs aside, I don't know what the desire is for more wars among the political and military establishments of the West, let alone the public, given the continuing chaos in the Middle East. We can only wait and see.



Robby said...

Good to see u back ...as for .."with the encouragement by the UN and several Western governments. Why? To prevent South Africans from resolving conflicts in Africa".....yes and also make a boat load of cash arming both sides...military industrial complex trumps morality and doing what's right

simon said...

I dont pretend to know the extent of social situations around the world, especially in africa. But Europe and the United States, the prime movers in 'saving the world' are so full of Politically correct thought that to kill an ant would be to take a life of a child. I have stated that I work in Govt. One has to fear even refering to another human being by skin color. Like, hey, who is teaching that training today. Um Rick, Rick who ? Rick the black gentleman from Division X. You get a ghastly look of horror.
What Im saying is that the international bodies have become so engendered with dont touch the butterflies , which we know that ALL human beings are and that those poor poor RUF soldiers (sic) are just misled and if we can talk to them and establish some peace talks, they will understand because we ALL want the same thing.

Basically the world bodies who have so much influence in Africa have decided that there are no Bad guys and that if they can only be reached , peace would break out. Its a mode used quite effectively by America's current administration in the early months, now they are learning that Governing requires much more than, Cant we all just get along ?

Forgive my sarcasm but it just rings true.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Soldiers will never have all of the equipment they want, Alex. However, when they are sent on missions by governments and do not have the basic equipment they require, that is nothing other than a crime. I have been following the story of the Brit troops and it is indeed sad. But, it also takes me back to days when SA was in Angola and how the entire West prevented us from getting the equipment we needed. Helicopters were in short supply, gunships were modified Alouettes and we were faced with an enemy who were, amongst others, using British Mk 7 landmines. I recall an ambush I led outside of a Brigade HQ at Cahama: the radio intercept the following the ambush stated that all of the equipment received from the UK had been destroyed.

Be that as it may, the SADF MPVs were instrumental in saving hundreds of lives from landmines and affording protection to motorised troops. What I find ironic is that the SA government sold-off some of the manufacturers/technology of these vehicles to BAe – what happened to the IP they bought? Or was it disregarded because it came from the “apartheid” army of South Africa? I think of the Buffel, Casper and so forth.

In EO, we had to make do with very little and adapt tactics to the few pieces of kit we did have. But, the commanders on the ground made the best of what they had. The wars in Iraq/Afghanistan are very different in nature but surely the UK government has had sufficient time to plan and prepare critical equipment required by the army? But, politicians make decisions and the soldiers become the casualties of stupidity and short-sightedness.

I have my doubts that Pres Obama’s administration will change much. Africa has grown weary of false promises. I just hope that in my lifetime I will see African governments take responsibility to govern and stop looking outside for help.

I can only shake my head at the resultant chaos that came to Sierra Leone after EO left. But, the UN and the West called it a great success…



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Robby. Ah, the hidden agendas will, over time, become exposed - as well as the not-so-hidden ones. But, during that time, more chaos and deaths will be recorded and still, nothing will really be done. A sad situation indeed.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well put, Simon. The rate at which the West is overwhelming itself with political correctness must surely give rise to some smiles somewhere. It is for the very reason you state that some governments believe they can resolve serious armed conflicts over a cup of tea. Maybe the time has come for them to go back and read Sun Tzu – but perhaps they will not understand it. Better still , they should be sent to spend some months in those countries where they seem to believe the rebels/terrorists are merely misguided people.

I see myself as an African and am proud of it. However, I am not proud at the manner in which conflicts have arisen and have been allowed to continue in Africa. I still hope that one day Africa will pull itself together and that hatchets will be buried. But, as long as the foreign hidden agendas, internal xenophobias and a host of other problems persist, they will remain a pipe-dream. This great continent is being eroded from inside and out.

As someone who thinks he knows a little bit about Africa, I watch how conflicts are started and how they are allowed to continue – in fact encouraged to continue because there is no political will, backbone and/or desire to put an end to them. But, that comment is most probably also politically incorrect to those who profit from the chaos.



Jack The Ripper said...

Hi Eeben, welcome back.


Here is a topic which I believe has a bearing on the pecacekeeping.

As stated the whole of afrca has decided not to c-opperate with the international court, except Botswana.

What is your take on this new development.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Jack, but I am told the page has expired. Perhaps if you would be so kind as to forward me the text I would try to make a sensible comment on it. However, I note that the UN/ICRC has embarked on an ambitious programme to turn African soldiers into battlefield lawyers. I am not sure if the link you provided is the same?



Alex said...

I've just been having a look back over your earlier articles (I only began following the blog a few months ago so missed them to begin with, and it only just occurred to me to read them). You've covered most of the most prescient topics I could think of already, as well as many I'd never have considered, particularly ones more specific to Africa which I would have no experience of. I find it refreshing and frightening in equal measure to be reminded that these topics are so very real for people all over the world, rather than the distant news stories they inevitably are for people like me.

With regard to the disinformation against EO, and the frankly shocking behaviour of those who seek to capitalise on its success I can only imagine the frustration this must cause you and other former EO members. Although it's probably small consolation, it goes to prove how well regarded EO have become over the years that it's name can be a successful marketing tool. When I first became interested in the concept of 'private military' affairs, EO was the first specific company I looked into as it still remains one of the best known, I imagine due to both its success and its infamy. Also, as I've previously stated, I think it has much the best name of any PMC!

I'll try to keep this post short, but I have a couple of questions if I may. What were your motivations for starting the blog when you did? It's a useful forum for people like me to get first-hand info from someone of your calibre on topics I know little about, and many of the other posters also make interesting points, so I'm grateful for its existence. Also, in one of your older posts you mentioned in a reply that you were working on a book on the CCB; is this still in the works somewhere or shouldn't I ask?

By the way, that was a brilliant poem by whoever it was from the 1978 'Army' issue. Poetry isn't made brilliant by being written in war, but that guy had something. Thanks for putting it up.



Alan said...

Eeben and friends:

Firstly, a hearty welcome back. Secondly, I fully agree with the futility of "peacekeeping" missions as we have seen in the past few decades. I would lump these unfortunate efforts along side that of attempts at "nation building" as equally great wastes of time, blood, and resource.

Additionally, I could not sit by without a tendering a brief werd on the comment......

"but it is conceivable that having a president with African heritage (and I dare say possibly more of a grasp of the issues than the last one) will have an impact on US policy in this sphere. We can only wait and see."

Worship him if you will. But let me predict that well prior to the end of his presidential tenure ... (should it ever end), and our pockets being emptied, a great many here and across the globe will look upon his predessesor with great longing, and fond nostalgia. The chains of communism have a rather unique way of creating delightful thoughts of a greater past. Be ready for it.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for visiting and reading the blog, Alex. Despite all of its problems, I choose to live in Africa as I love the continent. It has more challenges than most people could even consider. I also have a deep concern for what is happening in Africa and if I can only reach 10 people and (hopefully) make them think differently about Africa, I will be satisfied. I do not attempt to use the blog to belittle the continent that is my home but rather to show what outside influences are doing here.

The EO saga remains something of a mystery to me. I wrote the book with the belief that EO’s side of the story should be put into the public domain and not just the disinformation the media were dishing out on an almost daily basis. But the disinfo onslaught was so fierce that even today some local book sellers refuse to carry the EO book in their stores. Most foreign book dealers simply refused to even acknowledge the book. But, at least the story of EO as I and many others experienced it, is out there and hopefully the con artists and intelligence and media whores will think twice before adding more lies about EO to their repertoire.

I started the blog – not to write about EO – but to voice my concern about issues in Africa and to hopefully inform those living beyond Africa’s shores what is happening. Many of the comments I received have been very enlightening to me as well as I am grateful to see that so many readers have an interest in what is really going on here. But, I also try to use the blog as a resource for others who are looking at strategy, tactics and other military related issues.

I did start writing a book on CCB but stopped after about 150 pages as I was growing increasingly concerned that it would compromise ex-agents who are still living in Europe and the Middle East. They worked for me, took huge risks and always supported me so I still have a responsibility to protect them, regardless of where they are and what they are doing. But, I was asked to write a book on military strategy and tactics and that is what I am busy with when I get the time.

There have been many great poems on war but that particular one has always been rather special to me.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It’s always good to be back, Alan. Thanks for the welcome.

Ah, “peacekeeping”… when will they ever learn?

I note your concern regarding the road the US has embarked on – and it has also created a lot of doubt in Africa. However, I do see the road leading to nowhere in Africa and I believe that more conflicts will erupt. It is those conflicts that concern me and millions of others in Africa. I would rather African governments acted pre-emptively than adopting the wait-and-see policy.



Gordon said...


Further to the peace keeping farce in Africa, as I am actively engaged in making an argument with the powers that be here in the US to re-evaluate old initiatives and re-direct focus and efforts that make sense, by addressing the needs as opposed to the problems.

Some of the initiatives are so old & out dated the no longer serve a viable purpose.

Just one case in point, one initiative supports the education and advanced leadership skills of AU nationals by sending them to western war college and advanced military training institutes.

The problem with this initiative is many of these "sponsored" host nation nationals never find their way back to their country of origin.

My argument in this case is to bring the schools to them by way of mobile training teams.

This is just one example of how US initiatives fail where Africa is concerned.

On a different note; Where training peace keeping forces capable of doing the job is important. Would it not be more important to have the ability to mobilize them?

Where marked progress is made being made by the unprecedented charter granted by the UN for AU nations to participate.

Look at the logistical concerns pointed out in the report (Link below) APC's still in Customs with a 108 Million Dollar fee associated with it. Also, the lack of air lift capability (short 18 transports)


In addition efforts in the DRC are hampered by the same logistical issues:


While this UN role continues to provide the only available legal frame work for peace keeping efforts.

One can easily see the response to crisis is sluggish and extremely expensive. We can not ignore the fact that peace keeping is also driven by economic concerns.

The UN is driven by ceasefire it is true, as it is the only proper way for legitimate government bodies to peacefully negotiate, in a "world court", and prosecution of criminals can take place.

However, I fail to see any real legitimacy in so called "governments" mentioned in the reports from the UN so to what end are they driving this billion dollar effort?

Hence the need for aide that has an agenda. indiscriminate use of aid money can also be counter productive.

The issues I have not raised in this comment, is some states in the AU have reported an AIDs/HIV infection rate of over 40%. Among other terminal diseases, and general health concerns.

As it relates to peace keeping efforts, studies have shown that average shelf life of "trained Peace keeper" is about 18 months, before they wanter off or simply perish.

The problems in Africa are Greater than the Needs, a broad approach is going to to fail, I would suggest a more focused approach, and by doing this requires peoples voices, and experiences.

I see a time in the not too distant future where the UN may consider more unprecedented steps forward, and I would not rule out the use of the private sector including SA.

Wait & see is in my opinion, a luxury we can no longer enjoy, simply because too much is happening right now.

A bad direction/ policy will be shouted out immediately by critics around the world as it relates to US initiatives, but a good policy will take a generation (of near impossible effort) to show any real progress.

John said...

Hi Eeben and the other readers of your blog.
I have, with a lot of interest read your latest posting on peacekeeping. It came just before the announcement by the African Union's special envoy to Somalia saying the AU has begun recruiting and training Somalis to be soldiers and police officers to help the country's embattled government counter an insurgency led by Islamists with ties to al-Qaida. He says the pan-African body envisions a Somali security force of about 16,000 members in a year's time.
More than $200 million was pledged for this effort. They plan to train 6,000 paramilitary forces and 10,000 policemen. (I don’t think the whole coalition could do this in Iraq or Afghanistan, I sure don’t know how these countries will?)
Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda are some of the African nations that have volunteered to train Somali recruits.
This is very interesting to me, as we all know the standard of training of most (all) of these countries defense forces have. Most of them can not sort out their own problems in their own respective countries, yet they will be the trainers of the Somali forces.
First of all, there is no peace in Somalia. I suppose the first thing will be to have a real peace enforcer in there to either wipe Al Shabab out or to at least get them to the negotiating table.
At the moment Al Shabab controls basically all of Somalia except for the little piece of Mogadishu occupied by the AU force and the government.
We all know that mostly civilians have been killed in the couple of skirmishes between AU forces and Al Shabab, mostly because of indiscriminate shelling by AU troops.
What type of training can they offer?
How much of that $200 million will be used for training, and how many politicians will become rich fat cats with that money?
Again, I suppose that’s the West’s way to say, hey, we did do something!! Seeing that the Americans are on the ground there, and the French (like a friend likely remarked, with the French there they can just as well give the country away on a plate!) I suppose the Brits wont be far behind with all their “experienced in Iraq” private companies running for the new pot of gold, and yet another African country bearing the impact of their greed.
I am sure we all know that the Somali problem can be solved with way less and $200 million but I suppose if they are told this they will sweep it under the carpet, as they won’t make enough money.

Alex said...


Fair one, that was a rather hopelessly optimistic, and possibly naive, comment. My political leanings, though comprehensively not communist I would point out, do make Obama a more attractive proposition to me than Bush ever was or could have been. However, I have little to no knowledge of the policies of the US towards Africa under Bush or whatever Obama has done so far (apart from Eeben's comments on AFRICOM), so in the Africa-specific context of this blog I admit I really have no right to comment.

By the way, I doubt you could find any politician on the planet I would consent to 'worship'!



graycladunits said...

Dear Sir:

I have a question that has been on my mind for awhile now. Where does the UN go to get its peace keepers? Can former or present soldiers apply online or does the UN recruit from the best or worst ranks of the armies of its member nations? Can you explain this to me?

Thanks, graycladunits

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

One major “problem” I see is that many of the initiatives you refer to are old, outdated and have been allowed to stagnate without any re-assessment whatsoever, Gordon. A further problem arises by training the leadership of African armies in countries that are far removed from anything they are likely to encounter in their own conflicts. This not only “teaches” them the wrong thing but it causes great confusion. You don’t train troops to fight in the African bush by simulating operations in an arctic environment.

As regards the mobile training teams – a good idea. That is part of what EO did. But, if the training teams themselves have little to no experience in the African conflict or operational environment, how do they assist with the formulation of doctrine? Additionally, how do they assist with the formulation of strategy when they are not au fait with the political environment and everything that accompanies it within a specific African country?

Please do not see this as a negative response to your comment but I have grown weary of seeing the results churned out by Western military training institutions. Then of course the comment was also posted that those very institutions/staff are instructed to train the African leadership and troops poorly in case they one day may have to face them over rifle sights. Such efforts to prevent African armies from gaining any success on the battlefield has given me a jaundiced view of what the West has been and still is up to in Africa. For political stability to take root in Africa, Africa needs disciplined, well-trained, apolitical armies. It doesn’t have that.

As for the UN’s logistical problems: one factor that any military strategist ought to appreciate is “logistics”. The problems they are having are simply proof to me that the strategy was poorly formulated and was very much a hit-and-miss affair but, as long as it brings economical rewards, they couldn’t care less.

Yes, the UN has written itself into the books as being the only legal framework for resolving conflicts with so-called peacekeeping forces. The fact that they have a role to play is undisputed but they have never been able to bring about any peace to any conflict in Africa. But, I disagree with you that a ceasefire is the only proper way to bring about negotiations. If the US was attacked by an enemy and the enemy was gaining the upper hand and “peacekeeping forces” were brought in to assist an under-siege US government, would you want them to bring about a ceasefire and allow the aggressor to continue to terrorise the population or to assist the legitimate government of the US in stopping the enemy aggression and expelling them - period? I doubt you would be happy with a ceasefire. On the same note, if ceasefires were such good things, why hasn’t the US brought about ceasefires in Iraq and Afghanistan and negotiated with the Taliban and Al Queda?

Any government that is on the defensive looses with a ceasefire as it gives the aggressor time to consolidate, re-strategise and continue with the offensive when the time is right. Given the manner in which ceasefires are hailed, does the enemy now become an enemy or a criminal? Any who in the enemy camp is taken to the courts? Many of the governments you question in terms of legitimacy were either “installed” by the West or assisting by the West in seizing power.

The HIV/AIDS debate is a long one…suffice to say your correct. Health issues remain a major problem, as do many other things we can debate ad infinitum. From my chair, what we see happening in Africa is all about money, influence and control – and the UN does not want to be left off the cash bandwagon.

Africa is the graveyard of bad policies and lack of direction.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I was astonished when I read those figures, John. Talk about having no clue about realism…but realism seems to be of no consequence when dealing with Africa. And at US$ 200 million? Someone will make a fair amount of cash out of this effort. As for the countries that have volunteered to train the Somalis – well, I suppose they would volunteer as that amount of money will do most African economies good.

Somali will continue to slide into the chaos it is in as long as there is no peace – peace can only be achieved by winning the war. All the talk of ceasefires is noble but gets no one anywhere except the aggressor. But, the West has become so politically correct that it seems to have track of reality as far as Africa is concerned. The “enemy” has become “misguided people” who need to be talked to and convinced of their wrong-doing.

Somali needs to first have the war ended – not put in ceasefire mode – before anything constructive can happen. The dilly-dallying that has been evident in Somalia and numerous other countries has allowed many of them to pass the tipping point and it is only a matter of time before they collapse in totality. Yet, the carrot is always dangled and then taken away.

Has no one realised that you cannot negotiate from a position of weakness? Has no African government yet realised the duplicity with which they are faced?

As you mention, the “highly experienced” PMCs of the West will come in, rape the chicken that lays the golden egg and leave more chaos behind. But, as you mention, they will claim to have done what they could. And Africa will continue to bleed itself to death.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

UN member states contribute the forces, GCU and they are usually drawn from the poorer countries that need the money. Generally, a lack of funding implies a lack of training and equipment but perhaps I am wrong.

I am not aware of any recruitment done by online applications. But, no self-respecting soldier should want to be tainted by the UN brush unless they seriously clean up their act. Perhaps this statement of mine is unfair as soldiers are only as good as their training, discipline and commanders. Good commanders formulate good strategies and plans – I have yet to see a good UN peacekeeping strategy that wasn’t unrealistic and unattainable. I always wonder what happened to the principles of strategy and the principles of war…



Alan said...

Eeben and lads.

Speaking of a "lack of funding." The Sov's are landing on Brize Norton...WHO KNEW?

MailOnline, Sunday, July 19, 2009

Now we are borrowing Russian helicopters to fight the Taliban
British frontline troops in Afghanistan are so short of helicopters and transport planes that they are being bailed out by the Russians.
The Mail on Sunday has established that the Ministry of Defence is using civilian Russian-built Mi-8 and Mi-26 transport helicopters to ferry supplies and soldiers in Afghanistan. The pilots are freelance Russians and Ukrainians.


Nothing is too good for the ranker, and that's what he'll bloody well GET!

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An astonishing story, Alan. When I first heard this I was convinced (but not surprised) that the strategy for Afghanistan was made on over optimistic assessments and a complete lack of understanding of the implications of terrain. Committing forces to a flawed strategy – which this obviously was – has simply increased the possibility of casualties.

But, in my opinion, the Russian helicopters are workhorses and will be of great value to the troops who need them. But, with pilots who may not fully understand the language of the troops and the combat conditions they may be expected to fly in, who knows where this will lead? We can only wait and see…the usual story.



Alan said...


Just a brief follow-on. The RU's, their former satellites, and the Turks made, and may well be continuing to make a tidy sum in Iraq supporting the FOB logistics effort. Not nearly as much as KBR mind you, but substantially more than Aeigis or Blackwater now (Xe Services LLC). Any "contribution" the Russians provide will be cash on delivery (COD) I assure you. As the old saying goes, "Two things make the world go around...and the other one is money." Churchill was right about the 'Bear' but no one would listen, least of all a feckless, ailing Roosevelt. Unfortunately, we're still not listening. Our president recently took a thrashing from Putin and Medvedev, but by all accounts he thoroughly enjoyed it. I suppose we can only hope, with military smallarms no longer produced in the UK, the MOD does not adopt the Kalashnikov as their basic infantry weapon. Admittedly however, some may prefer it to the SA80.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The little I know about the SA80 makes me wonder if the Brits would not do better with the AK, Alan? But, as you may know, the Brits bought a large chunk of our (South African) defence industry and it now lies in ruins. Mine protected vehicles which had saved many lives in the SADF now stand abandoned in several places. Indeed, our defence industry has been ruined and destroyed.

I am sure the Russians will want cash-up-front for their work. They certainly won’t help because they have suddenly come to agree with or like the UK. And in time, I am sure they will make more than Blackwater and Aegis. But what will they do when the West has come to rely on them in total for certain critical equipment? I can only guess.



Gordon said...

Thanks for your comments Eeben, and thanks for posting this subject. Your timing is spot on.

Your points are well taken, with regards to the MTT's I agree and have African SME's and assets on the ground to further the training effort properly.

My role is to identify "issues" with existing policy and offer viable solutions.

As for training troops to a substandard level is new to me. I have been a part of MTTs to several country's around the world for the past 30 years, with the exception of Africa. What I have found is, most of these host nation troops are poorly trained lead and lack any form of motivation. (With the exception to two counties).

Our ability to train them to the point of being a real threat, I find rather amusing. (first is they must have the desire to be "trained" to these levels.

Effective Training is also based on evolutionary cycles designed to further advance skill sets and unit capabilities. (as opposed to "Training the basics" over and over again)

There are things to adhere to such as ITAR, but these things are more along the lines of strategic concerns, not tactical. Such as giving away trade secrets on cryptography, and ballistic missile related material. (things of that nature).

Where the UN can be viewed as a model of failure in Africa, we also must understand why?

Cease fire agreements are only superficial in areas that have no real legitimacy in the form of functioning governments by the people (with a voice of the people).

What we continue to see is the agenda of a "few" forcing these self serving ideals on the many. This is why the UN will never achieve any sensible progress with "peace keeping" In Africa. (in my humble view)

The argument of using the US in Afghanistan / Iraq and scenarios in Africa / UN driven Cease Fire. does not present an argument in this case

As the US is part of a multinational effort to bring Peace & stability to the region / World by eradicating those actively engaged in terrorist activity. So far only successful in driving these groups into other regions as opposed to effectively "taking them out". (still remains a huge mess).

Where the UN will continue to fail is not in concept but in practicality.

As for this Obama administration, I see the same issues at play, Obama will continue to support AFRICOM, and existing initiatives.

While in his speech, he clearly pointed out that African Governments, "need to be held accountable", which is nothing more than shifting blame.

Along those lines, all governments contributing to the "development of Africa", need to be "held accountable" including the failed efforts of the UN /US.

Personal Best to all !!


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My experience, while not a extensive as yours, is that most soldiers I have encountered in Africa - and elsewhere - really want to be trained, Gordon.

My concern is that often irrelevant training is given. Training ought to be matched by the terrain the men will find themselves deployed in, using the weapon systems they will most commonly be using against the weapons they will most likely encounter. But without basic discipline in place, training is usually not effective.

But tracing the problem back even further, one may find that many countries do not have a grand strategy and hence a lot of what the military does is a hit-and-miss affair.

I think that the approach you are following ie identifying the areas of concern and offering viable solutions is a very good start to rectifying the problems.

Your points on the UN’s failures are well taken.

Whereas I accept that there may be an international desire to help Africa, the approach is something I find of great concern. Instead of assistance, it seems that Africa is sliding deeper into problems with the exception of a few countries. But, I still believe that Africa’s curse is its resources and that what we see unfolding is a battle for resources – a battle that will intensify over time and not diminish.

The end result is that there will never be stable governments without stability. Stability remains elusive without dedicated, well-trained, disciplined and apolitical armies – something Africa desperately needs.



Alex said...


This has nothing to do with the article, and isn't really intended for posting but I have no other way to ask you questions.

I've recently added a page for PMCs to a video game website I use (and have recently taken to editing occasionally) since I felt it was something previously lacking. However, although not strictly necessary it helps to have an image on the page, so my question is would you mind me using the EO logo for this purpose? It's the only 'PMC'-type image I can think of, but given it's not all that important in the first place to have an image, and it's something you both designed and (I assume) hold the copyright for, I didn't like to do anything without asking. Also I'd hate to do anything with it to offend you or other former members of the company. I got the image off Wikipedia a while ago (and I don't know what your view is on it appearing there either) but I didn't want to splash it around further without checking.

Anyway, I know this is relatively unimportant in the context of a serious blog, so thanks for your forbearance and I'll try to make my next comment a bit more interesting!



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have no problem if you wish to use the logo, Alex. As EO no longer exists, it really cannot offend anyone. Thanks for asking, though.



John said...

Hi Eeben

On the piece Gordon wrote about training, I can actually confirm the fact that the West, in this case the USA, does not want to train soldiers to expected standards.
I was told about 2 years ago by a US soldier that he did a course at Frt. Bragg which was attended by other foreign soldiers too, from Tjeck Republic, Turkey and I think Jordan.
During a certain phase the foreign students were dismissed to go on sight seeing tours all over the country, as the specific training was for American soldiers only.
I suppose being a guest to the US army and allowed to attend a course will not qualify you to protest the fact that your let out of a certain part of training, but if you (West) is a guess in a foreign country like for example any where in Africa, and you claim to be the Worlds Policeman then I will expect you train those militaries or police to the expected standards?
Why would you want to waste time and money and manpower for that matter to do a job halfway?
So yes, if they can do that in the USA, I am sure they will do so in other countries too, as already confirmed in your blog before.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know, John, and that is why I beg to differ from Gordon.

I have met many African soldiers who have been “trained” by Western armies – including the US – and to be quite frank, they were without exception all below average. But, they all had the potential to be good soldiers so the motivation was not lacking.

It also serves little to no purpose to train soldiers in theory on matters they will never be using – or that is irrelevant to their rank and their future deployment. I believe that training must be suited to the environment soldiers will need to operate in and focussed on the missions they will be expected to conduct.



hardnose said...

Hmmm! ...seems I'm late to the party, so let me offer a hearty Welcome Back Eeben. In comment at this late stage I can only add "...we hold these truths to be self evident....". As far as the UN goes they "Pontificate" well and the dining hall at UN Head Quarters in New York isn't the worst place I've ever eaten, but "kindly charity" is dangerously insufficient when people are dying. I've always thought that PeaceKeeping was building roads, waterworks, hospitals, and generally improving the day to day misery that man inflicks on man. Once armed troops arrive on the scene it may sound great to orate on Peace, but until the 'smoke poles' cool a state of War exsist, and War it seems is more profitable than Peace, even for the great speech writers at the UN.

Anonymous said...

Like the schoolyard bully, most national miscreants need a good hiding before they can be brought to peace. It reduces recidivism considerably. Just ask Gadaffi.

Here's an interesting article to spur some discussion.

Now if the UN could actually manage anything properly we could be onto something.

Si vis pacem, para bellum.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No visit is ever too late for the party, Hardnose.

UN pontification is legendary. Although I have never been invited to partake in a UN banquet, I am sure that they do not eat in the worst place. While they feed their hungry souls with food and money and slap each other on the back while discussing their numerous great achievements, people continue to die as you point out.

I agree entirely with you re the arrival of “smoke poles” – the only problem is that the UN and its legion of advisors have not yet realised this. But sadly, war is more profitable than peace and, after all, why should they worry about a few more hundred thousand dead and displaced?



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Monkey Spawn. That is a truly good article and reflects much of the uselessness of the UN.

If ever they could get their act together and actually do their job, I would support their deployments to the hilt. But until then, they will, in my eyes, remain the largest, most ineffectual, over-paid and hypocritical force to ever infect a conflict area.

I would be really keen to read what other visitors think of the article and its direction.



Alex said...

Yes, that certainly is an interesting article. I remain horribly under-informed about the way the UN actually deploys and uses its forces (when it decides to), but I confess I am mystified as to the point of deploying troops if they are mandated to do little more to protect themselves while the civilians around them are raped and massacred. Of course having the nations with often the better equipped and in some ways (and I'm prepared to be reprimanded for saying this) the better trained troops, like the US, refuse to put their troops under a UN aegis will limit the scope and potential for success from the beginning.

As you say Eeben, were the UN to get its act together, stop its troops partaking in the same activities as the militias they're there to stop, and actually do something useful, they could have huge potential as a force for good. However, asking people in a place like Somalia to wait twelve months while careful discussions take place in New York and elsewhere to organise an effort is simply an untenable arrangement if we wish to achieve anything. The idea of giving them 'first call' on a certain number of troops for a time seems, to my inexperienced and un-military brain, a possibly useful solution but I'll be interested to hear what others think.

Some of the UN 'successes' alluded to I am vaguely aware of, but others I'm not so I'd appreciate a brief explanation from anyone who knows a bit more.

I still firmly believe that, despite the short-term destruction, military force must be used to neutralize or destroy the aggressor in the asymmetrical and irregular warfare that is the hallmark of modern conflicts before any kind of peace can be seen as viable, and to be able to achieve anything this is where the UN must begin. Whether it will ever happen I'm afraid I have no idea.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is a thought provoking article, Alex. However, ref your comment, I think that even the UN is not informed about the way it deploys and uses its forces.

I do not blame any nation for refusing to place its troops under the command and control of the UN. Apart from exposing them to gross incompetence, it will most probably also endanger their lives.

The day the UN finally clears up its act and ensures that peacemaking takes precedence to peacekeeping, they will have no meaningful role in any conflict.

The UN considered Angola and Sierra Leone to rank as some of their great achievements. I know differently. Additionally, look at the mess wherever they have deployed in Africa (and I focus primarily on Africa) – and see the results: DRC, Namibia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Darfur, Somalia, etc, etc.

Armed conflict can only be stopped by destroying the perpetrators either physically or by sapping their will to continue the fight. And only once that is achieved can attempts be made to try to stabilise the area and bring about peace.

I too would be interested in the comments of others on the article link Monkey Spawn posted as I think it was a very good summation.



John said...

Hi Eeben

As far as I know the UN had zero success in Namibia. The South African Defense Forces were pulling out, but hostilities flamed up again in April of 1989. As far as I know the UN did nothing, again the South Africans crushed the opposition terrorist forces.
If the South Africans decided to keep fighting the UN would have been in NO position to stop them!
I’m not even talking about Sierra Leone. What EO did there with their few men compared to the UN, then I won’t really call anything a success on the UN side.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I was being sarcastic about their “successes”, John. Any follower of their misadventures knows that their so-called success can be written on the head of a matchstick.

There was a rumour doing the rounds that the UN force in Namibia secretly allowed SWAPO to infiltrate as they (UN) believed that the South African forces that were still in-country, would not respond. Well, they did and the results of that disingenuous plan backfired on both the UN and SWAPO. Incidentally, the UN were doing everything in their power to get away from the fighting as fast as possible.

In Angola, they were very vocal about EO and constantly pushed for us to leave the country. When we did, UNITA had been defeated on the battlefield. The UN oversaw UNITA’s rearming and continuance of the war – and again, they made dust in the opposite direct5ion while vocally bemoaning the war – and especially against the Angolan Armed Forces who they saw as the “aggressors”.

In Sierra Leone the UN replaced EO’s 250 men with 17 000 men and despite that country returning to chaos, they claimed it – at that time – their most “successful” mission. It doesn’t take a very smart person to know that they were either dreaming or lying.

I will applaud the UN’s efforts the day they actually do something positive. Look at the current mess in Darfur, DRC and so forth. Any right-minded person will know that wherever they place their boots, chaos is sure to follow.



Gordon said...

Greetings Eeben,

Hello all, and thanks for the article. I would like to comment on this as well, but first it looks like I am drawing fire from my most recent post, would like to respond to these first if I may,

in response to the foreign soldiers attending a school at Ft. Bragg, I can only point out the fact there are treaties in place, allowing soldiers from other Nations to participate, and are there for a reason. These are not sanctions imposed by the US. These states you mentioned John have good reason to have concerns about the training these soldiers receive in the US or else where, may want to dig deeper before forming an opinion.

As for the troops in question, trained to a substandard condition. I can not comment because I am not privy to the contracted agreement or the mission training objectives, or the state of the troops. I will say... if this is a result of incompetence, or lazy trainers, it is nothing short of criminal, and these "trainers" need to be held accountable!

I would like to crush the rumor that the US is actively engaged in training troops to substandard levels. For those of us Americans, having spent the better part of our lives in training host nations and fighting along side them know different.

My most recent experiences in Afghanistan is no exception. What I find to be the most challenging is not the cultural differences, or the language barrier, it is the lack of motivation. (primarily a few officers)

How many of you have felt the frustration of writing a POI around a two hour lunch / Prayer break, during peak hours of the day? I would frequently pass by the Mosque only to find it empty, then pass by the barracks and find it full?

How many of you have watched your training calendar slip a day or two here and there because the students protest (riot) because they want a pepsi to go with their meals instead of bottled water, or fried meat instead of boiled, more flat bread, more eggs? ( I could go on...)

This points to poor leadership, and it is driven by the lack of motivation.

Motivation, and poor leadership aside, these troops were trained very well, and handled themselves very well under fire, on many times & many occasions.

I will point out, it was accomplished in large part by the patient & deliberate steps we made in seeing this training through, and dropping those that did not contribute.

Training soldiers properly is NEVER easy, and working within a host Nations MOI, as it relates to training is tricky at best (Can be counter productive) So, unless you UNDERSTAND, the challenges faced by training & fighting along side any host nation forces, please be careful about how you approach the subject.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good comment, Gordon. I don’t necessarily view your previous comment as drawing fire – I think that within any forum, the written word is always easy to incorrect interpretation. However, I did disagree with the training a lot of African soldiers are given by Western armies – and I have had a lot of conversations with soldiers from these armies – hence my point. But, your point is well taken – trainers need to be held accountable but sadly, they are not. A lack of motivation is indeed an apparent problem area.

I cannot speak for the training in Afghanistan and Iraq as I have not been there. Nor have I met any soldiers of those countries that were trained by any foreign soldier or contractor.

Leadership – or the lack thereof – was particularly well covered in Matt’s blog (www.feraljundi.com) where he has addressed this particular issue. I too have tried to cover it on my blog. Many leaders have misunderstood the term of the word – and their responsibilities that go with it. There you are spot on.

Maybe I have been fortunate but I have never encountered soldiers who demand a Coke or a Pepsi with their meals. How can this be possible? When one is at war, one makes do with what you have…Training men to go to war, win the battle and survive is indeed a great responsibility. It is such a pity that many of those entrusted to do so, discard that responsibility.



Gordon said...

Hello again all,

In response to the UN having an army on a first call basis, unless I am mistaken ... isn't this what they already have?

They have so many "peace keepers" they can not even deploy them all. In addition, they are economically driven. This is the PRIMARY reason the US is no longer "employed" by the UN. (What I meant in previous posts "economically driven").

During the crisis in Haiti, about 18 years ago the UN for the first time had the side by side cost study available to them.

Troops from Bangladesh, in this case could be deployed and operate, at about 25 cents on the dollar. (Not 12 cents as this article dictates) As opposed to the US forces.

This is where the UN turned a corner, on the troops that make up the UN Forces.

The UN already has an ARMY, and is expected to grow an additional 22,000 by 2010 in Africa.

This is not to say that these troops will be employed by the UN but it appears to be this way.

Based on the letter of the commander of the UN forces in the DRC and the situation map there in.(in my previous posts) It appears to me that the UN is trying to contain the fighting as opposed to ending it.

If the UN really wanted to improve their bottom line, and put an end to aggression, I would suggest an entirely different strategy.

Where the cease fire strategy is a good and proper concept, it fails in application. Aggressions formed between two states is one thing.

Striving to achieve a cease fire in a civil war is entirely different, where the concept looks great on paper and to the rest of the world. It fails in applying this to the warring factions who view this as a chance to consolidate efforts and execute there final objectives when time permits.

The world would do better to form an International Force out side the UN.... a Multinational Peace making force, one that can work inside the legal frame work of the UN.

This way in times of a humanitarian crisis / genocide, or horrific atrocities, the UN can come in once the snakes head has been removed, and all aggression stopped, then allow the UN to come in and conduct DDR & SSO operations. (not convinced they can even accomplish this based on the past).

EO has already proven to the world and has set a standard, for all to see,,,, effectively ending hostility can be accomplished with well trained well disciplined troops. (relative handful of men as opposed to tens of thousands)

The overall strategy is yet to be revealed to me as to what more peace keepers are expected to do & how they are to function in the decade to come.

One thing we can all be certain of, conflict will continue to grow, and the UN will continue to fail.

Perhaps this is what is needed for the UN to make radical changes in its approach to ending these senseless and oppressive, armed conflicts.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct that they have an army on call, Gordon, albeit a highly ineffective army. There have been reports out of DRC that UN troops have stood by and watched the locals being abused by the rebels – and at times have even shielded the rebels – and at times even partaking in these abuses. This type of “standing on the fence” can hold no good and it has already allowed the locals to view the so-called Blue Helmets with great suspicion. This is not containment, although they may claim so, but rather allowing the chaos to continue.

You are also quite right that they need to review their entire strategy – and doctrine. What they presently follow does not work at all. As you rightly point out, it is a failure – especially their so-called aim of a achieving a ceasefire.

I doubt if an international force is the answer. I believe the answer is to train African armies properly and assist them in defeating the rebels/guerrillas/terrorists – whatever we want to call them. Only once hostilities are over and the enemy destroyed can real humanitarian work begin. I am also somewhat sceptical about the UN’s legal framework as it is a framework where at times the “good guys” become the “bad guys” and the “bad guys” become misguided people. In essence, this gives a thumbs-up to whoever wants to start a civil war.

As you have already pointed out, the UN’s approach is purely economically driven. Conflicts will continue to grow and escalate and as long as the UN demonstrates its ineptitude, nothing will stop the conflicts.

Perhaps it is time for the UN to bury their current doctrine and take a long hard look at the aim of “offensive operations”. Maybe then they will achieve some success and restore a little bit of lost credibility.



John said...

Hi Eeben and Gordon

Well like you said it looks like a bit of fire has been drawn here on the training issue. First Gordon I’m not attacking you, and it’s nice to debate these things. So I’m doing it without personal issues here.
I also can not elaborate on the training of the foreign soldiers who attend the training in the USA, as of course I wasn’t there, and this was told me during a normal about everything conversation. The discussion did not even go about training or such.
I just brought it up after there were a few discussions now on the blog about sub standard training.
Like I said, if a foreign soldier is invited to attend a course in for example the US, he/she can’t really complain if a certain part of the course is prohibited information.
On other training in Africa, I’m not so sure. It has been confirmed that the training is not what it’s supposed to be.
I have never been in Afghanistan, but I was in Iraq before. I was active in a training program so I know more or less what the foreign training looks like. I don’t think the training was good enough.
In fact, the Brits, way back in the beginning of 2003 were going to take the Baghdad police academy over and handle the police training. They were going to train the police on the British bobby system, whistle in the mouth and batton in the hand.
We were shocked to say the least when we heard that. Of course we were asked to leave the academy because our training was inappropriate.
I can go on with the success DynCorp had in the total failure of training the police in Iraq etc. This was even articled in the NY Times.
I can also tell you those students demanding more food, soft drinks etc is because of one thing. And this I have also seen with my own eyes. The Western instructors are buddies with their students. Its high fives and low fifes before they start in the morning and hugs and kisses. There’s (where I have been) no PT in the mornings or afternoons, and zero discipline.
That is why the” third world” student will play with you. You will be tested and the moment you show weakness you’re done for.
Again, this is no personal attack on you Gordon, always nice to be able to debate stuff.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

One only needs to look at the situation as it is unfolding in Africa to realise that something has gone terribly wrong with training, John. The Dyncorp fiasco was well documented and it is frightening to think that they may be part of ACOTA/AFRICOMS’s training resource.

Training ought to be based on teaching troops to survive on the battlefield while killing the enemy troops. Trying to make them “friends” will obviously lead to a lack of discipline and control – not to mention a lack of respect.

When discipline falters, so do troops - a reality as far as Africa is concerned. The operational environment in Africa is very different to what we see in Europe and the Middle East – as are the troops. They want good training and leadership – from the front. Additionally, they will only respect you if you prove you are deserving of their respect.



Marion said...

Eeben and Fellow Bloggers,

First of all, thanks for such an informative blog. I have to comment on the lack of motivation of a lot of Africans (Ugandans) in general. I have recently taken a position as COO of a private security company here. What I was hired for was my experience in motivating people first and then my military knowledge second.

I received with the company I worked for at the time in Iraq in early 2005 the first Ugandans as TCN's. What I received was a very undisciplined mob.But over time I was able to mold the most of them to a decent edge. This accomplishment was to be the catalyst in the timeframe of 4 years later of one of those guys back then,a young Ugandan to be able and want to hire me to be the difference between us and the other security companies here.

Well, I must tell you in my recruitment drive I have seen a many person from former military people to police officers, NCO's to COM officers. In my personal experience there is indeed in Uganda, a lack of basic personal discipline, especially fitness related and personal pride. I hold Uganda's army to be one of the most progressive on the continent but what I am seeing is greed, greed, greed. I am even talking 15 plus year vets. It seems the more time was spent in the services the basics of personal fitness and bearing gave way to the "how can I make cash complex"

I have had young men faint after 10rubbish press ups and worse. I know and have done work with many SA and I hold most with respect but SA is SA. I do believe there is a difference in basic motivation from African country to another.

Yes, I agree they want good training but do they have the gut and grit to follow through for the end result?

Yes, Eeben Africa is it's own curse, I very much agree with you on this. I do see the vicious cycle of greed and how it rears it's ugly head. Anybody who tries to help is staightjacketed by the World's PCness. Totally unacceptable for any longterm change in your beloved continent.

Now back to my daily hairpulling called recruitment.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your valued comment, Marion. I understand exactly what you are living through.

I think one major problem we find with many African armies is that they are highly politicised and with that comes a quest for power. Money is one way of achieving that power. I see how rapidly the SA National Defence Force has gone backwards and the problem remains one of politicisation with all its many unpleasant off-shoots. Some of these include a lack of discipline, motivation, pride, drive and even a lack of interest in being a soldier.

Reading your comment did however give me hope that people such as you can help to change that mindset, even at a micro level.

Maybe one day we will see a change in the appointment of senior officers where it will be based not on politics but on ability. Until then, I can only hope and watch as Africa slowly writes itself out of readiness.



Alan said...


Finally, a hand-off and an awakening.

Follows is a text of memo from Col. Timothy R. Reese, Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq.

It’s Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan.

Col Reese’s memo certainly raises some very pertinent points, not least of all the grave danger of overstaying once the guns quieten down. Given the manner in which the war in Iraq has gone, I would agree with him. But, I base my opinion not on first-hand knowledge (I have never been there) but on what I read and hear.

I believe his approach makes absolute sense and it would be a sad thing if no one cared to listen to what he says. It also seems to me that he has a better grasp of strategy than those who wish to remain there.



Anonymous said...

Following is an interesting article on the UN review of its peacekeeping operations. In a previous blog you talked about raising the profile of quality PMCs. This is your opportunity. Clearly the Financial Times has some interest in the topic, so doing an interview with them would be an good kick-off point. Put your business hat on and get in on the action.

Unfortunately, the URL is password protected, so here's the whole article.

UN considers future of its thin blue line
By Harvey Morris at the United Nations

Published: August 4 2009 03:00 | Last updated: August 4 2009 03:00

The United Nations Security Council will this week examine its international peacekeeping role - an increasingly costly operation that in some parts of the world is failing to meet the tough challenges set for it.

A UK-sponsored debate forms part of a broad rethink of peacekeeping strategy. The UN secretariat noted in an internal document last month: "Today, UN peacekeeping is stretched like never before and is increasingly called upon to deploy to remote, uncertain operating environments and into volatile political contexts."

The so-called New Horizons paper added: "There is no sign that the need for peacekeeping will diminish. Threats such as environmental changes, economic shocks, transnational crime and extremism threaten many states and contribute to growing political and security instability."

Peacekeeping has evolved from the ad hoc groups of military monitors and observers that survive from the early years of the UN to oversee ceasefire agreements between rival nation states. Unmogip, which monitors the India-Pakistan ceasefire line in disputed Kashmir, marked its 60th anniversary this year.

In recent conflicts, the UN's "Blue Helmets" often find themselves holding the line against what diplomats like to call non-state actors, such as insurgents or armed militias that frequently bring hardship and death to the populations they claim to be liberating.

This has put UN peacekeepers in the line of fire in several conflicts - notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. It has also raised tensions among the Security Council that orders peacekeeping mandates, the UN secretariat that carries them out and the troop-contributing countries, mainly from the developing world, that send their soldiers into the field.

Britain and France have taken the lead this year in pushing a review of how the 15 Security Council members should approach peacekeeping. Both governments believe no new mandates should be embarked on unless the council has an exit strategy and that as much focus should be placed on overseeing political solutions as on simply keeping the peace.

There has been criticism that council members have been too ready to launch new mandates without adequately assessing the consequences, thereby stretching peacekeeping to its limits.

Britain called this week's debate as part of its one-month presidency of the Security Council. The interest of European powers in establishing a more cost-effective approach is not entirely divorced from pressure on budgets in the economic downturn.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the article, Monkey Spawn.

Well, as you may know, if we wanted to get involved in something like this, we will need NCACC approval. The only problem is that they (SA government) have not had an NCACC meeting in 30 months – the NCACC controls all licences and permits relating to military and security work and equipment. The implication is that some weapons manufacturers I know have been unable to get export licences and this has resulted in them having to lay off people and cut back on working days! A terrible situation indeed.

I shall however speak to someone I know in the UK and see if I can possibly get an invite to do an interview – or even attend this coming together of peacemakers.

I know my chances in SA rate lower than zero – a story for another day. But, I was asked a few years ago if I would be willing to come back and take command of 44 Para Bde. When I set conditions such as firing the entire command staff and many officers and NCOs, I was told to rather go away. I can imagine the UN would adopt the same attitude…But, nothing like trying.



Alan said...


Follows is an interesting article entitled "Going Tribal." A short read quite interesting.

Vr, Alan


Anonymous said...

Interesting you mention the NCACC. Here's another thought-provoking article from today's wires.


The standard of the South African military may have dropped, but at state level they only deal with the cream of the crop in state terrorists.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very interesting article, Alan. Thanks for the link.

Maybe the water is finally being taken away from the fish? I suspect that the lessons learnt years ago re counter insurgency are finally being implemented. But, could it be too little too late?



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Monkey Spawn. It is a much more comprehensive article than the one that appeared in SA recently. It is indeed sad to read of these things as many good companies are currently on the bones of their seats as the NCACC dilly-dally with export licences to so-called allied countries.

I certainly makes one realise why so many very good companies in the defence industry are closing their doors – or about to.



Gordon said...


Hello guys, Just back in from a training gig, was not able to respond to earlier comments.

Thanks for your comments Eeben & Alan, and your right it is good to discuss these things and this is a great forum to do just that.

I too have a link concerning the SANDF.


I would be very interested in hearing your voices in response to this article.

Personal best !!


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Welcome back, Gordon.

A lot has been written about the SANDF’s slide into chaos. Whereas I can accept that a lot of the equipment is outdated, that is no excuse for poor leadership, lack of discipline and sub-standard training. The lack of funds is also indicative of wastage and an attitude of “couldn’t-care-less”. Coupled to that is the determination with which soldiers who served in the old SADF were replaced as soon as possible as it was perceived that they were there to support the National Party (old SA government).

A decade and a half ago, South Africa had a thriving defence industry, a well-disciplined, combat-experienced defence force, a high state of readiness and an ability to rapidly deploy – despite an intensive action by the West to choke South Africa due to the then government’s policies.

Currently, our defence industry is in tatters (despite the fact that we led the world in many military developments and innovations), our defence force is in an appalling condition and our troops are ill-disciplined and poorly trained – to say nothing of its leadership.

I believe that the situation we are witnessing is the result of political interference in the defence force, cronyism, and of course, bad advice to the government by a host of “foreign defence advisors”. In the medium- to long-term, this is going to cost SA dearly, unless someone wakes up and implements some drastic changes. This will require a long and hard look at SA’s military strategy and its associated components.

I was once proud to be a soldier and serve my country, but now I look at what has happened and am very pleased that I have nothing to do with the SANDF.



brad.owens said...


Glad to have found you on the web. I admire your work and look forward to meeting you one day.

I am an American and have lived and worked in Sierra Leone for the past three years in the security business.

I picked up Against All Odds in South Africa about a year and a half ago and really enjoyed it.

After reading it cover to cover I started asking some people I knew about your company to get the opinions of the Sierra Leoneans about EO. I can tell you that no matter what most say, if they were not on the side of the RUF they have nothing but praise. They all say that when the 'Executeev Outcomes' was here there was relative peace.

I am proud to say I have benefited from your legacy here. Some of my guards when interviewing had EO training certs in their CVs and I quizzed them on EO they all said you guys taught them "one shot one man" instead of full auto bursts.

The former soldiers I have on staff all say that you guy fought and were 'mighty warriors'.

By the way, having an EO cert in your CV guarantees an interview with me directly.

You all are well thought of in most quarters here so no matter what is said by the vultures in the press you have had a long lasting psoitive effect here in Sierra Leone.

I always thought it was funny that the number one thing the RUF demanded in the first peace talks (which your company FORCED them to) was the end of your contract. Thanks to the so-called "international community" Kabbah had to comply and see where it left them?

As far as peace keeping goes, I support your view 100% and love to use Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and currently Congo as examples of why PMC action is the way of the future instead of troops from UN and AU countries.

I have used your company as an example many times here to show the value of having pros do the job. I always say, would you hire a Gardner to do brain surgery on you?

Anyway, the US State Dept has a program called African
Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA) where they do send in contract training teams to get African 'Peacekeepers' up to bare minimum Western military standards.

They stole your idea Eben!

The US supplies about everything except the rifles through PAE and Dyncorp. The company that has the ACOTA contract is an old friend of yours from Angola, MPRI.

Every since my first assignment here in Africa I have loved it and decided to stay and make my fortune or bust here, so I share your passion in wanting to see Africa sort itself out.

I was wondering if you would comment on the East Congo debacle the UN is involved in now. Last time I checked they had 27,000 troops (helicopters, tanks, APCs, you name it, it’s there) and a pretty open mandate to stop the warring factions but haven’t accomplished anything of note.

I am of the opinion that although the DRC has seen little real peace since July of 1960, the UN's failure in Rwanda, and its current failure IN the Congo, have exacerbated the situation there. The UN troops have joined in the looting and rape on many occasions. It seems they are willing to spend hundreds of millions to accomplish nothing but having spent all that cash.

Loving the Rain in Sierra Leone,


P.S. I met Col Jan Breytenbach at the 44 Para Bde’s recruiting water jump in South Africa last year (I earned my Parabat wings on that jump with Dennis ‘Crouks’ Croukamp leading my stick out the door). I picked up his books and enjoyed reading about your exploits as commander of the Recce Wing in Buffalo Soldiers.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the nice comments, Brad.

I am very pleased to read that our legacy is still around. It is difficult to emphasise how much pride I have in the men who were in Sierra Leone and the results they achieved with very little equipment or support. Apart from the RUF, there was the International Community.

The people of SL did not deserve the dishonour the UN and the International Community piled on them. The men of EO tried to restore some semblance of normality in a very cruel and wicked world and succeeded until the contract was ended by “you know who”.

I am pleased to hear that an EO certificate guarantees an interview. They were good men who never flinched or avoided their tasks.

As far as ACOTA goes – one only has to see the very little MPRI achieved in Angola. If that is the best the US is going to field in Africa, there are major problems looming on the continent. But then it appears to me as if the task is not given to companies who are able but rather to ones who know people. Sad, isn’t it? And yes, they did steal the idea but are unsure how to implement it.

If you check previous posts, you will find something I have written on the UN’s failures in Africa. I am a lone voice but if 10 people read my posts and agree, then at least 10 more people will know that the UN is a complete waste of space and oxygen.

Congrats on your para wings!



W.C.H. Miller said...

Dear Mr Barlow

I am truly enjoying reading your blog (albeit working backwards). Peacekeeping forces seem to be a complete contradiction of terms. I found myself shaking my head recently when watching 'Beyond the Gates' (a very good film regarding the events of Rwanda), frustrated beyond words for the UN 'peacekeepers' whose hands were tied during that entire debacle. And I shake my head even more at the prospect that South Africa, which in my reading I learned had a burgeoning excellent export of military technology and contractors, has stopped a very lucrative business.

On a separate note, I am a recent university graduate (American at a Scottish university) with a degree in International Relations and Arabic. Do you, in your extensive travels and contacts, know of anyone that would be willing to hire an entry-level individual who is looking to gain some real world experience? I would be very grateful.

I would also ask that you read through my blog when you have a spare moment, and offer some thoughts. waxinggeopolitical.blogspot.com

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Although I haven’t seen the film “Beyond the Gates”, Rwanda was indeed a peacekeeping failure of magnificent proportions, WCH Miller. But there was far more to it than peacekeepers with their hands tied behind their backs.

Sadly, our military industry is not what it used to be. Our defence force has also found itself sliding downhill fast. Of course, this will impact greatly on SA’s ability to project any semblance of serious force.

I will keep an ear to the ground for you but Matt (www.feraljundi.com) regularly posts positions that are available and that you may find of value. You will also find similar types of posts on Jake’s Combat Operator (www.combatoperator.com) Good luck with your search.

I have had a quick look at your blog and will visit it in more depth later this week when I have a lull in fire.



Wayne said...

"..that have simply prolonged the state of conflict. True, at times a stalemate is achieved.."

You have hit the nail on the head.
I have worked for the UN since late 1997, but not as a Peacekeeper, but rather in a contract security function. I have seen first hand just how devious and quite simply how woefully inadequate UN Peacekeepers are. My focus here is more on UN Police and not so much military as I quite honestly don't come into contact with the other entities as much. In Kosovo the whole Pakistani contingent (so called 'Special police Unit')were found to have been involved in human trafficking and were thankfully arrested. Bulgarian UN policemen have also been involved in prostitution rings in the eastern secton of Kosovo.

I am of the opinion that the UN purposely prolongs the issues in these trouble spots so that UN staff are guaranteed their jobs. It's all about the money. We drive around in Toyota Prados, work in air-conditioned offices, internet all day long and go on two hour lunch brakes...life is great in these Third World countries...for UN staff.

It's just another job for UN employees...nobody gives a crap about the suffering of the inhabitants of these war ravaged countries.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your insight into this matter as well as confirming what I suspected all along, Wayne.

I think the UN has potential but only if they clean up their act. Currently, their behaviour borders on the disgraceful and they are causing more harm than good in Africa. I recall seeing their prima donna peacekeepers arrive in Angola – the result of their mission was that Angola returned to war. That allowed them to trade in diamonds, move weapons, rape the locals and more. But these actions seem to be considered as part of their missions at achieving “success”.

I firmly believe that they have no desire to end any conflicts and your comment that “It's just another job for UN employees...nobody gives a crap about the suffering of the inhabitants of these war ravaged countries” is sadly the truth of the matter.



Wayne said...

Eeben I am almost finished with your book. Hell man, I didn't know so much went on. Very good read.

Coincidentally a program was aired this past week on, I think it was either National Geographic or History Channel, called "Blood Diamonds". EO was mentioned in the Sierra Leone segment. You'll be pleased to note that it was very positive. That says something hey.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased that you are enjoying it, Wayne. Yes, a lot was going on and even today, some would prefer it to remain hidden.

I never saw the programme you refer to but will keep an eye out for it in future. Thanks for the info.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Clark. I can understand your anger with people like BO, but I am not posting your comment due to potential legal hassles I might encounter.

However, thanks for sending it to me and I shall definitely pass it on to everyone I know. You are quite correct: the security industry does not need people like him around. He seems to be precisely the type that causes problems wherever he goes and the industry gets the tar-brush.

I hope you can recover your damages from this person.