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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON COUNTERING AN INSURGENCY (Part 1)

Insurgencies are nothing new. History is littered with examples of insurgencies and counter insurgency operations - some successful, some not. But have we learnt anything from this history?

A counter insurgency operation (COIN Op) differs vastly from a conventional or semi-conventional operation in that the enemy (insurgent) is usually not recognisable as he/she moves, as Mao Zedong put it, “like a fish in the water”.

Without a distinctive uniform to aid identification, security force troops are confused and unsure of whom exactly they are fighting. In turn, this can manifest itself as frustration, leading to the excessive use of force and firepower, thus simply strengthening the insurgents’ cause and turning the local population against the soldiers as they become the indiscriminate casualties of the conflict. This, along with the poor treatment and abuse of the local population, will result in a situation where anger and numbers will eventually count against the security forces.

An insurgency is not a stand-off between two armies opposing one another. It is an ideology opposing an army. It does not adhere to the classical principles of the advance, attack and so forth. Instead, it will resort to anything that will further its aims, including terrorism, crime, fear and violence. Inevitably, this leads to the belief that the insurgent has the initiative as he is able to choose the time and place and strike at will, and then blend into the population. Whereas this holds some truth, especially in the early stages of the insurgency, it does not imply that the security forces have to surrender the initiative and become reactive.

But there are several reasons why an insurgency may be viewed as “lost”. These reasons can trace their origins back to the failure of strategists and planners to recognise the potential for an insurgency and to consider or appreciate the worst or most dangerous case scenario that can result due to their strategy or plan. The end result is that the flawed operational concept or plan becomes a constantly changing plan without a clear focus. It is this lack of focus that throws the security forces off balance, leads to casualties and intoxicates the insurgent with success. In turn, this creates the perception amongst the local population that the insurgent is indeed the stronger power.

Security forces need to understand the importance of isolating the insurgent from the local population. Whereas this requires a dedicated and realistic “hearts-and-minds” policy, this policy is doomed to failure if the security forces do not understand the culture, traditions, values and beliefs of the local population. This requires that all members of the security forces are educated about the local population. Without this knowledge, the security forces will misread the insurgents’ political and military strategy and subsequently its aims and objectives.

Furthermore, if this education and understanding is lacking, it will be nigh impossible to recruit and train loyal local population members into a force that will willingly do battle with the insurgents. Instead, the security forces will simply be training and arming the future insurgents.

The operational concept needs to make provision for numerous factors that will most definitely influence its execution. But, in my opinion, the following factors ought to be near the top of the strategist’s list of factors for consideration:

1. Intelligence (historic and current and how this will influence the operational concept)
2. Understanding the local population’s beliefs, values, traditions and so forth
3. Educating the security forces prior to insertion or deployment.

The use of landmines and IEDs by insurgents is nothing new, either. The South African Defence Force, along with the Rhodesian Army, learnt how to counter and negate these insurgent weapons decades ago. These lessons, along with the adaption of tactics, seem to have been lost in the modern COIN ops arenas. Likewise, concepts such as “ink spot strategies”, “area domination”, “small team operations” and so on seem to have been grossly neglected.

Of great importance is also the political will of the government fighting the insurgency and how this political will manifests itself by equipping the security forces. Inadequately equipped forces or a lack of essential equipment will inevitably lead to a drop in security force morale and their will to counter the insurgents. Additionally, casualties will escalate and have a negative influence on the national will to fight or oppose the insurgency. Subsequently, this simply enhances insurgent intoxication.

Numerous windows of opportunity present themselves when fighting an insurgent force. Failure to identify these windows and exploit them can be detrimental to the overall strategy. Whereas the insurgent lacks the discipline, weapon systems and military strength to engage the security forces directly, an indirect approach to defeating the security forces becomes the order of the day. Part of this indirect approach involves the engagement of the media to help influence the political environment they are operating in.

As long as we continue to misdiagnose the environment and ignore or subject the local population to abuse humiliation, the insurgent will retain the initiative. The end result will be a constantly changing strategy with a lack of focus where the security forces are kept off balance by their own flawed strategy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THE NEW GENERATION PUMA MPV/MRAP

Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) have progressed significantly since their first deployment during the Rhodesian bush war. Despite at that time being very primitive, they were nevertheless highly effective and saved countless lives.

It was the South Africans who took these developments further and developed vehicles such as the “Buffel” (Buffalo), Casspir, “Kwevoel” and so on. In simple terms, the vehicles were built with V-shaped hulls as it is known that an explosive shock wave travels the path of least resistance and the V-shaped hull allows the shockwave to disperse up the sides of the hull, thus deflecting the blast away from the hull. In turn, this minimises injury and even death.

I know how effective this technique of blast-deflection is as I survived in a Buffel that hit a British Mk7 anti-tank mine. That made my name the first entry into the war diary of 1 January, 1980. That was 29 years ago – and at that period, the Buffel had already seen active service for some time. The Casspir, along with the Buffel, were arguably the first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to enter the combat zone anywhere in the world. Ironically, old South African MPVs/MRAPs are still, today, making their mark in combat zones in Africa and the Middle East.

What I cannot understand – or even believe – is why the British army is still using Land Rovers as combat vehicles. Similarly, the US is using the Humvee. Whereas these vehicles may have a distinctive role to play, it is not something any soldier should be sent into a mine-threat zone or enemy strong-area in. The armour these vehicles have on their sides gives no protection to landmines and IEDs.

But the question that needs to be answered is “what constitutes an ‘ambush protected’ vehicle”? Is it protection against small arms fire or does that include protection against anti-tank weapons? If the latter, then we are a long way from finding a true “ambush protected” vehicle as even the M1 tank is not resistant to certain anti-tank missiles.

However, the typical MPV/MRAP is a very expensive vehicle. That is, until OTT Technologies came along…

With the Puma M26-15, OTT Armoured vehicles (a unit of OTT Technologies), has developed a cost-effective medium MPV/MRAP without compromising the safety of the crew. The M26-15 is a continuation of the Puma 4 x 2 MPV that has been successfully deployed in Iraq.



The Puma M26-15 recently passed its dynamic automotive tests with flying colours.

The main design parameter was to develop a lower cost and robust mine protected vehicle that can be deployed effectively and safely in the harsh environments of Africa and other developing regions whilst offering excellent protection against small arms fire. The M26-15 has a crew complement of 10 (driver and commander plus 8). The vehicle is robust and easy to maintain in the field making it an MPV/MRAP with a low life-cycle cost.

The 8 ton Puma M26-15 has a sustained road speed of 80 km/h, a gradient of 60% and a side slope capability of more than 25⁰. Wide windows ensure a exceptional situational awareness while 12 firing ports plus two roof hatches and a 360⁰ cupola with a pintle mount for a light machine gun ensures quick and furious retaliation from the crew in case of an ambush.

I am very fortunate to have been one of the very few who have to date seen this vehicle – and I am very impressed.



As with any new vehicle, the actual tactical deployment of the vehicle needs to be confirmed.

Something that bothers me is that modern-day soldiers believe they ought to drive into battle. This is the role of mechanised infantry as these soldiers need to dismount prior to or on top of the objective – if all anti-tank weapons have been silenced. If not, they debus before the objective and fight their way through it with the vehicle giving fire support.

MPVs and MRAPs do not constitute mechanised infantry. The deployment of these vehicles therefore calls for an in-depth look at how they should be deployed to give the protection they ought to give. Whereas they can carry weapon systems able to give very good suppressive and supporting fire, they still need to be deployed correctly.

OTT’s new generation Puma will give the infantry the protection they need – as long as the vehicle is not deployed as a mechanised infantry vehicle. If used correctly, it will give the soldier an advantage, allowing him to arrive close to the combat zone, fresh to fight and still allow for effective fire-and-manoeuvre.

I hope that governments will take a look at this vehicle as it gives an excellent level of protection to the soldiers they are keen to commit to battle. At least now their fighting men will stand a chance. If fitted with the Bloodhound Mk1 (see my previous post dd April 2009) they will be able to track each vehicle’s movements and position.

Anyone interested in more information can visit OTT at www.ott.co.za and see the full range of vehicles they manufacture.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

THE PRINCIPLES OF INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION

I have spoken a lot about the importance of intelligence and how we seem to be constantly getting it all wrong. As proof of this, we need only look at how current conflicts are going awry.

The focussed collection of information, the transformation of that information into intelligence, the interpretation of the intelligence and the dissemination thereof to the correct people at the correct time is an art we seem to have somehow lost.

It is, however, the lack of intelligence that leads to poorly formulated strategies based on guess work. This is something strategists cannot ignore, regardless of the dimension of war they are expecting or fighting. An inability to identify threats in the medium to long term compounds the inability to acquire and position the necessary sources beforehand, thus paving the way for intelligence failures.

As previously discussed, there ought to be a continuous flow of collected information from various overt, covert and clandestine sources into the intelligence system, a system that can be likened to a large machine; the information being the fuel that drives the machine. However, for the machine to use this “fuel” correctly and effectively, the information needs to be collected.

In order for the collection effort to be channelled, focussed and managed in a correct manner, certain principles must be applied. These principles are tried and tested truths and to ignore them will certainly lead to a sub-standard collection effort. A sub-standard collection effort will most surely impact very negatively on any political or military strategy.

The principles of collection (not in order of priority) can be briefly listed as follows:

1. Planning: Correct planning will ensure that the correct information is received at the correct time and place. Planning will also ensure that the intelligence requirements are met. This assumes the 5 Ps of planning – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Planning is an action which needs to be considered well before any deliberate action is planned. Planning will furthermore assist the collection effort in identifying strong and weak points as well as opportunities and strengths.

2. Exploitation of all Sources: All overt, covert and clandestine sources available must be exploited. These sources need to be carefully considered in order to prevent one source compromising another. Additionally, it will allow collection planners to confirm if they have sources that can provide the necessary information or if sources need to be identified and recruited. This includes all forms of liaison with outside bodies and agencies. TECHINT and SATINT are sources that require consideration but should never be viewed as the primary sources as they can effectively be used to feed disinformation into the intelligence process.

3. Time: The adage “Time spent on planning is never wasted” holds true. In essence, this requires planners and analysts to be “forward looking” and pro-active and not wait for a negative situation to manifest itself before any effort is launched. Time is required to ensure the following actions can realistically be achieved:

• Planning
• Identify, recruit and train covert sources (agents)
• Tasking of covert and overt sources
• Deployment and/or positioning of TECHINT and SATINT sources
• The collection of information
• The feedback/reporting process
• The interpretation of information
• The dissemination of the intelligence product

4. Relevancy: The collection effort must be relevant to the intelligence requirement. This will ensure that time, effort and resources are not wasted. When relevancy becomes discarded, collection for the sake of collection can lead to a wastage of assets and funds. Furthermore, irrelevant information and intelligence can mislead strategists and planners.

5. Control: The collection effort must be carefully controlled to ensure economy of effort, prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and minimise compromise. Control is a prerequisite for directing sources correctly and efficiently.

6. Access: Without access, there can be no collection. Access needs to be well-planned in advance with back-up access points positioned in case of source compromise.

7. Flexibility: Flexibility will allow the collection effort to rapidly switch from one target to the next. However, without planning and access, there can be no flexibility – or at best, only limited flexibility.

Intelligence planners need to be very familiar with the grand strategy of the nation as well as the subsequent military strategy. Only then, will they be able to apply their craft efficiently and with accuracy.

To ensure this, the principles of intelligence need to be applied.