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. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SOME CHIN-WAGGING WITH JAKE

Jake Allen is the owner of the website The Combat Operator – an ezine for operators and security contractors. Jake also runs a very popular podcast known as the Combat Operator Radio. In essence, he focuses on the Private Military industry and the PMCs operating out there. I believe that he deserves all the support he can get as he is working hard at improving the image of credible PMCs and giving objective news related to the PMC industry. Additionally, he will not hesitate to expose the phoney ones.

On 29 January 2009, Jake invited me as a guest onto his show. He was a great host and we had a bit of a talk about several things of relevance and it was great fun. Fortunately, Jake was there to ensure that I did not just blabber on and on.

The show can be found at http://combatoperator.com/blog/radio-2/

Thank you for the opportunity, Jake!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!

I would like to wish all of my Chinese friends and their families, wherever they may be, a very Happy Chinese New Year.

I hope that the coming year will bring you good health, many blessings and much joy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

FIGHTING ORGANISED CRIME

I am often surprised at the amount of companies, listed and/or private, that are haemorrhaging due to serious organised crime attacks. It seems that many companies prefer to keep quiet about the effects of crime, lest it negatively influence their shareholders. Some believe that it may reflect poorly on their abilities to manage if they admit their losses to crime. Others simply just refuse to acknowledge that they are victims of crime.

This is, I believe, in itself criminal as it is misleading shareholders and allowing the criminals to simply continue with their actions. In short, it amounts to a fraudulent representation of the company. In times of a global financial melt-down, it is imperative that crime is tackled in an aggressive manner.

In South Africa, those that are supposed to police crime are very seldom keen to do their duty. Many of them are, indeed, part of the problem and not part of the solution. Whereas there are police officers trying to make an impact on crime, they are few and far between. Sadly though, success is not something that is evident in these counter-crime actions. Public regard for crime scene investigators and detectives is reaching an all-time low. Their lack of interest in attending to crime scenes is well documented with excuses as feeble as “we don’t have a vehicle…” Visible policing is seen by many to simply be a reconnaissance operation by men in police uniforms before they strike.

The police’s lack of will to seriously fight organised crime has given rise to a proliferation of security companies, some good but many simply exploiting the lack of policing. These companies hire men off the streets, place them in uniform and suddenly they have a security company they can sell to unsuspecting businesses. Before long, these companies know every weakness of the client they are supposed to be protecting. Often these weaknesses are exploited by the security companies themselves.

In order to effectively fight organised crime, companies need to understand the fundamentals of crime and the criminal networks they are up against. Once the criminal workings are understood, the companies need to seize the initiative from the criminals and regain control over their profit margins.

Simply knowing that they are losing money to crime does not solve the crime problem. Installing cameras is not the only or best way to counter crime. Technology has its limitations and can be circumvented – especially when there are so-called power outages. Creating a mini-fortress with booms, guards and fences simply makes a company prisoner to its own working environment and advertises the fact that it has something valuable behind the fortress walls.

Visible security measures such as fences and access control systems are an important part of the overall strategy to combat organised crime. But it is not the only action a company should employ to protect its premises, assets and staff.

Fighting organised crime is an action that should be planned in detail and should encompass many varied levels of action. These plans should be pro-active in nature and make provision for a host of different crime scenarios.

As the global economic melt-down continues, crime will escalate. Loose groupings of criminals will become more structured and organised. Their methodology will become more aggressive and their actions bolder. As their profits soar, they will become better armed, equipped and wheeled. They will also exploit the very obvious lack of policing to a greater extent.

The majority of companies are quite content to simply be re-active. It appears as though the premise exists that although crime is hurting profit margins, companies are still able to survive. If they are able to survive despite the crime, why take positive aggressive action? Indeed, if it may have a financial implication, why do it at all?

The indications that kidnappings, extortion, sabotage and the like are being planned are already evident. Will companies have pre-warning? I doubt it. Will they be able to react quickly in the event of the kidnapping of a senior executive? Unlikely. Do they know who within their ranks is feeding information to criminals? No, they don’t. Do they usually know anything about the company providing their security? Have they made the security company liable for any burglary, theft or other losses they may suffer while under their watch? Are security companies given a time-line in which to perform adequately and resolve the crime issues within a company?

Whereas a security company may give a warm, fuzzy feeling to the company, they are often there simply because someone is paying their salaries – and often it is a poor salary that would welcome an additional income. Visible they are, effective - not always.

To successfully combat organised crime, companies need prior knowledge. With prior knowledge (intelligence) criminal actions can be predicted and pre-emptive actions taken. Gathering this information requires the ability to identify the criminal gangs and penetrate and infiltrate them with trained agents. Professional agents, subject to regular polygraph testing and other loyalty checks, will be able to position themselves in such a manner that they can gather the information required.

Armed with the criminal intelligence required, the companies will be able to coordinate their fight against the crime threatening their businesses. Additionally, it will allow the companies under threat to seize the initiative and play an active and offensive role in fighting crime.

This approach does, however, require short-, medium- and long-term planning, coupled to the professional training and management of the agents. There are some companies that have adopted a pre-emptive approach to fighting crime and they ought to be applauded. Their security executives think “outside the box”, are professional, dedicated and protect the company as though it were their own. They are quick to take bold, decisive action. They view every possible threat as a challenge and they have the support of their senior executives. Their success grows from strength to strength – and nothing breeds success like success.

Sadly though, a great many companies in South Africa and elsewhere are still in the “crime-denial” phase. While they remain in denial, the crime syndicates play the field, dictate the profit margins and grow stronger.

Crime at government-level and trans-national crime is a topic for another day…

My next posting will look at the recklessness of confusing “strategy” with “gadgetry”.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

THE “TROOP SURGE” STRATEGY

Ban-Ki Moon and his UN peacekeeping cohorts have (hopefully) come to realise that upping the force levels in a conflict area is no guarantee for success. The UN’s poorly thought-out strategies for so-called peacekeeping forces in conflict zones cannot be rectified by troop surges. Whereas the UN may think it can lie and bluster about its claims to success and that everyone will believe them, they are wrong. So, by committing more troops to resolve a problem does not make Ban-Ki Moon a strategic genius. Indeed, quite the opposite.

This strategy, initiated by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC (19 June, 1861 - 29 January 1928) during the Battle of the Somme, proved to be ill-conceived at best. Whereas supporters of this strategy may argue that it finally led to the defeat of Germany, it was at a terrible cost of men, equipment and money – and over several years. Even then, its success remains debatable.

The US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan was initially nothing other than a re-hashed Haig-like strategy – a strategy that required committing more and more soldiers to combat. The danger existed that this would lead to more casualties, more antagonism and more anti-US sentiments. The reality of this approach was that the US soldier has had to shoulder the blame for the failure of, at best, a poorly-conceived strategy. Eventually, a troop surge strategy may carry the day but only because of its overwhelming numbers.

A troop surge strategy not only strains the logistical supply chain and the associated costs of war, it will, additionally, place an even greater strain on the troops and junior officers to perform according to the new expectations that will be placed on them. A strained logistical supply line is also an ideal target for an insurgent to attack. Those of us who have been deployed to disrupt long logistical lines will testify to how easy it really is. Plus, that logistical supply line – when vulnerable – serves the enemy as well.

There appears to be a misguided belief that an insurgency can be quelled by throwing troops, gadgets, money and firepower at the problem. This argument is a fallacy. The pending deployment of two US army brigades into Afghanistan will show that this will not lead to an end of the conflict. If anything, it will most probably lead to an escalation of hostilities. The real victims of the troop surge strategy will be the soldiers and the civilians.

Soldiers do not choose who their enemies are or where they are required to do battle – the politicians do that. By having no control over where the wars are to be fought, commanders should make every effort to ensure that it is easier for their troops. This requires well-thought out strategies to win local population support. The local population, on the other hand, can be an asset, a threat or neutral. At worst case, they should be influenced to become neutral in the war that is fought on their terrain and in their towns.

Counter-insurgency operations are best fought with light, highly mobile forces who can act on sound intelligence. They are fought with aggressive search-and-destroy missions. Small-team deployments, using small-team tactics can wreak more havoc and destruction on an enemy than a heavy force which advertises its presence. A massive operation to ally the local population works in tandem with this approach. Aggressive intelligence gathering operations add to the success of the ground forces. These operations are aimed at throwing the enemy off balance and forcing him to surrender the initiative. These missions are all aimed at forcing the insurgents into terrain they would prefer NOT to fight in and then dealing them a crushing blow.

Fighting insurgents is not a war for heavy armour. Road usage by mechanised and motorised forces should be avoided at all times. Realistic military objectives need to be appreciated and achieved. The insurgents need to be isolated from the local population and the terrain they prefer to fight in. Soldiers need to dominate and rule the terrain both night and day. Soldiers need to become thinking-soldiers and realise that the indiscriminate use of uncontrolled firepower does not lead to winning the fire fight. Ensuring the well-being and security of the local population will become a force-multiplier to the ground forces. Cultural differences need to be identified and respected.

The adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” can be a valuable tool in any counter-insurgency operation but it needs to be handled with extreme care and caution. In making this decision, the short-, medium- and long-term political and military implications of this strategy need to be very carefully considered. Once this road has been chosen, there can be no turning back and switching of sides.

The average American soldier is a lion but, sadly, he is led by donkeys that are unable to strategise a war. Whereas his equipment is superior, he is let down by the lack of generalship displayed by his generals. But, the generals don’t seem to care as it is the common soldier who will bleed. Or, do the American generals, like General Haig, believe that America has enough young men to die for their inability to develop workable military strategies?

There are several very good examples of successful counter-insurgency campaigns - Malaya, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South West Africa (now Namibia), Angola, Sierra Leone immediately spring to mind. Each of these campaigns led to the development of new strategies, doctrines and tactics. Each of these campaigns had great successes but were failed by the politicians.

One of the most pertinent lessons to emerge from those campaigns is that they were not won with troop surges but with brain surges. They were won by out-thinking and out-smarting the enemy.

My next posting will take a look at countering organised crime in the private sector.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PUTTING AN END TO PIRACY– THE ONLY WAY

I am astonished at the world’s response to the continuing piracy problem off the East African coast.

Pirates are criminals – there is no “nicer” or “softer” or even “politically correct” manner to describe them and what they do. In short, they transgress international maritime law. They highjack ships and hold the crews hostage. They demand – and get – massive ransom payments.

There is no excuse for their actions – they are simply criminals that have got the West and the shipping companies quaking in their boots. In days gone by, they would have been hanged if they were caught. Today, we have become so spineless that we would rather turn a blind eye and hope they do not attack our country’s ships.

Surely, someone somewhere must have realised by now that using political correctness as a method of countering piracy has failed – and can never succeed. Water cannons and bean bags have never been a real deterrent – except maybe to ill-prepared rioters. Sending naval task forces into the pirate-infested areas is likewise a hollow threat. Yet, the taxpayers have to fund these navies in order to protect the shipping companies who don’t repay the costs of the naval task forces. In short, it is a great business deal for the shipping companies.

Whereas many PMCs and individuals – myself included – have written concepts, plans, proposals and more on how to counter this menace, no one has yet had the courage to implement these plans for fear of international condemnation. International law is in this instance also a prohibiting factor as there is great uncertainty as regards the legalities of having weapons on-board a ship, something that is in reality very simple. But, it seems, no one likes a simple plan. The more complicated it is, the more people like it.

Even more astonishing is that everyone is keen to give an excuse why the pirates are operating – from the failed-state theory to great poverty. That is, in a sense, much like condoning a bank robber and then making excuses for his criminal behaviour. As long as no one gets seriously hurt, it must be okay…

The message everyone is sending these pirates is that it is perfectly acceptable to commit their crimes. Besides, how much of their profits are sent to organised crime groups and even terrorist groups, thus allowing them to continue to operate? How much of these pirate actions are being coordinated from Europe, the Middle East and the UK? By all accounts, most are.

Well, I for one think it is time to take drastic action. If I am condemned for this, then so be it.

It is time that someone with some backbone stood up and admitted it: The only way to stop the pirates is to attack them on the ground. They need to be taught a very severe lesson – the lesson being that organised crime is not acceptable and that they will suffer the consequences for their actions.

If there is really a desire to end piracy, the best manner to achieve this will be by launching ground assaults on their safe-havens. Of course, this may upset those who wish to continue to be politically correct and humane. But they, too, must now decide whether this type of crime is acceptable or not.

If aggressive, decisive and targeted action is not soon taken, these criminals will simply continue to do what they do and even spread their wings to richer pickings elsewhere.

The strategy is simple: the pirates need to be stopped. The time has come to take offensive action. A group of well-trained men, correctly equipped and supported, will be able to wreak havoc on the pirates – before they even set sail from their harbours.

I, like many others, would be happy to plan and carry this action out on behalf of any government that has some backbone.

Will there be any takers? I doubt it…


My next posting will take a critical look at the so-called "troop surge" strategy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

DISREGARDING THE PRINCIPLES OF WAR

I recall having to study the principles of war – along with those of the different phases of war – during my various military courses, especially on the Combat Team and Battle Group commander’s courses. These principles are not something someone had just made up to ensure we had more work to study – although at the time, we suspected as much.

Grand strategy leads to military strategy. Military strategy aids in determining the doctrine. The implementation of the doctrine culminates in tactics – the art of deploying forces according to terrain and using their deployment, movement and firepower to overwhelm the enemy. To achieve success and to ensure that the battle is won, certain time-proven principles need to be employed.

Principles, in turn, are “battlefield philosophies” or “battlefield truths” that have been established over time to be vital in succeeding and surviving on the battlefield. But, when it comes to the general principles of war, these are derived from the political philosophy of the government the armed force serves.

When the state takes the decision to enter into a war, it ought to refrain from interfering in military matters as such interference can only hamper the military planners and commanders from attaining their aim. However, the political masters ought to lay down political guidelines that need to be factored into any military strategy and subsequent planning as the conflict remains an extension of the political policies (foreign policy) of the state. Thereafter, once politicians have committed to war, they should take a step back and leave the military to do what it is supposed to do best – go to war and win it. History is littered with cases where political intervention has simply prolonged the wars.

In order for an armed force to successfully carry out its mission, it should never rely purely on superior firepower, gadgets and technology. Nor should it ever base its plans on firepower alone as a poor plan cannot always be rectified by firepower alone. The unplanned, uncontrolled and uncoordinated use of firepower does not win wars.

Buzz-words lead to buzz-actions that serve little to no purpose when soldiers are under fire, out-manoeuvred and have lost the initiative.

Whereas the overall military strategy ought to be based on a well-defined military goal, it is a folly to attempt to achieve this too soon without thorough planning and preparation. Whereas it may look like a good idea to bomb the opposing president’s palace, and may even appear to look like a short-cut to winning the war, invariably it isn’t. This “shock-and-awe” approach is bound to create problems that were never foreseen by the planners and once the problems appear, they cannot be rapidly overcome. Such an action may also strengthen the national resolve of the enemy.

The different phases of war such as the advance, the advance to contact, the attack, the consolidation, the exploitation, the defence, the area domination and the withdrawal – all have principles that are vitally importance to success. Whereas the strict adherence to the principles will not guarantee a victory, they will ensure that detailed planning was done. Detailed planning allows for unforeseen contingencies on the battlefield to be rapidly overcome. It gives flexibility to commanders.

Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

THE FOLLY OF ENCOURAGING TERRORISM

The world has become consumed with the scourge of terrorism. It is a curse that is on virtually everyone’s lips. This almost unseen threat has led to governments creating special “homeland security” departments to protect themselves and their citizens. However, indiscriminate bombings of innocent civilians, armed attacks on hotels and restaurants and the like are occurrences that many South Africans were very familiar with in the 1970s and especially in the 1980s.

South Africa’s cross-border pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases were loudly and vociferously condemned at all levels of the international arena. It was claimed by the international community that the majority of the casualties from these strikes were “innocent civilians”, despite the fact that the contrary could be proved. The UN formulated special resolutions to sanction us. The fact is that thousands of truly innocent civilians have been killed, maimed and wounded in the strikes by the so-called coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike the case with South Africa, these causalities are either down-played or simply not even mentioned. They are considered to be “acceptable losses”. Hypocrisy?

Whereas the West cannot be blamed for the birth of terrorism, it was most certainly instrumental in aiding and abetting terrorism, especially in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. At that time, it was dressed up as foreign policy encouraging “democracy”, “freedom of speech” and “human rights”. This was supported by massive covert action campaigns through the written word. To many, the West’s foreign policy became synonymous with destabilisation.

What those strategists and policy advisors appear never to have considered was that the terrorism they were encouraging might one day return to their shores – with a new loyalty to their anti-West paymasters and/or ideological leaders.

Any citizen in the countries targeted by the West and who chose to disagree with his/her government was rewarded with “political refugee status” in especially the United Kingdom, Holland, France and Sweden and so on. Assisted by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, these antagonists were given safe passage to countries where they could plot and scheme their future actions. They were given financial aid and in many cases they were even secretly trained in those countries. They were taught that the only law they had to abide by was the law they could distribute through the barrel of the gun.

Whereas one cannot condone the political systems in many of the countries where the West was instrumental in encouraging and supporting terrorism – South Africa being no exception – one can only wonder what the long-term strategic plan was, if there was ever one. What they surely did know was that by encouraging terrorism, governments would fall and countless civilians, both black and white, would be killed or maimed. Were these casualties simply accepted as unavoidable yet necessary collateral damage?

These special refugees were given all the media attention they wanted. Comments such as “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” were trumpeted. The terrorists-in-training were heralded as heroes wherever they went. Media comments such as “fighting for democracy” and “fighting for freedom and human rights” and the like were often published in the media.

“Humanitarian assistance” became a buzz-word for aiding and abetting terrorism. Special committees were formed to assist with the future plans these “refugees” were making for when they finally seized power through the barrel of a gun. Quasi-governments in exile were formed and the refugees were urged to unleash their fury on the countries they came from. Many Western governments covertly approved and supported this notion fully.

Other refugees chose to divert to the old USSR and its satellite states for training. Those who chose that path were often under surveillance and closely monitored. But, many countries did not realise how their “allies” in the West were plotting their demise by means of terrorism. In South Africa, soldiers were sent to fight the “Red Threat” when all along the real threat came from our so-called allies. I recall Indonesian Special Forces General Subianto telling to me in 1996 that the West would one day realise that terrorists they had been supporting would come back to haunt them in the future – and that they would not be able to negotiate with them over a cup of tea.

If a government was unwilling to bow to the West’s demands, anyone willing to enter into a violent conflict against such an “arrogant” government was armed and sent to indiscriminately bomb and shoot. To prevent that government from defending itself and its citizens, sanctions were imposed. These actions were then claimed to be part of “promoting democracy”. If it would have helped at all, many of us would have shouted “Guys, wake up. This will come back to trouble you”.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) role in fuelling, training, arming, propagating and promoting the violent overthrow of pro-West governments in Africa unwilling to be dictated to is, additionally, well documented. That was, in many instances, why so many African countries turned to the East for help. Once-prosperous African countries were undermined, blackmailed, threatened and even sanctioned for not immediately accepting the demands of the West. Ironically, in doing this they were working with their enemies in the East.

The US’s initial covert role and later not-so-covert role in training and arming the Taliban is also well documented. I know this because EO was approached by a US official based in Cairo and asked to assist with the training of the Taliban. That offer was declined. But the irony is that Osama Bin Laden, now on the US’s most wanted list, was one of those the US advised, encouraged, financed and trained.

Terrorism is partly a result of the West’s encouragement - and ignorance - of these groups that are now deemed to be the enemy. Adding fuel to the fire is the lack of intelligence planning and foresight to infiltrate and penetrate these criminal organisations masquerading as “freedom fighters”. Current containment strategies are poorly thought-out and difficult to implement. Over-reliance on technology has also proven its short-comings. The advantage no longer lies with the governments as they have lost much of the initiative.

Most of us view terrorism as an armed crime aimed at causing deaths and destruction. I, like many others, believe it must be eradicated. It is an extension of organised crime, aimed at instilling fear and terror and encouraging the belief that a government can no longer protect itself or its citizens. Its ultimate aim is to violently overthrow a government so that an alternative form of government can be established – or that the national will is sufficiently weakened to be exploited to the advantage of the terrorists. We have seen the results of these types of governments…

The West is now facing a predicament it helped bring upon itself; it has its own home-grown terrorists – people it once opened its doors to as “political refugees” but who have now become the danger from within. Did they not teach these refugees to ignore the rule of law, discard the Geneva Convention and reject all rules of engagement and war? Given the massive support that the West gave to terrorism, isn’t it now simply reaping what it has sown?

To defeat terrorism, a new strategy needs to be devised. This strategy cannot be based on technology and “troop surges” alone. It requires far deeper thought and planning than that. This type of techno-surge strategy and the subsequent doctrine and tactics that follow are both reckless and counter-productive and can only lead to even more precarious, costly and long-term conflicts.

Added on 8 January 2008: Please see http://www.africancrisis.co.za/Article.php?ID=41012& as a point that was discussed under the comments.