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.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON COUNTERING AN INSURGENCY (Part 4)

As I’ll be going away again for a few days, I leave you with my final thoughts on the COIN conflict:

1. All wars are fought to be won. The COIN conflict, whether we chose to call it an unconventional war, a small war, an asymmetrical war or whatever – remains a war. At its conclusion, there will be only one victor. The victor will be the force that has the support of the local population.
2. The fight must be taken to the insurgent. This means hunting him down and attacking him in areas where he believes he is safe. This also includes conducting pre-emptive strikes across international borders if necessary.
3. To conduct effective hearts-and-minds campaigns, the area needs to be stabilised. That means it must be free of insurgents – and kept that way. Without security there can be no stability. Without stability, there can be no effective hearts-and-minds or development.
4. COIN forces are engaged in fighting an ideology – an ideology that is aimed at turning the local population to support their cause. This will be done by propaganda, fear, coercion and terror. Security forces need to realise that their actions, especially when construed as negative towards the local population, will be exploited by the insurgents to strengthen their ideology.
5. The night belongs to the one who chooses to use it. Use it and deny the insurgent sleep, freedom of movement and the ability to function.
6. Attack the insurgent’s source of income. Without income, the insurgent loses his power to purchase, recruit and ultimately wage war.
7. Human intelligence in the form of agents and turned insurgents is crucial as they will be more successful at gathering vital intelligence than “outside” agents that have been inserted into an area.
8. Ground coverage in the form of men who understand the locals, their customs, beliefs, traditions, can communicate with them and so forth is crucial to developing an understanding of – and winning the confidence of – the human terrain the security forces will be operating in. This is an aspect that needs to be addressed as soon as possible once security forces enter an area.
9. The locals need an undertaking that they will be supported – and very importantly protected - if they turn against the insurgents.
10. Different sections of the population will support either the insurgents or the security forces but this choice is usually decided on by political reasons, fear and resentment or by promises of help and improvement of their lot.
11. Promises made to the local population must never be broken. This will merely turn them against the security forces.
12. Good intelligence is not gained by using physical force against the locals. The resultant fallout will lead to resentment and aid in the recruitment drive of the insurgents.
13. Security forces must never treat the locals as though they have been conquered. This will lead to resentment and additionally, assist insurgent recruitment. Viewing locals as “lesser beings” will add to the insurgent propaganda and recruitment drive.
14. When the security forces lose the support of the local population, the insurgency will gain strength and escalate.
15. Security forces must hold territory and deny entry into that territory by the insurgents.
16. COIN conflicts are not purely military in nature. They include a large political- and social involvement and as such the military plans and the socio-political plans should work towards a common goal.
17. Mission diversion should be avoided at all costs as it will weaken the focus of the security forces and strengthen the focus of the insurgents.
18. Routine movement of vehicles and men must be avoided at all times.
19. Roads must be swept for landmines by sappers before being used and the security force vehicles using those roads must be MPVs/MRAPs being used within their design parameters.
20. The government and security forces must give autonomy to the local chiefs. By removing their autonomy, their status is removed, resentment is bred and control is lost.
21. Infrastructure development must be in line with what the local population want and not what the government/security forces think they want.
22. Security forces must be able to out-gun the insurgent and strike hard and ruthlessly when targets are located. This does not, however, imply that locals must suffer the cross-fire or collateral damage.
23. Junior leaders must be encouraged to think. The COIN conflict remains a small unit war and as such the small unit leaders must be given the freedom to use their initiative.
24. The Principles of War remain applicable to COIN conflicts and must not be discarded or denigrated.
25. The use of the air weapon/air support must be coordinated and planned to work in conjunction with ground forces.
26. The locals will not support – or understand why the security forces are supporting – corrupt government officials.
27. Local forces need to be integrated into the security forces, trained and equipped and be treated as “equals”.

Ultimately, the COIN conflict is a battle between ideologies. Whoever can convince the local population that their cause is the better route to follow, will ultimately win the conflict.

27 comments:

simon said...

Its a shame that the united states has put some COIN minded generals in control of afghanistan and big words from the campaign of Obama about getting A-stan correct and finished is turning out to be hog wash. The general McChrystal had to go on 60 minutes to get his point across and the severity of the situation and still the Administration is delaying and showing its lack of resolve.

It reminds me of Col. hackworths interview on ABC in the early 70's saying that vietnam could not be won under the conditions they had. It caused him to basically leave the army and in exile to australia for 15 years. Its such a cliche but history always repeats itself.

Also in watching and reading about the large marine contingent in the Helmand province was encouraging because the emphasis is clearing holding and hunting insurgents. Getting out of the H vee and working with the people. Traditionally only Green Berets have been doing this, its nice to see 'conventional' troops being ordered to do this.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I stand corrected, Simon, but I believe that all generals come from a solid conventional background. But, as men who are called on to do the bidding of politicians, they should be supported by the politicians, regardless of the conflict they are involved in.

From what I read, Col Hackworth was indeed a man amongst men. I would have loved to have met him.

Yes, I do note a change of tactics but sometimes these changes come too late. Soldiers do, however, need to be off wheels and stomping the ground.

Rgds,

Eeben

tyhz1995 said...

I hear your words,Hackworth was a lesser god.A Mars if you will.Unequivocal and crazy tough.I salute him even now.I believe I heard he gave a demonstration of the superiority of the AK upon finding the corpse of a VC that had been buried by a Rome plow.Guy'd been underground for months,Hackworth god bless 'im picked up the dead VC's AK and and and after kicking the bolt free emptied the clip.I also salute his alliance w/Wallace.Taking a virulently unpopular stance is a sign of courage.America's gonna have to go Sonderkommando to win in Afghanistan.Carry on sir.-Tyler

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 10/18/2009, at The Unreligious Right

hardnose said...

Eeban,

Wars of insurgency can also be termed ‘Civil Wars’. The insurgents ‘ideological cause’ is often his greatest strength. As a result, the COIN operations are faced with the question of ‘knowing’ who is and who is not an insurgent. The insurgent merely needs to keep the population off balance with respect to the counterinsurgency forces and he will win. It is unclear if the NATO forces in Afghanistan are fighting a war or counterinsurgency or a war of anti-terrorism, but either way the general population have clearly not been won over to NATO’s ideology.

Rgds,

Johan said...

Dear Eben, one of the most important points you have made is that junior leaders must be encouraged to think. There is too much reliance on checklists instead of thoroughly assessing the situation and acting in a smart manner. I enjoy reading to blog, keep it up.

borr1945 said...

Dear Eeben,

I like all of the points you have made. My main concern is control of
the borders. For I agree with
striking at the insurgents even
if you have to cross international
borders. However, I believe that if you do not control the borders
then you will always have an opening for the insurgents to enter, extract, and resupply. I believe that is one of main failings for the russians in afhanistan, the u.s. in vietnam,
and the current situation for
u.s. forces. I think the policy of the u.s. to use predetor drones to
police the entry points and be used
as a strike force will never replace good troops on the ground
denying access to the enemy, getting good intel, and interacting
with the civilians in the region.
On another subject, any thoughts
or comments on the russian gunrunner victor bout getting out
of prison in thailand?

regards ken

Robby said...

Thought you may be interested in this rather long article its in PDF format

Soldiers of Fortune

By David Isenberg

The debate over whether and how to utilize private military and security contractors generates much heat but not much light. In many case the level of discourse resembles children’s name calling, i.e., “You’re a mercenary.” “No I’m not.” Such rhetoric is silly and distracting and prevents people from facing underlying realities which are rarely dealt with publicly.

The truth is that the United States is by far the world’s largest consumer of such services.

While contractors have worked with the government since the country’s founding their role has grown as Washington has reduced the size of the U.S. military in the post-Cold War era, and as those forces have become strained by the demands of U.S. grand strategy.

This did not happen by accident. Decades ago the government made a deliberate decision to both privatize and outsource military functions and activities that had traditionallybeen done in the public sector.

One can argue for and against such contractors but what nobody wants to discuss is that the U.S. government’s huge and growing reliance on private contractors constitutes an attempt to circumvent or evade public skepticism about the United States’ self-appointed role as global policeman. The U.S. government has assumed the role of guarantor of global stability at a time when the American public is unwilling to provide the resources necessary to support this strategy. Private contractors fill the gap between geopolitical goals and public means.

http://amconmag.com/headline/801/index.html

tyhz1995 said...

Sir?Where are you?I cannot have said the wrong thing?Mr.Barlow?I am no enemy sir I am a longtime sympathizer and friend of South Africa.I hope that our correspondence is not finished.I hope you are safe sir.-Tyler

Robby said...

Simon...I watched that 60"s Minute thing and no question McChrystal has a more realistic understanding of winning the "hearts and mind" but calling for more troops is not the solution...America needs to get out of there ...if it makes Americans feel better declare victory and come home.History calls for this

I knew Hack personally he was a regular on my radio show I used to be amazed how much he knew of the conflict in Africa considering he was in Nam at the time...I often refer to Francis Marion aka the "swamp fox" in large part thanks to Hack....here's a snippet from a interview he did on PBS

Q: What do you think the Vietcong learned from Mao Tse-tung?

Hackworth: I think the major thing was how a poor man fights a rich man... how a war can be fought employing ancient rules first developed by Sansu -- the need for patience, the need for political motivation, the need to fight a war of economy and how to employ all the rules of warfare.

We didn't learn from the past. We didn't learn from our own experience by going back to when we beat Britain in 1776. At that time the British had argued that we didn't fight in formations such as theirs, a big block formation; we didn't meet them in the open and we fought like the Indians, behind trees, using concealment and cover and so on. And a couple of hundred years later we had the British mentality towards fighting and we had forgotten the very lessons that we had taught the British.

Q: Can parallels be drawn between Afghanistan and Vietnam... between the Vietcong war against the Americans and the Mujaheddin war against the Soviets?

Hackworth: Absolutely. There's no question that there are sharp parallels between the Afghan war and the war in Vietnam. The fighters there were freedom fighters, they were trying to rid themselves of Communism, they were supported by an outside country, this time the USA who poured billions of dollars into that war. They again tried to win by using an enormous amount of firepower, conventional tactics against the 'search and destroy' operation, a high degree of technology -- all the mistakes that the Soviets made in Afghanistan, the Americans made in Vietnam and the French made in Indo-China. No one looked back on the lessons learned.

Q: Why did the Soviets fail to learn from the American and French mistakes?

Hackworth: I think it is a military mind-set. We don't go back and look at the past, we're in such a hurry to get to where we're going. There's a certain amount of military arrogance. The older I get, the more I realize how we never study the past and try to learn from it, we just stumble along and make the same mistakes. We're doomed to do that until people wake up. And with the military mind, I'm not certain that we'll ever wake up.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/peoplescentury/episodes/guerrillawars/hackworthtranscript.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It just illustrates my previous comment re AK (7,62x39mm) vs M16 (55,6mm), Tyler. Why a lesser calibre is being used to fight a superior calibre is something that boggles the mind.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you, UNRR.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Sonny. I got the instructions. I shall revert by other means to you soon.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good comment, Hardnose. If the locals don’t buy-in to the efforts to contain the situation, you may as well pack up and go home. “Know your enemy” is something that seems to have been seriously overlooked by the planners.

I do think that we have confused terminology a bit. If the locals resist a foreign force occupying them, are they “insurgents” or “freedom fighters”?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A checklist can never replace common sense, Johan. It can assist in making sure they we stay focussed and do not overlook a factor but that is all. If junior leaders are not taught to think, they lose their value as “leaders”.

Thanks for your kind comment.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Absolutely correct, Ken. Border control is something that is neglected until the problem has escalated almost beyond control. Supply and extraction routes remain vulnerable at all times and ought to be targeted.

Whereas drones can give a large coverage and assist in identifying infiltration routes, I believe that there is no substitute for the infantryman on the ground.

I don’t know much of the recent developments re Victor Bout. I will see what I can find and comment on.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for that, Robby.

David has recently written some very good articles on PMCs and the debate around them. The article you submitted was written some time ago and I believe that if David had to revisit it, he might make some additions. However, as more and more information becomes available on PMCs and such, the writers continually add to their views.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I only arrived back home yesterday, Tyler, so my lack of communication had nothing to do with anyone saying something I didn’t like. Besides, even if someone did say something I disagree with – that would be their right and I would post it on the blog. It is only when comments enter the realm of political/religious debate or filled with foul language that I would delete them.

I am still very safe, thank you – so please keep on commenting.

Rgds,

Eeben

Tango said...

Hi Eeben

"All wars are fought to be won" your opening line.( Part 4)

The question came to my mind and made me think..." Why do we fight ?
I started looking for answers and it seems to me wars are started and "managed " more than what they are fought by the Super Powers of the world.
Managed for specific reasons.Reasons
I am specifically looking for are the wars we as South Africans fought throughout the world and on our borders.We fought them well and far above the expectations of the "Western " and the rest of the World.


“Frank Capra made a series of films during World War II called ‘Why We Fight' that explored America's reasons for entering the war. Today, with our troops engaged in Iraq and elsewhere for reasons far less clear, I think it's crucial to ask the questions: ‘Why are we doing what we are doing? What is it doing to others? And what is it doing to us?'”
(www.whywefight.com )

I still cannot seem to understand why we as South Africans fought and got involved if i see the final outcome of our wars.

Reasons mentioned were Communism,Terrorism and crime etc.
,
"Money and Politicians now seems to be the root of all evil"
Is that maybe the main reason for the wars?

Regards
Tango

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very thought-provoking question, Tango. I believe I like many others fought because we believed that we were upholding the values and traditions of our armed forces but I am sure there is a deeper underlying reason. As soldiers, we were doing what our calling dictated we do.

Could it be that our motivating factors are similar to those that entice people to engage in espionage? Those are the classical M-I-C-E factors that you know and I wonder how one’s upbringing influences those factors? Or could it be something that can be traced back to the ancient “hunter-gatherer” gene within us? Or is it the desire for dominance buried deep within our psyche? I will have to do some research on your question.

I think as South Africans, we fought for numerous reasons and we fought extremely well with very little equipment and massive international support to those who faced us. As many people know, we won the shooting war but lost the political war – and as war is simply an extension of politics, we became the casualties of flawed policies.

I will do some research on this and do a positing on this in the near future.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Tango I think you answered your own question of why we fight ...money and politicians...the "Just War Theory" not withstanding

As Ivan Eland pointed out (article below) the U.S. has been the most aggressive country on the planet during the Cold War and since in terms of the number of foreign military interventions.

It's no coincidence that Americas largest export industry after porn is the so called "military industrial complex"

Why South African's and Rhodesian's fought in foreign wars I think was based on us buying into the "Just War Theory"although as you know we went from respected "allies" to the enemy a decade later all for political reasons of the new western religion called Cultural Marxism aka political correctness.

Is Adulation of the Military Really Patriotic?
October 21, 2009
Ivan Eland

A recent article in the New York Times reported that the military has become frustrated with President Barack Obama because he hasn’t quickly decided to risk more of their lives in an Afghan war that is likely to be unwinnable. In a post-World War II world that has featured a non-traditional militarized foreign policy of profligate interventions into the affairs of other nations, the U.S. military and its opinion have acquired great prestige and are accorded hushed reverence in American society. The military and flag are worshiped as never before. But is this really patriotism?

The nation’s founders would roll over in their graves at what patriotism has become. After their bad experience with British colonial military abuses and seeing European citizens paying with blood and treasure for the frequent wars of their monarchs, the founders feared standing armies for undermining liberty. The U.S. Constitution rejected European militarism in favor of tight congressional controls over the employment, organization, and funding of the U.S. armed forces. Since World War II, those controls—such as congressional declarations of war—have been severely eroded.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2640

Lukeisaduke said...

Hello Eaben,

I have found this article very interesting, and I have gained some good info. Thanks for producing such a good read.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment, Lukeisaduke. I am very pleased if there is something in these posts that can be used and in the process save lives.

Rgds,

Eeben

Tango said...

Thank you ....Robby and Eeben.


Regards
Tango

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You're welcome, Tango.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Hat tip to the French! Follows from a former colleague in Paris:

"We now have squads of "Fusiliers Marins" (Naval Infantry) who live on board our trawlers.... They are true sailors who went through a hard WWII-type selection process and specific sea-soldier training. Bad surprise for the pirates, hu hu hu !!"

Vr, Al


EU flotilla captures Somali pirates
NAIROBI
October 30, 2009

http://www.theage.com.au/world/eu-flotilla-captures-somali-pirates-20091029-hnq1.html

EUROPEAN Union naval forces have captured seven Somali pirates who tried to take over a French fishing vessel that repulsed the attack with gunfire.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan.

This is most certainly a move for the better. It is also something many others (myself included) have advocated for a long time. But why are only the French doing this, one needs to ask? Let’s hope others take a page from their book.

Rgds,

Eeben