About Me

My Photo
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, March 19, 2009

HAS THE WAR ON DRUGS BEEN LOST?

Despite the so-called war on drugs, the world is seeing a rapid rise in illegal drug production, drug trafficking and above all, an increase in the power and influence of the drug syndicates and cartels. Human mules are increasingly being used to slip through porous borders and even not-so-porous borders. Drug crops continue to expand and grow. Within the African markets, the popularity of cocaine is becoming, by far, the most popular and lucrative drug. Yet, everyone seems quite content to talk about it and do as little as possible or, do just enough to look as though they are actually doing something.

Latin America, Africa and the Far East are becoming increasingly active in the drug trade, these “products” making their way to the US and Europe. Just how much of the proceeds from this crime are being invested into terrorism is not officially known. But, it is known that the illegal weapons trade makes use of the same routes, possibly indicating a larger involvement of terrorist organisations.

Many African countries offer unmonitored coastlines, poorly paid officials, porous borders, inadequate training, and booming informal markets.

South Africa and West Africa in particular are becoming progressively more open to the illegal drugs trade and currently act as major transit routes. Senegal in particular has been targeted by Columbian drug lords due to its well-developed transport and telecommunications networks. Ironically, we know it, speak about it and yet do nothing.

At home, our Minister of Intelligence, Siyabonga Cwele’s wife has been implicated in an international drug trafficking scandal. Ironically, the Minister’s spokesman has said that the honourable member will make it a “priority” to investigate the allegations against his wife. But, these allegations most probably will quietly die away – as they usually do, despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence.

According to UN estimates, 50 tons of cocaine alone a year, worth almost $2-billion at European wholesale prices, passes through West Africa. This exceeds the national income of some countries. At present, the amount of illegal drugs being routed through South Africa is unknown – and if anyone does know, they are not talking.

The production of cocaine has surged across Latin America. The Andes “exports” more than 750 tons of cocaine a year. In the process, peasants are pushed off their lands, gang wars have become part of daily life, state officials and institutions seem powerless. This, in turn, has unleashed a wave of violence, terror, population displacements, corruption and above all, power to the cartels.

According to media reports, more than 6 000 people were killed as a result of drug-related violence in Mexico last year. Thus far, more than 1 000 have lost their lives this year. Large tracts of Mexico are, by all accounts, under siege as the cartels brazenly take on the government forces. This violence is steadily creeping towards the USA.

Astonishingly, the European Union and some Latin American countries are calling for a strategy that calls for “harm reduction” measures. This “strategy” will look at elements such as legalising marijuana and assistance with needle exchanges. Such “strategies” are further proof that the war on drugs is either being lost or is simply a fallacy.

The know-how and technology exist to locate and neutralise an enemy soldier. The technology to intercept phone calls, emails and such like is also available. The ability and skill to train and deploy agents and either infiltrate syndicates and cartels or penetrate them is there. The capability to monitor illegal aircraft flights is available. Covert or discretionary warfare strategies and tactics to attack the dealers, syndicates and cartels exist, yet none of this is used. Instead, governments faff around and act as though nothing is happening or express concern but worry about taking action lest it be construed as politically incorrect. Some governments sadly appear only too keen to appease the syndicates and cartels.

Western intelligence services have also happily supported – and in some instances even protected – drug lords and their cartels with the belief that this would lead to a reciprocal assistance in terms of intelligence. But, this has not been the case as the cartels have exploited the intelligence services and given very little, if anything, in return. Where they have played a role, it was in exposing their competition. An attitude of my enemy’s friend is also my friend does not always yield positive results.

In a world where even drug trafficking seems to have become politically correct at the expense of law abiding citizens, it is an astonishing phenomenon to witness. Of course, there are those that argue that people are growing, producing and trafficking drugs because of their economic circumstance. Such a strawman argument implies that anyone who is economically disadvantaged may commit crime, due to his or her circumstance.

The reach of this criminal activity is far and wide. Countries, communities and families are all targeted. Raking in billions of dollars annually, the ultimate aim of many cartels is that of power and control. They smilingly pose for photographs with heads of state – the gilt-framed photographs adorn their office walls for all to see. They count influential people as their friends and supporters. They have the money to buy whatever they wish – even the law. This gives them a sense of being untouchable and in a manner of speaking, they are.

Fighting the illegal drug trade requires a strong strategy – a strategy that governments will not be afraid to implement, regardless of the human rights of the dealers, syndicates and cartels. It, additionally, requires a genuine desire to eradicate the problem. If the drug wars are to be won, it requires determination from governments to do exactly that. This requires courage and national will – character traits few governments seem to have.

It is time for governments to either take the politically correct avenue and legalise drugs or do the correct thing and fight it in order to stop it. If the decision is made to destroy this trade, then strong action is called for. This action should call for an intensification of real intelligence gathering and hard action to attack and destroy the dealers, syndicates and cartels.

But, at present, it is obvious that the current war against the drug trade has failed dismally. If anything, it has made the syndicates and cartels stronger, more brazen and wealthier.

This is indeed a very strange way to fight a war.


My next posting will take a brief look at physical security.

Added on 19 March 2009: And so it continues - http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/269419

Added on 20 March 2009: It just gets worse…see http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488987,00.html, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1163468/Spanish-police-seize-42-piece-dinner-set--entirely-cocaine.html, http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488985,00.html and
http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488915,00.html One consolation is that at least some busts are being made.

Added on 23 March 2009: It just gets worse… http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2490222,00.html

Friday, March 13, 2009

REASSESSING SECTION TACTICS WITH THE 20mm PAW

I recently had the opportunity to visit a South African weapons-developer who has designed and built a 20mm Personal Assault Weapon (PAW). The light-weight, shoulder-fired, semi-automatic and devastating 20 x 42mm PAW can – accurately - deliver a variety of 20mm rounds onto a target some 1000m distant. Using either a 7-shot box-magazine or a 6-shot drum-magazine, this weapon has the potential to become an enemy’s worst nightmare.

The PAW weighs in at 6kgs and has the recoil of a 12-gauge shotgun. This is due to the unique recoil-mitigation system that was developed to enable either left-handed or right-handed firing of the weapon. Although it boasts a range of 1000m, it is not always that easy to engage a target at that distance. However, supplementing the section/squad firepower, the PAW will easily allow effective and accurate fire at a range of 800m.


I am a firm believer that terrain is the primary driver of tactics. Furthermore, I believe that tactics should continue to evolve as we get to know and understand the enemy and his weapon systems better. Lessons learnt in combat ought, additionally, to be a contributing factor to our evolving tactics and battlecraft. The arrival of the 20mm PAW will, however, drastically change the combat landscape.

I believe the weapon system should be used at section (squad) level along with the 40mm MGL – another good weapon which is also made in South Africa. Along with the section machinegun, these two weapons are capable of delivering accurate and devastating firepower onto any objective. In turn, this allows for several “new” options during fire-and-manoeuvre.

The weapon can be used in a variety of environments such as open terrain, bush terrain, urban warfare, mountain warfare, and long-range convoy or vehicle ambushes and so on. It is furthermore not restricted to a specific type of operation. It also gives the Infantry section the ability to engage low-flying aircraft and helicopters.
In brief, this is a devastating weapon. I believe that if correctly used, it will enable the infantry section to lay down fire-intensity that has, till now, been unheard of.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CONSIDERING THE USE OF A PMC OR A PSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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