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.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Another year is winding down and for many, this has been a hectic year filled with adrenalin rushes, waiting, laughter, happiness, satisfaction, blood, sweat and tears. Whereas we can celebrate an end to the year with those we hold dear, there are many who will not or cannot – and they should never be forgotten. Nor should the sacrifices they have made ever be forgotten.

I would like to wish all followers and visitors to my blog a very blessed Christmas season. To those who do not celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, I wish you a peaceful festive period. To those who are trapped in the numerous conflicts around the world, I hope that you will know some peace during these times and be kept safe.

Again I wish to thank everyone who took time to read and contribute to this blog throughout the year. Your comments continue to be appreciated and highly valued and continue to allow me to broaden my own knowledge base. I am also grateful that, through the blog, I have been able to get to know some really good people.

Due to numerous factors, I have not been able to stand on my soapbox as much as I would have wanted to. Although I am fortunate in that I have been able have able to be otherwise engaged, I apologise for what may appear to some as a lack of response to the comments sent to me.

To everyone who wrote letters of encouragement re this blog – my thanks to you. To those who continue write “private” mails to me, I hope that you will be able to get rid of the ghosts that haunt your lives. To the many students, I hope that the blog has been able to give you some positive input re your studies.

To all who are deployed in the conflict zones around the world, beit as soldiers, sailors, airmen, law enforcement officers, spooks or PMC contractors, keep your heads down, your eyes peeled and be ready at all times to do what needs to be done.

Finally, I would also like to wish each and every one of you – and your loved ones - a great 2011. May the coming year be filled with good health, happiness and safety.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Someone recently sent me a link to a discussion being held on the pros and cons of MRAPs in combat theatres.

Whereas everyone partaking contributed valuable input into the mentioned debate, it seems to me that we may have lost the plot along the way.

The MRAP (along with the older MPV) was designed and built to deliver troops to an area in relative safety from landmines and IEDs. This required the MRAPs/MPVs to have a very good cross-country ability and thereby prevent the troops from being road-bound at all times. Additionally, sappers were used to clear the roads of mines/IEDs.

The MRAP/MPV was not developed as a wheeled safety cocoon from which the troops had to fight. It was meant to be a method of delivery to a starting point for aggressive combat patrolling but it gave some protection to the troops enroute to the starting point. The standard ambush drills were very effective if coming under fire enroute to the delivery point as they allowed the troops to immediately retaliate with fire – and debus as soon as possible and fight from the ground.

The MPVs were armed with 7, 62 mm Browning MGs in order to give fire support to the dismounted infantry – not to lead the fight or hold ground. This basic principle of deployment remains as applicable today as it was in years gone by.

Wars and conflicts are won by men on the ground, implementing sound strategies with good tactics and taking the fight to the enemy. Wars have not, and will never been won by “dominating” the roads and ignoring the rest of the terrain.

Given the firepower we have allowed the enemy to amass, and the lessons we have taught him (I think it was Napoleon who said: Never fight a single enemy for too long as you will teach him all you know) we need to be able to deliver troops relatively safely and fresh to a starting point for operations.

I recall that in the old-SADF we never had the air mobility we needed to deliver a large number of troops to a specific point to commence with area operations – hence our reliance on vehicles. In this process we learnt the following:

1. MPVs/MRAPs must be standardised to allow for ease of logistical support
2. MPVs/MRAPs must be simple to maintain and operate
3. Stay off the roads where possible
4. When bound to roads, clear the roads ahead of the vehicles
5. Dismounted infantry protection teams for the sappers are responsible for locating enemy ambush positions, trip wires, electrical cables, indications of enemy movement and so forth
6. The MPV/MRAP is a delivery system and not a fighting vehicle
7. Dismount and clear defiles before passing through them
8. Avoid routine
9. Follow immediate actions drills immediately and correctly
10. Good drivers are essential

A sound doctrine for the role of the MPVs/MRAPs is essential. There are immediate action drills in case of a landmine or IED and when coming into contact with the enemy. It was these very basic drills that saved my sappers and I when we got hit by a hefty landmine in 1980. Had we not been in an MPV, we would have all been killed. Had we not followed our drills, the casualties could have been rather heavy.

The MPVs/MRAPs were never designed to be infantry fighting vehicles. They were not built to dominate terrain – that is the task of infantry – on foot. Nor were they designed as a substitute for mechanised infantry fighting vehicles. That was not their role then and it is still not their role.

Personally, I believe that most modern MRAPs are over-designed, too heavy, too complicated to maintain and have lost the edge they ought to give the infantry. Likewise, the infantry are to blame for using these vehicles for roles they were never designed for.

I also believe that the MPV/MRAP is an ideal vehicle for motorised infantry, especially in COIN operations. However, its role in conventional warfare operations can, if used correctly and within the doctrine, prove to be invaluable.

A good driver can “idle” the vehicle cross-country and get to within 15 meters of the enemy before they are even aware that it is there. By then, the infantry have long debussed and formed into an assault line with the MPV acting as a mobile fire support base. If we could do that in the 1980s, there is no reason why it cannot be done today.

I am sure the debate about MPVs/MRAPs will continue for years to come but we need to define its role, develop the doctrine for operational deployment and make sure we abide by it. If we do this, the MPV/MRAP will do what it was meant to do: save lives and reduce casualties. Furthermore, it will remain an essential vehicle able to save lives especially in areas where landmines and IEDs are used.

However, if we continue to view the MPV/MRAP as an infantry fighting vehicle and keep to the roads with a predictable routine, we surrender any advantage it can give us.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


There are many who want argue that warfare consists of either attrition or manoeuvre.

The ultimate aim of any war is to locate, identify and overwhelm the enemy with fire or to annihilate the enemy in order to force an end to hostilities and/or to restore the political balance. When an enemy’s armed forces are destroyed, his political machine is not left with too many options.

The more casualties the enemy sustains (attrition), the lower his morale and the less likely he is to want to oppose the forces pitted against him. This reality is not only applicable to countering an insurgency but also to large-scale conflicts where home support wanes when the casualties – along with the economical and political costs - become simply too high to accept.

In brief, war by attrition implies massing men and equipment against enemy positions with the aim of destroying the enemy’s forces. Success is measured by territory gained, enemy killed, wounded or captured, equipment captured and destroyed and the damage inflicted to the enemy’s infrastructure.

Attrition warfare can be used very effectively when a smaller force takes on a larger enemy and conducts guerrilla operations against the larger force. This type of attrition has been witnessed in numerous modern conflicts and wars. World War 1 is an example of 20th century attrition warfare at its most brutal by sides almost equally matched.

Manoeuvre warfare, on the other hand, is aimed at isolating the enemy’s decision-making capabilities, thus rendering him unable to continue with viable military operations or paralysing his abilities to wage war. But, it is not a form of warfare based on a humanitarian approach aimed at reducing enemy casualties. Indeed, it is the opposite.

Whereas manoeuvre warfare appears to have become a mantra to many, it is as old as warfare itself. When man decided to move to a more advantageous position with his legs, on a horse, with a chariot or whatever in order to overcome and destroy the enemy, he was applying manoeuvre. This led to flanking movements, pincer movements, encirclements and numerous different envelopments.

Today, there are those who view manoeuvre warfare purely as a concept and not as an acknowledged approach to warfare. However, one cannot conduct effective manoeuvre without attrition nor can one conduct effective attrition without manoeuvre.

Manoeuvre warfare is not restricted to mechanised forces although many view it as an approach solely reserved for mechanised forces. Motorised forces, airborne forces and marine forces are all capable of conducting very effective manoeuvre warfare operations.

In the COIN environment, Light Infantry can be very effectively used to conduct manoeuvre warfare operations to strike the enemy’s bases and rear areas. Stopper groups or cut-off groups can be seen as a form of manoeuvre albeit at the tactical level. Likewise, the leap-frogging of forces can be viewed as a form of manoeuvre. But, these movements require mobility, a pre-requisite to effective manoeuvre warfare.

Mobility does, however, not imply wheels, tracks, boats or airlift capabilities – it also includes the ability to infiltrate and/or position forces on foot – such as Light Infantry - into positions that can gain an advantage over the enemy.

Effective manoeuvre warfare requires, amongst others:

1. Decentralised command and control
2. Up-to-date intelligence
3. High tempo operations
4. Surprise coupled to speed of action and exploitation
5. Flexibility
6. The ability to rapidly deploy or redeploy forces
7. Effective logistical supply lines
8. Balanced forces such as independent and self-contained Combat Teams and Battle Groups
9. Deception
10. Adequate air support and air superiority
11. The concentration of effort and force at the correct place and time

In the African context, manoeuvre warfare can be used very successfully to isolate and/or attack an enemy’s trinity of gravity. However, it requires that careful consideration is given to protecting the logistical supply lines and preventing them from becoming vulnerable to enemy attack as well as denying the enemy the ability to exploit the local population for own purposes. It is especially here that COIN forces can play a significant role is assisting and supporting manoeuvre forces.

All strategies are – or ought to be - intelligence driven. Intelligence during manoeuvre warfare operations should not only rely on manned and unmanned aerial reconnaissance and POWs. Small-team reconnaissance elements and/or pseudo-teams are essential in gathering intelligence ahead of the manoeuvre forces, ambushing enemy patrols, calling in fire-force teams and attacking enemy infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Successes must be exploited as rapidly as possible in order to maintain momentum and keep the enemy off balance.

A danger lies in over-extending the manoeuvre forces and thus becoming a victim of one’s own success. To prevent this, commanders need to ensure that the logistical chain functions smoothly and efficiently and that operations do not out-run the logistical abilities of the force.

The African theatre of operations provides numerous opportunities to conduct effective manoeuvre warfare operations in order to destroy the opposing forces and break the will of an enemy. If these opportunities are not exploited, the enemy will live to fight another day.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I am very pleased to have contact with so many students who, as part of their studies, are (hopefully) looking at positive PMC involvement in conflict areas with different eyes, especially given the spectacular failures of the UN – an organisation I have made my thoughts and feelings very clear on.

However, due to travel and work-related issues, I am not able to always respond immediately as some expect and want me to do. When I am engaged to assist a client, that engagement takes precedence over everything else I do. It is, after all, very unethical to use time that has been paid for by a client to do something else. That does, in my simple way of thinking, amount to both fraud and theft.

Added to this, I am sometimes in places where I do not have internet access and only receive the requests several days after they were sent to me.

I appreciate how important the studies and research papers are but it is very frustrating to have students ask me to repeat what I wrote about in my book because they “don’t have the time” to read it. It is equally frustrating – and time consuming – to have students ask me to respond as quickly as possible to their questions as they are facing a deadline re their research papers.

Whereas I am happy to help out wherever I can, I cannot drop everything to accommodate the many students who are busy with their research and studies – at last count, there were more than 100 students asking for my assistance.

I will continue trying to help out where I can but it is not always possible to do so as quickly as expected. After all, I too have other obligations to attend to – and those obligations will always receive priority.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Coming up against a well-entrenched or well-defended enemy position, and not always having air support available, the motorised infantry platoon can find itself in a difficult and vulnerable position. This position is made even more difficult if the enemy is operating out of a fortified village or old buildings and the infantry platoon has to attack without much cover.

Although the platoon does have its inherent machine guns down to section level, these weapons are often not able to engage the enemy at range or provide sustained fire support during an assault. Given the weight of both gun and ammunition, the machine gunner is also restricted in when and how he can use his machinegun.

In open terrain, the motorised infantryman is given some protection against enemy fire in the MRAP but the situation is compounded when he has to debus to assault an objective. However, with sparse cover, it is difficult at best to manoeuvre in the open whilst under fire.

This operational disadvantage can be overcome using a Mobile Gun Platform (MGP) or Mobile Fire Team (MFT) such as the OTT-designed and built “Hunter”, classified as a Light Strike Vehicle (LSV) by the manufacturer. (www.ott.co.za)

The Hunter is a true MGP/MFT, designed and built to operate over very rough and rugged terrain in dry, sparse areas.

Capable of delivering massive sustained firepower against enemy positions, the Hunter is perfectly suited to the conduct of numerous counter insurgency missions such as fire support, follow-up operations, suppressing fire during assaults, casualty extraction, reconnaissance, raids, ambushes, base protection, border patrols and so forth.

Its role during conventional operations as a raiding vehicle is equally formidable.

As a MGP/MFT the Hunter can, depending on the mission, be armed with:

1. A 20mm rapid-fire cannon or a 14,5mm HMG
2. 2 x 12,7mm HMGs
3. 2 x PKM machineguns

Any weapon system can be removed and replaced with alternate weapon systems such as the AGS-17 MGL. The vehicle can also be fitted with grenade launchers, giving it the ability to produce a smoke screen.

Although some doctrinal issues are still being worked on, there will be between 6 and 8 MGPs/MFTs attached to each motorised infantry company. This will, depending on the mission, allow the company commander to detach 2 MGPs/MFTs to each platoon and still maintain a reserve for deployment elsewhere.

The Hunter gives the company the following advantages:

1. Mobility across rugged terrain
2. Increased firepower
3. Flexibility
4. Rapid deployment
5. Manoeuvrability
6. Night fighting ability

With a maximum gradient of 60 degrees and a sustained road speed of between 70 and 80 km/h, the Hunter will be able to maintain its position in an MRAP deployment. It also has an off-road operating range of approx 500kms (with an additional 120 km with Jerry cans).

A command post vehicle is currently under development.

This MGP/MFT will be a very welcome addition to any offensive/defensive motorised infantry task.

Friday, September 24, 2010


When Sun Tzu wrote about the need to know both the enemy and yourself, his words held an importance many nowadays seem to simply ignore.

I am extremely fortunate in that I still get to meet many senior military officers from across the world and one thing that strikes me as odd is that very few truly know “themselves”. Of course, they know what training they and their men have had and mostly know how to use it but they are not always fully aware of their capabilities if their real or perceived combat scenario were to change suddenly.

As an ex-soldier, I am fully cognisant of how rapidly we can develop tunnel vision and neglect our abilities to think laterally. Sometimes, we need to think outside the box. At other times, we need to ask...and listen.

Asking appears to be something many of us shy away from lest we be seen as unable to do our tasks. But, when lives are at stake and the choice is either success or failure or victory or defeat, there can be no shame in asking.

By “knowing ourselves”, we should be aware of our weak and strong points. Whereas we seldom want to admit we have weak points, it is too late to come to this realisation when the pressure is on, the lead is flying and we have run out of options. At such a time, pride will be of no value to us.

If we truly know ourselves, we will know our true capabilities. Having had the privilege to serve under one of the best small team commanders in the old SADF, I recall once being loaded with 15 magazines for my AK, a 100-round belt for the PKM, 20 40mm rounds plus the launcher, 2 bunker bombs, the VHF radio as well as the HF radio – along with my food, water and shockpack. With my knees buckling, I made it known that I would be rather useless when we hit contact with the enemy. My commander looked at me and with a smile said that he was very well aware of that but as he knew every man in the team, he knew what they could do. I was the green one and he needed to first find out what I was capable of. It was a lesson I would never forget.

I have also learnt that we should be realistic about what we can and cannot do, what we are capable of and not capable of. It is this “knowing” that prevents us from making unrealistic demands on the men under our command, setting unrealistic expectations or even having unrealistic expectations of our weapons systems.

But this knowing goes further. There are many different ways to solve a problem. Sometimes, we are well prepared by our military schools but more than often the theoretical war does not match the real war. Situations and terrain change rapidly and frequently as does the enemy. There is no standard template-plan that we can simply superimpose on any given military problem. We need to think beyond the box but sometimes even our boxes are small and limited.

Additionally, we need to know the enemy we are facing, his weapon systems and capabilities, his tactics and techniques – and his weak points. We also need to know how and why he fights. Only then can we devise workable strategies and actions to counter and defeat him.

Fortunately, many of the senior officers I meet are keen to get new thoughts and ideas. They want to discuss and dissect previous successful and less successful operations. They pose theoretical scenarios and discuss them. They want to debate the pros and cons of tactics, techniques and procedures. There is a desire to learn and make new “discoveries”. These discoveries of “new methods” breed a deeper understanding and analysis of any given situation. They do not let ego and pride get in their way. Expanding our knowledge of ourselves and our enemy aids in flexibility to situations as well as being able to rapidly adjust to new situations.

(This does of course presuppose that those giving the advice know what they are talking about and are doing so with the intent to help. Sadly, I have come across some advice-givers in Africa who very definitely have alternate agendas).

Often military strategies are devised on guess-work and totally removed from reality. Those who are on the ground must be able to adapt and change to meet the unexpected and still achieve mission-success. What happened to the adage “Time spent on planning is never wasted?”

Like many of my contemporaries, I have seen senior officers held hostage by their pride. Many insurmountable problems could have been solved, had it not been for misguided pride and poor planning. At times such as those, there is a fine line between pride and stupidity.

Whether it is pride or just plain stupidity and arrogance to underestimate the enemy, the terrain, and overestimate our abilities and so forth is in this context irrelevant. The fact is that sometimes we don’t really know ourselves and we end up tripping ourselves – and giving the enemy an advantage he will exploit.

Friday, September 10, 2010


To many, this posting may not have much to do with my core focus but there are many things that get my blood boiling: Abuse of kids and the elderly, murder, armed robbery, unacceptably high violent crime levels, the ruthless exploitation of Africa and poaching...

Of late, there has been an alarming rise in poaching in South Africa, especially rhino poaching. Indeed, the black-market demand for rhino horn has led to concerns that the current rate of killings will soon outstrip the births of rhino.

In Asia, the rhino horn is famed for its so-called medicinal powers and the demand keeps growing. This demand has, in turn, pushed up the price of the rhino horn making it a highly valued commodity and the rhino a method of making money quickly. The national game parks and smaller game reserves are all targets at present – and usually easy targets at that.

As South Africa is considered to be the last stronghold of a viable rhino population in Africa, this has made the country a prime target for this despicable poaching. According to the International Rhino Foundation, South Africa has already lost more than 31 rhinos to poachers this year.

The situation has become so bad that recent reports stated that the poachers were now even using helicopters to deploy their shooters. If this is not a cause for concern, then nothing is.

Gone are the days of the past where these poachers used home-made weapons. Nowadays, the poaching of rhinos is controlled by highly organised crime syndicates who use high-powered rifles, veterinary drugs, night vision equipment, helicopters, body armour and trackers to hunt their unsuspecting prey.

At last some action is being taken. A local radio station (www.jacarandafm.com) has put their money where their mouth is and began a campaign to generate awareness of the siege the rhinos are under as well as to collect funds towards stopping this crime.

A website to generate further understanding (www.stoprhinopoaching.com) was also created to raise awareness of the rhino’s plight as lately we are losing about a rhino a day to these murderous scum. In conjunction with Radio Jacaranda, the local radio station, a special 12-hour “rhinothon” was launched on 10 September to generate funds from the public who wish to get involved in stopping this.

Whereas all of these initiatives are a step in the right direction, it is shocking to learn that rhino poachers who are caught in the act, are merely allowed out of custody on bail. Five of them recently caught in the act, were given bail of a mere SA Rands 10 000 (approx US$ 1350). Looking at history, it is unlikely that they will turn up on the day of their hearing. Instead they will most probably merely “disappear” and continue with their poaching elsewhere. These particular scumbags have already been linked to 8 more cases of rhino poaching in an area known as Makhado. With that type of legal action, the poachers remain the winners.

There is a time for everything and the time is long past to start hunting the poachers and giving them no mercy when finding them. If they are allowed to continue with their actions, South Africa will no longer be home to the Big Five – instead we will only have the Big Four. That sad day is coming if drastic action is not taken.

I, like many of my like-minded friends, would have no compunction in hunting and taking armed action against these criminals and their paymasters.

Although systems are being put in place to prevent the poaching of rhino, it remains to be seen just how effective they will be.

However, if aggressive action is taken, relentless follow-up operations conducted and directed fire aimed at them, I am sure that any rhino poachers will think twice before carry out their orders.

If we turn the hunter into the hunted, the rhino horn will soon lose its lustre and we will be able to save these magnificent creatures.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


An exit strategy can only be effectively implemented if an operation has been successfully executed.

In turn, an operation can only be considered successful if:

• All planned operational objectives have been met or surpassed
• The enemy’s trinity of gravity has been destroyed (not merely disrupted in the short-term)
• The enemy has lost the will to fight
• The enemy is forced to negotiate from a point of weakness.

The exit strategy is, of course, always part of the overall strategy (or should be) and is indeed, from a military point-of-view, implemented upon the successful conclusion of combat operations. It is therefore usually the final phase of the military strategy. Thereafter follows the continuation of the political strategy aimed at ensuring stable governance, political advancement and so forth.

Military operations that are undertaken without an exit strategy are nothing other than poorly planned military operations as all operations have a beginning and an end. Similarly, all combat operations have a beginning and an end, whether it is a patrol, an attack or a retrograde operation.

When strategists run out of options and hurriedly discuss force level “draw-downs” and “troop surges” it becomes apparent that the strategy was both incomplete and flawed from the very beginning. Had there been a comprehensive sound strategy to begin with, these types of comments would not have been necessary.

The problem is, in my opinion, amplified when it is coupled to an uncoordinated, poorly-planned media strategy. By exclaiming the surges and draw-downs before the successful conclusion of military operations, we add value to and boost the enemy’s propaganda efforts. We both trumpet to the enemy that we planned badly and need more troops or actually tell the enemy that we are unable to sustain our combat operations and therefore need to withdraw.

Either way we bolster enemy morale and embolden their commanders who in turn become even more daring in their actions as we have presented them with additional options. This impact on own forces morale needs no explaining, this apart from having fewer troops in theatre to deal with the enemy.

Had we initially planned in depth and ensured our strategy was intelligence driven, these actions would simply happen without unnecessary fanfare and in the process, may even catch the enemy off guard.

But an additional danger we create for ourselves is alienating those members of the local population who remained neutral and did not actively support the enemy. The local population’s desire to survive, despite all the hardships they may face, will encourage them to, if not actively, then at least covertly, begin to side with and support the enemy. This survivalist approach to supporting the enemy, who thanks to our poor plans, may begin with providing snippets of information and can escalate to assisting in areas such as logistics, communications, early warning and so forth. It can even boost enemy recruitment efforts. This switch of support alters our operational landscape drastically.

In short, whether true or not, we actually tell the enemy that he has won the fight. Again, the psychological impact needs no explaining. Bolstered by what he perceives to be our defeat, the enemy will begin to take control of the local population, especially in areas not extensively patrolled, thus adding to the environmental hostility our troops must operate in.

On the homefront, these perceptions may initially be well received but at their heart lays a certain amount of expectation that, if not met, creates the belief that a deception has taken place. This can lead to anger and pressure to withdraw our forces, even if it implies a withdrawal without much honour.

Conversely, by creating these perceptions, real or imagined, it seems little thought is given to the negative influence this may have on our own operations and how these perceptions may endanger our troops.

I believe this is irresponsible and nothing short of madness.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


In a world of war and conflict, why is it that we continue to be so reactive?

Is it because we do not develop decent, workable strategies based on sound, credible intelligence? Is it because we continually want to believe that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” – even when he isn’t? Is it that we lack the ability to interpret events to the extent that we cannot be forward-looking? Is it because we simply want to ignore the lessons of history?

Whereas we cannot predict the future, we can – with some effort – have a very good indication what it may hold in terms of war and conflict.

The wars, conflicts and problems we witness were all prefaced with numerous indications that they were about to happen. From the piracy off the coast of Somalia to the drug wars in Mexico to the criminal insurgencies in other countries – all have provided us with clues that a problem was rapidly approaching.

Yet, we seem to stand by and wait until the problem reaches a situation that it cannot easily be contained – and then we try to take action. Ironically, we then cannot understand why it is so difficult to resolve the issues, win the wars and end the conflicts. A 10-ton truck free-wheeling downhill cannot be stopped by simply jumping into its path. With enough men at hand, we can probably stop it but at an enormous cost in lives lost and collateral fall-out.

By allowing the enemy to gain momentum and maintain the initiative, we lose the ability to put a rapid end to it. Our reactive actions are almost akin to trying to stop that free-wheeling truck. And despite all the warnings, we act surprised when we are unable to stop it.

Some time ago I spoke with a senior commander in an African country. His country had recently discovered a valuable natural resource. He was very excited at how this resource would benefit his country and his people. I, in turn, warned him that his country’s problems were about to start in earnest. I wasn’t being cynical – I was being realistic. After all, hasn’t history shown that when a new resource is found in Africa, problems are sure to follow?

With all of our early-warning systems, intelligence gathering capabilities, diplomatic liaisons, mass media reporting, satellite surveillance and so forth, I find it very hard to believe that we have not yet reached a stage where we can be proactive.

Is it possibly that we simply don’t want to be proactive and instead prefer to rather be reactive and suffer all the disadvantages this laissez-faire approach hands us? Do we rather want to attempt to stop these problems once they are unstoppable – will that make us feel better? Or do we only want to be pre-emptive when carrying out the first phase of a strategy and thereafter wait for the enemy to gain the initiative?

It is said that a wise man in times of peace prepares for war.

To prepare effectively for war, we need to know what to expect and from whom. Still, we seem to wait and react only once we think the enemy has shown his hand. But the enemy too knows about deception and it is a foolish enemy who shows his hand in the opening stages of a conflict. We cannot expect all of our enemies to always be foolish.

If we continue to miss all of the warning signals flashed at us, we will continue to be reactive. The implication is that we will continue to be surprised, unprepared and find ourselves fighting on the back foot – often against untrained, ill-disciplined, out-numbered and technology-poor enemies.

Until such time as we begin to exploit our assets and resources to maximum effect and look for exploitation options whenever and wherever we can, we will remain at a disadvantage both on and off the battlefield.

We may appear to be politically correct but we will lose the battle – and there is no second prize for the loser - and the truck will keep rolling.

Friday, July 23, 2010


When the political leadership commits the armed forces to a conflict or a war, one would assume that the “homework” was done ... and that the scope of the mission would not be misleading. Once the political commitment has been made, the military’s primary mission is to end the conflict or war as quickly as possible – not to change its mission before it has achieved its aim.

It is, therefore, with great interest that I have been reading numerous articles and blog postings on recent conflicts and wars, especially those relating to Counter Insurgency Operations (COIN Ops). What strikes me as odd is that there are some authors who regard these types of operations as “new” and who, in turn, are calling for a “new” approach and doctrine to combating an insurgency – an approach that assumes the primary role of the military is to “build the nation”.

Insurgencies are not a new military phenomenon and they are common-place in Africa. Revolt against the constituted authority is often encountered by people who wish to replace the government with one of their own and for reasons of their own.

Most of the African insurgencies are – or have been - associated with megalomaniacs who want nothing but total power ie, Savimbi, Kony, Mugabe, Sankoh, Taylor and others. These “leaders” will stop at nothing to achieve their aims and, once in power, will do everything possible to cling to power. Their primary weapon becomes terror against the local population in order to force their support – or subdue them. This can include murder, rape, torture, kidnapping of children, plunder and so forth.

Insurgencies are also launched by proxy forces to further the aims and ambitions of one government against another. This gives a level of deniability and ensures that political aims are furthered without committing government forces to the conflict or war. Africa has numerous examples of proxy forces – usually supported by foreign powers - engaged in such conflicts and wars.

Nation building and ceasefires will not end these conflicts. They never have and they never will. Nor will negotiation achieve anything much apart from gaining time, unless done from a position of complete strength.

The armed forces are there to conduct military operations, operations that will involve killing those that are trying to destabilise the government and terrorise the local population with armed force. Once committed to the conflict or war, the political leadership should do everything possible to support their armed forces – and accept that killing will take place. For politicians to change the military’s mission mid-stride shows a lack of certainty, poor political planning and a lack of honesty, political leadership and direction.

Ironically, when the troops accomplish their mission with aggression, they are condemned by the very politicians who sent them there and they are tried and found guilty in the media. Have those that are so quick to point fingers not realised that “war” is synonymous with death, killing and destruction?

Committing the armed forces to a conflict implies that there will be casualties. It implies that the armed forces must kill or capture the enemy and break its ability to continue the conflict or war. It also implies that there will be civilians caught up in the conflict. Whereas collateral damage is to be minimised at all costs at all times, the reality is that it is sometimes unavoidable.

The attempts by the political masters to develop new theories of war based mainly on a lack of understanding and experience results in poor strategies, fraught with political interference and unworkable RoE. This problem is amplified when these so-called plans are hatched with little or no intelligence or when the political masters hint that the enemy will be rapidly overcome once hostilities commence. It seems as though some senior officers are only too happy to accept the constraints placed on their forces – and exacerbate the misleading beliefs on the enemy - in order to protect their military careers and further their own political ambitions. The greatest danger to the armed forces is when the military leadership wants to play politics, build nations and call for ceasefires – and forget to give military leadership to their men.

Conversely, the enemy has one but one aim: take power by inflicting the maximum casualties to the armed forces and use the media to give them the publicity they need. The enemy knows this will, additionally, lead to a weakening of resolve and morale on the homefront.

The actions and tactics the insurgents carry out will be aimed at preventing direct contact with the military whilst ensuring maximum attrition of the armed forces – and coercing the local population. To achieve this, use will be made of sabotage actions, ambushes, raids, pseudo-operations, landmines, stand-off mortar bombardments, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), torture, kidnappings, terror and so forth.

The armed forces may recruit members of the local population to assist them in countering the insurgency and to act as not only soldiers but as guides, interpreters, trackers and so on. However, a lack of sophistication by the COIN forces’ approach to the local society and its culture, traditions, religion and so forth will present an ideal opportunity for exploitation by the insurgent forces. Furthermore, poor vetting practices will allow insurgents into the ranks of the COIN forces, biding their time to strike from within thus furthering effecting morale and increasing distrust.

If politicians lack the intelligence necessary to formulate their plans and the political will to see the end of what they have committed to, deny the troops the equipment needed to accomplish their mission(s) and continually interfere with military missions and military strategy, true military success will be a very difficult to achieve. But even this hard slog will have been in vain if the political backbone and integrity is missing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Published by Security Solutions International (SSI), the Counter Terrorist magazine is the Official Journal of the Homeland Security Professional. SSI also publishes the Counter Terrorist Newsletter in addition to hosting Webinars, interactive learning and the annual Homeland Security Professionals Conference – the central event in the First Responder calendar.

Some months ago, I was approached by Chris Graham – the editor of the Counter Terrorist magazine - and asked if I would be willing to contribute an article or two to the magazine. I am honoured to have written two articles for this magazine. The first article, titled “UN Peacekeeping operations in Africa” appeared in the February/March issue of the magazine and the second article, titled “The Pirates of East Africa” is in this month’s issue (August/September 2010).

All credit must however go to Chris who guided me through the pieces and did an excellent job editing them.

The Counter Terrorist magazine strives to provide impartial and in-depth coverage of subject matter relating to terrorism and counter terrorism. This includes subjects and analysis on issues such as:

1. Catch and Release: Terrorist Recidivism
2. Profile of a Large, Violent, Hierarchical Trans-National Gang Operating Across the USA
3. Piracy and Counter Piracy Operations
4. Unmanned Surveillance Platforms for Domestic Use and so on.

To those who are interested in the so-called asymmetrical approach to warfare, this is an excellent magazine to subscribe to.

The Counter Terrorist magazine can be found on www.thecounterterroristmag.com

Those who are facebook users can also get a look at the August/September issue by visiting http://www.facebook.com/SSINEWS

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Whereas there can be no doubt that Rules of Engagement (RoE) are important in determining how, when, where and against who armed force shall be used, are we not sometimes restricting ourselves with RoE and in the result causing the deaths of our own soldiers?

In Operations Related to War (ORW), the RoE are really very straightforward, especially as one of the aims of war is the annihilation of the enemy force. However, care still needs to be exercised in order to prevent civilian casualties or causing unnecessary, excessive damage to private property. But even in well planned and executed ORW, it is not always possible to prevent civilian casualties or minimise damage to property, especially in and around urban environments.

It is, however, when we embark on Operations Other than War (OOTW) that these rules can become restrictive and, in many instances, counterproductive. “Don’t shoot until you are shot at” is difficult to accept when you know a sniper is tracking your movements.

RoE, and the approach to applying such rules, differ from culture to culture. Furthermore, OOTW are often applicable to hostile environments and an enemy that does not abide by any laws, be they local, regional or international.

Whereas it is commonly accepted that excessive force in OOTW will result in alienating the local population and cause resentment which may strengthen the cause of the rebels/terrorists/insurgents, the rules still need to be very carefully crafted.

Ultimately, the RoE are applicable to both military and law enforcement operations that take place within the scope of both ORW and OOTW and are aimed at:

1. Preventing own forces casualties
2. Increasing force legitimacy
3. Minimising collateral damage
4. Preventing unnecessary civilian casualties
5. Increasing operational legitimacy.

Any commander’s aim is to, apart from achieving mission success, prevent casualties amongst his own forces whilst increasing the casualties amongst the enemy’s forces. But sometimes the RoE appear to disregard this fact in favour of not upsetting the politicians, the enemy or the media.

When the RoE are so restrictive that a commander cannot perform his mission effectively, tension will inevitably develop between the political masters and the military commanders. When the restrictive RoE leads to own forces casualties, the tensions are bound to escalate.

As all military operations are politically driven, too restrictive rules place the commanders at a disadvantage. When the political masters decide to use military force to achieve their political or diplomatic ambitions or objectives, they ought to consider that the lives that may be lost due to their restrictions could lead to operational disasters and a drop in morale, both on the battlefield and on the home front.

But, military incompetence should not be hidden behind or blamed on restrictive RoE. Blunders such as the so-called peacekeeping missions in Africa are commonly blamed on too restrictive RoE. The lack of will, the inability to gather and act on intelligence or develop sound military strategies is usually ignored at best or simply never mentioned.

On the other hand, too loose RoE can lead to the indiscriminate use of armed force against whoever passes through the sights. Whereas it may appear that artillery and air strikes on densely populated urban areas may break the morale of the enemy and the civilian population, these actions also violate international law as they are construed as “excessive and indiscriminate force” – which they are.

When crafting RoE, we ought to remember that the world has become a tough neighbourhood. If we wish to play in this neighbourhood, we ought to show our toughness – not by allowing our troops to be killed by the enemy but by killing the enemy. We can only do this if we know “who” the enemy is.

Knowing “who” the enemy is requires intelligence that is verified. In ORW this is, again, relatively simple as a state of war exists between two nations. We know who we are fighting. In OOTW, a lack of intelligence allows us to either view the “enemy” as the local population or the local population as the “enemy”. This confusing view on the “enemy” results in RoE that restrict offensive action – one of the fundamental principles of land warfare. In turn, this gives the enemy the initiative.

The lack of intelligence and the loss of the initiative may result in the rebels/insurgents/terrorists resorting to criminal activities to fund their operations. This can result in extortion, kidnapping for ransom, armed robberies and other financially rewarding crimes.

I disagree that today’s wars are either won or lost at the political level. A lack of real progress on the battlefield or in the area of operations, coupled to increased casualty figures, increased defence spending vs lack of results, resentment from the local population, negative media coverage, a decline of morale on the home front and so forth may add to the political pressures to leave a conflict area. But, this is a direct result of the military action.

Without intelligence, we cannot craft sensible Rules of Engagement. The lack of sensible RoE gives the enemy an opportunity to exploit the perceived lack of “fighting spirit”. Not understanding the cultural environment we operate in amplifies this problem.

Whereas Rules of Engagement are important, they should be based on sound intelligence and an understanding of the operational environment and not sacrifice operational freedom or expose troops to unnecessary danger.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Many folks have written asking why I have been so slow in updating the blog. Being unable to update it on a daily basis has been a concern to me but I have been here, there and everywhere which has made it rather difficult to do daily updates. Hopefully, I shall be able to catch up on the blog and several other outstanding issues over the next couple of days.

A few weeks ago I was contacted via the blog asking if I would consider attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I was very honoured to be invited as a panellist to the 14th St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. My participation as a panellist was on the session related to “New Models of cooperation for the Military Industry”.

Once known as Petrograd and as Leningrad, St Petersburg is a beautiful city and is indeed a massive museum under the Russian sky. As I love history and art, there was no shortage of places to visit and sites to see.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is held with the support and participation of the President of the Russian Federation. The aim of the Forum is to gather the world's leading decision makers from government, business and civil society to identify and deliberate the key challenges facing emerging markets and the world and engage communities to find common purpose and frameworks to forge solutions.

One thing that has always struck me on this type of travel is the kindness of strangers. Mr Sergey Nedoroslev, the Chairman of the Board of Kaskol, noting my confusion, stepped in to help me on numerous fronts. I was also privileged to meet some of his friends and associates which included Mr Nikolai Kovarsky, Mr Evgeny Tarlo and the son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Mr Sergey also made sure that I knew where I had to be at what time.

The Forum was officially opened by President Dmitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation on the 18 June and he was joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the 19 June.

The panel session on New Models for Cooperation for the Military Industry was very ably moderated by Charles Grant, the Director for the Centre of European Reform. Fellow panellists were Vice Admiral Premvir Das (Indian Navy), Aleksei Alyoshin (First Deputy Director General, Russian Technologies State Corporation), Alexey Isaikin (President, Volga-Dnepr Group), Douglas Harned (Vice Pres, Senior Analyst – Aerospace and Defence, Sanford C Bernstein and Co) and Emeric d’Arcimoles (Senior Exec Vice Pres and Chairman of SAFRAN USA, Inc).

Although my small input was focussed on Africa in the main, I thought the comments by my fellow panellists were very interesting and enlightening. However, I still believe that too much emphasis is being placed on technology and terminology changes – and too little on really preparing soldiers for their missions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Several people have, over the years, alerted me to the fact that a company known as Northbridge Services Group (NSG) are either claiming or posing to be a “reborn” Executive Outcomes. Not only is this a blatant lie, it is a seriously fraudulent manner of trying to attract clients by deception.

I am well aware of the fact that NSG enabled enquiries to a website www.executiveoutcomes.com (this was not EO’s true web address) to redirect to their site, trying to give credence to their deception. For the life of me, I fail to understand how a company can act in such a deceptive manner yet expect clients to trust them.

A certain Mr Pasquale DiPofi was one of the scoundrels involved in NSG. DiPofi also ran his own “Executive Outcomes” based out of Michigan, USA. This is what another site had to say about this person:

"When the classic Executive Outcomes left the civil war in Sierra Leone, they never received payment for $23 million worth of services. In the pursuit of the debt, an English company, Audax Trading, approached the same named company from Michigan in February 2002 about collecting the debt. Knowing full well they were not the intended Executive Outcomes, DiPofi and his partner, Eastpointe police officer Christopher Belan, produced fraudulent documents and claims to the government of Sierra Leone via Audax for the $23 million".

For his failed efforts to boost the coffers of “Executive Outcomes” and NSG’s, DiPofi pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in 2006. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison at the end of March 2007.

Having had a look at NSGs website (http://northbridgeservices.org) I am rather surprised that they can claim to offer “... a highly discrete, totally reliable yet cost effective service...” (I somehow suspect they meant “discreet” as opposed to “discrete”).

I am not sure if Northbridge Services Group still exists, but if they do, lies and deceit seem to be part and parcel of their modus operandi – as if the industry doesn’t have enough bulldust artists posing out there.

Although Northbridge Services Group was NEVER part of, associated with or linked to Executive Outcomes in any manner or form, this still begs the question: Who exactly are these buffoons?

Whereas I do not doubt the numerous qualifications of the NSG president (He has served in numerous leadership and command positions in the light infantry, mechanized infantry, cavalry and tank units. He has commanded six platoons, three companies and two battalions. He has been a tactics instructor and doctrine writer in both the US Army Armor and Engineer schools. He is an Airborne Ranger and is Jungle Expert qualified and has earned the Combat Infantryman's badge), I certainly doubt their integrity.

Perhaps their president, Lt Col (R) Robert W. Kovacic can answer this for me as I am quite anxious to know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Communications operations are conducted at two distinct yet inter-related levels: The strategic level and the tactical level.

At the strategic level, Strategic Communications Operations (SCOs) or STRATCOM, also referred to as Strategic Information Operations, is nothing new in the “war of words” to discredit, demoralise and/or disrupt an opponent and boost the morale of the citizens and own forces. It can even be used to turn a legitimate organisation into an illegitimate organisation. But, the converse is also true: it can turn an illegitimate action into a legitimate action.

At this level, these operations entail more than simple rumour-mongering. They are used to give a government or a force an advantage in their fight against a real or perceived enemy. But they ought to include white, grey and black propaganda in such a manner that the receiver (reader, listener or watcher) at a minimum becomes aware of the message and at best, believes it.

In South Africa, and indeed in Africa, we witness the use of SCOs or propaganda warfare on a daily basis – as well as its effects. Some of it is actually quite good. Some of it is rather pathetic. But, despite my opinion of it, it still reaches many people out there and ultimately, it is the people who decide on how this will influence their lives – or react to it.

The result of all of this is, when comparing the West to the East, is that the US’s AFRICOM is now seen by many in Africa as a wolf in a sheep’s clothing and the Chinese as a sheep in a wolf’s clothing. That in itself shows the effect of these types of operations. It also shows how these types of operations can backfire on the originators.

Truth be told, these operations are financially very expensive. As an example, the US military has spent in excess of US$ 1 billion the past three years in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in trying to counter its enemies there. The result of these operations remains debateable.

Just as warfare has certain primary and dynamic principles, so too do SCO’s have primary and dynamic principles.

The first principle is, in fact, something Sun Tzu penned more than two and a half thousand years ago:

Know your enemy, know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster

To succeed with any SCO, an intimate knowledge of the enemy or target group is required. If this is knowledge is not present, any hoped for success will remain that – hoped for.

Knowing the “enemy” – or the target audience – will determine such basics as what language the message needs to be transmitted in. Paid-for news articles, advertisements, billboards, radio and television programmes, and even polls and pressure groups need to promote their messages in a language that everyone (or at least the vast majority) will understand. But, language is not the only criterion that is of great importance: culture, beliefs, level of education and so forth all determine how the message should be packaged in order to achieve maximum success.

I am reminded of a foreign company that wrote to me claiming they had a contract to “do Africa” and asked if I could recommend someone who spoke “African”. This is a basic example of how misinformed many are. When these companies get involved in SCOs, the end-result can only be terrifying at best.

The second principle of these types of operations is centralised control. Without centralised control, everyone will be developing and preparing their own uncoordinated messages and subsequently, these messages will clash with one another and render the entire operation a waste of time and money. They will also show that they are simply part of a (poorly) planned operation and therefore lose any potential value they may have had.

How the information will be packaged is likewise very important. The best message, poorly packaged will be poorly received. Incorrect packaging of the message serves no purpose if it will never reach the intended audience or target, let alone achieve the desired effect.

Furthermore, pro-active planning is critical in achieving success. In order to gain the initiative and maintain it, plans need to be formulated well in advance and those plans must be based on intelligence (reality) and not on perceived reality.

SCOs can also used to negate High-Value Targets (HVTs) or turn their followers against them. Again, detailed intelligence, coordination of effort, packaging and pro-active planning is critical to success.

At the tactical level, these operations used to be known as Communications Operations or COMOPS. At this level, the aim is to meet and discuss issues of mutual importance with the village elders and provide much needed assistance and support to the villagers in the Area of Responsibility. In essence, this is the “hearts-and-minds” war and many a young South African soldier can testify in having partaken in such operations.

It is here that, should any semblance of success be wished for, the tribal customs, beliefs and traditions be known, understood and applied by those conducting the COMOPS. It is at this level that vital information and intelligence is gathered and the support of the local population is either won or lost. If the battle is lost at this level, the gunfights that follow will bring about nothing but a hollow victory.

Those that plan these operations, especially at the strategic level, have so much technology at hand – mobile phones, blogs, social networks and so forth – that they have no excuse for their poor performance.

But looking at what is going on around me, I have to ask if these operations are successful. They present a golden opportunity to the user if correctly planned, packaged and executed but when they are haphazardly implemented, they cause more damage than good.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When Sun Tzu wrote “The supreme act of war is to subdue the enemy without a fight” approximately 25 centuries ago, did he see the neutralisation or targeted killings of key enemy personnel as part of the subduing process?

Then again, I have always wondered why is it that when a politician or a prominent person (read “High-Value Target” or HVT) is the subject of a targeted killing, it is known as an “assassination”? Yet, when some lesser mortal meets his or her end, it is a murder. Unless of course, it happens on the battlefield – then he or she is simply “killed”.

The January 2010 targeted killing of a senior Hamas military commander in Dubai has certainly brought the debate on assassinations to the fore. This action to neutralise an enemy of a state is nothing new. In fact, governments through their intelligence agencies the world over have made use of - and still make use of - targeted killings as a method of eliminating enemies of supposed high-value. (Personally, I believe the intelligence agencies ought to be confined purely to the collection of the critical information and not the actual neutralisation if it involves a targeted killing).

Assassination of enemy leaders and commanders is not the only method of eliminating them. It is however the one method that causes the most media interest and speculation. If correctly planned and executed, it remains a highly effective action. When these targeted killings disrupt or impact in part on the enemy’s Centre of Gravity (CoG) they become even more effective.

But, ought these direct-action, covert or clandestine actions to be used purely for military and political purposes or do they also hold value in countering serious and violent organised crime? I believe they do. But as long as we attribute “rights” to these organised crime syndicates – who attribute no rights to their victims – this will probably never happen.

There are essentially two methods of neutralising a high-value target. These are:

1. Removing the target from society
2. Getting society to remove the target.

The first method includes actions such as assassinations, target-specific drone attacks, snatch operations with the aim of interrogating and imprisoning and so forth. This direct approach against the target requires a high level of intelligence gathering and planning. There are many instances where intelligence and planning has failed miserably but there are numerous other instances where it has succeeded. It is, however, the actions that fail that evoke the most interest and speculation. Those that are successful pass almost unnoticed.

The second method utilises an indirect approach and includes grey and black propaganda aimed at discrediting the target or arousing suspicions against him or her. These suspicions, managed correctly, can lead to society taking the desired action and thereby neutralising the target. Here too intelligence and planning play a critical role in order to allow society to be manipulated to take the desired action(s) against the target.

These actions should be conducted in support of national strategic and military operational objectives. By implication they are intelligence driven but are determined at political level and executed at operator level. It is at the level of policy that problems such as inter-service delineation and medium to long-term consequences are assessed and confirmed.

Failure can also be attributed to undue political pressure and the failure to anticipate the consequences when things go wrong, poor inter-service relations and poor operational execution. Compromise – the result of poor or non-existent security - which leads to failure, can have far-reaching political implications thus rendering the ultimate outcome a failure – despite the fact that operationally, the action may have succeeded. Likewise, unnecessary collateral damage can render an operationally successful operation a strategic failure.

Many questions arise when a targeted killing is conducted. There are those who question the morality of such actions and others who call on international legal matters to be instituted against the country perpetrating the deed. For some reason, these same voices never seem to be raised when the enemy conducts these actions.

Numerous considerations ought to be appreciated when planning a neutralisation of a specific target. Apart from the “who”, “by when”, “how” and “where”, the following are but some of the critical considerations:

1. Will he or she become a martyr and result in his/her memory being used as a rallying point?
2. Will the person who will take the target’s place be a moderate or a hard-liner?
3. What are the medium and long-term consequences of success/failure?
4. Will the resultant fall-out (political, economical, militarily, etc) be acceptable?
5. What level of collateral damage will be acceptable?
6. To what extent will a non-violent neutralisation allow the political and operational objectives to be met?

The fact of the matter is that neutralisation must take place at an early stage of the threat being identified. If the target is allowed to establish his/her authority and leadership to such an extent that they are seen as the “father” or rallying point of a movement or force, their neutralisation may increase the motivation of the movement or force. To prevent this, it is necessary for:

1. Sound intelligence at early stages of identification to answer the above considerations
2. Decisive government decision-making to respond rapidly and significantly to a developing threat
3. Rapid and decisive action to prevent future manpower, economical and political costs to escalate in order to neutralise or eliminate the target.

The neutralisation of HVTs has a definite place in the modern combat area, especially when it comes to combating insurgencies and organised crime syndicates/cartels. But a lack of decision making at the political level and inter-service bickering often result in no action. It is the lack of action, both direct and indirect, that allows the target to become a HVT, especially when the media manipulates the truth and gives media coverage thus adding to the supposed credibility of the target – and by then any action is often too little, too late.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


First off, my apologies for having taken so long to respond to the questions/comments posted to the blog by our many friends and visitors. Time has been somewhat lacking and I am now trying to catch up on a host of different things. As that is my only excuse, I shall not be posting all of the questions relating to my whereabouts or my apparent lack of responses. When I don’t respond to comments on the blog, it is simply because I cannot.

I also had several folks asking about war art from the so-called “bush war”. Whereas all wars breed their own fine war artists, I sadly do not have much from our bush war. One book I do however have (I got it as a birthday gift from my sister in 1983) was by Peter Badcock. The book is titled “Images of War” and it was published in 1981 by the Graham Publishing Company. All of Peter’s art was done in 2B and 4B pencil on Zanders board and each drawing had its own poem alongside it.

The above picture was titled “Triggered by the Siren” and is of a young SADF paratrooper readying himself before boarding the trusty old “Dak” before deployment to a contact area. Peter also did a book on the Rhodesian war titled “Shadows of War” – another excellent book if you can lay your hands on it.

Another cyber-liar has been brought to my attention: This is a character that claims to have served in EO and goes by the name and title of John Ben-Younes: Mercenary & Psychologist - personally, I suspect that he is in desperate need of a good psychologist as anyone who can think out that much rubbish must be mentally deranged. This clown obviously has a very wild imagination. But then again, he is not the first to lie about having been in EO. (Thanks for sending me the link Simon W). He also has another blog known as “diary of a mercenary” – I have not bothered to access his imagination on that one. But I am sure it will simply confirm my suspicions...

Work on my book has stalled as well. But, I am pleased to say that the editing is going well. This is all due to the hard work of a certain gentleman-lecturer at the US Naval Academy. There has however been some complaints about the fact that I am writing a book on ground operations in Africa...

Hopefully, I will be able to pick up where I left from shortly.

Thanks for your continued visits and comments and again my apologies for talking so long to get back to the blog.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Everyone knows how important it is to attack and destroy the enemy’s centre of gravity whilst preserving our own centre of gravity from enemy attacks. But, despite all the intellectual arguments about the centre of gravity and the numerous approaches to determining this critical factor, strategists and commanders continually seem to get it wrong, especially during counter insurgency (COIN) operations.

Clausewitz in his work “On War” considered the centre of gravity to be "the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends...the point at which all our energies should be directed". If the enemy’s centre of gravity is attacked and destroyed, he will lose his will to fight and thus be emasculated – the perfect time to direct all our energies and resources against him to ensure his total destruction.

This belief held true when massed armies faced one another on the battlefield. The modern battlefield has, however, changed somewhat and whereas the centre of gravity remains very important, it can no longer be viewed as a central point upon which the enemy’s success or failure hinges.

One of the aims of war is to annihilate the enemy (the other is to exhaust the enemy) but it seems that annihilation is not politically correct nowadays. It seems we would rather opt for a ceasefire – so much more politically correct - and besides, it protects the human rights of the enemy – regardless if he cares about our human rights or not or subscribes to the Rules of War, the Geneva Convention or any other rules or laws.

But, allowing the enemy to retain his forces and strength by means of a ceasefire simply gives him the opportunity to rebuild his forces, re-establish his perceived centre of gravity and thus prolong the conflict.

During the initial phase of a revolution, the role of intelligence is critical in identifying and confirming the mobilisation of the masses prior to the commencement of the armed struggle phase. If the revolutionary leadership is not identified and neutralised at this early phase, the struggle will most certainly develop to the insurgency phase. However, early on in this phase, the leadership is the centre of gravity. But once the revolution has progressed to the phase of armed struggle and insurgency, their elimination will, in many instances, simply make them martyrs.

Nevertheless, as the revolution develops, the leadership requires two vital elements to sustain its efforts: manpower and finances. I therefore believe that the COIN scenario does not have a single centre of gravity but rather a trinity consisting of the insurgent leadership, the people and finances. This complicates the identification and destruction of the centre of gravity as countering an insurgency requires a multi-facetted approach and not a “fix bayonets and charge” or a “shock and awe” approach.

The “trinity of gravity” is, additionally, given credence by certain members of the media who will often propagate the aims and desires of insurgent forces in a manner which leans towards sympathetic support.

The decades-long war in Angola serves as an example: The rebel force UNITA was led by the charismatic Dr Jonas Savimbi, a dedicated Maoist but who the media had turned into a “Christian” who was working for a “democratic” Angola. Savimbi was the media’s darling.

To sustain his war for “democracy”, Savimbi and UNITA resorted to the illegal mining and selling of diamonds to obtain funds to keep the war going. This financial powerbase allowed UNITA to purchase their hardware and pay troops in the field. Additional to this, UNITA denied these funds to the government and furthermore attempted to block oil leaving Angola (part of the Govt of Angola’s economic base) thus slowly bleeding the government to death on the battlefield.

The local population were, especially in areas under UNITA influence, the feeder for troops for operations as well as giving UNITA forces safe passage, intelligence, logistical support and succour. Those who did not give this support suffered the consequences.

This posed several strategic questions: What was UNITA’s centre of gravity? Where was it located? How did it operate? What would the result of its destruction be?

In short, there was no single centre of gravity but rather a trinity of gravity. This, in turn, led to a multidimensional strategy aimed at:
1. Attacking and disrupting UNITA units. These actions consisted of guerrilla warfare, mobile warfare and heliborne operations aimed at giving the enemy no respite. Not only did this cause enemy casualties but also significantly lowered morale to the point where rebel troops started deserting. Maximum employment of human and technical sources were used to determine where the enemy was, how he was organised, etc, thus effective plans could be laid to attack and destroy him.
2. Influencing the local population to reduce their belief in and support to UNITA. This was achieved by establishing clinics, providing clean water and giving protection to them. To use Mao Zedong’s view, albeit in reverse, we removed the "water” and the “fish” had nowhere to go. The locals were also treated fairly and their property respected and not damaged. This became very apparent when towns and villages were retaken from UNITA – the locals came begging for assistance, something that was then given to them.
3. The prize was not the elimination of Dr Savimbi but rather the taking and holding of the diamond fields, thus denying the rebels their source of income. (If Savimbi’s field army was destroyed, he would anyway lose his ability to gain support). Without income from diamonds, the rebels were unable to replace captured or destroyed equipment.

When these three strategic objectives had been reached, the rebels were forced to sue for peace. Sadly though, the Angolans were, in turn, forced by the international community to merely opt for an unconditional ceasefire and not the destruction of the rebel forces. This resulted in the rebels being able to rearm, reorganise and go back to war. When this conflict restarted, Dr Savimbi again became the initial single centre of gravity and it was only with his death that the war finally ended but at that time, his influence had waned and he did not have the economical muscle or the support from the local population he once had.

The same situation was prevalent in Sierra Leone – no single centre of gravity but rather a trinity.

Therefore, to quote Clausewitz, the “hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends...the point at which all our energies should be directed” should not, in the COIN situation, be seen as a single point but rather as a trinity.

If strategists misunderstand or misjudge the concept of “centre of gravity”, the conflict will be simply be prolonged and thus give the enemy the time and space he needs to achieve his goals.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I have, of late, been wondering if the debate about PMCs is not superfluous.

I ask this question because I wonder just how “private” the majority of PMCs out there are?

To understand the concept of a Private Military Company, I believe that one should evaluate it against certain criteria. After all, the operative word is “private”.

As a basic set of criteria to measure PMCs against, I think the following questions ought to be asked:

1. Were they founded at the behest of, and/or with support from a host government?
2. Were they founded to assist a host government with specific military or foreign policy aims?
3. Are they independently funded or are they sustained by host government contracts?
4. Are they operating to further the foreign policy of their host government?
5. Were they awarded contracts based on recognition of prior work or were they handed their contracts, regardless?
6. Are their contracts awarded by their host government or by the client government?
7. Do they operate as an extension of their host government’s armed forces?
8. Have they (really) produced measurable results?

If these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, then surely they are not “private” military companies but rather parastatal military companies.

Let me be clear on this score: I don’t mind them being parastatal military companies at all. In fact, good for them. However, it irks me that they are advertised as “private” as that is what many of them certainly are not.

Some claim to have modelled themselves on “company X” or “company Y” but in fact, that is simply a smokescreen. I suspect that this is done to distance themselves from their host governments and make them appear “private”. But this perception actually prevents the real Private Military Companies from entering the market as they cannot compete on the same level as Parastatal Military Companies – simply because they do not have the financial backing of a government behind them.

I also know that some of these PMCs boast at being non-profit PMCs. But, I am told (rather reliably) that there is at least one PMC that has (very quietly) set up an “independent” PMC, in parallel with itself that it then subcontracts. In my book, this hardly makes it a non-profit PMC. Actually, I suspect that there is an element of fraud in this if the claim is true.

So, while the debate rages on about Private Military Companies I have to wonder just how “private” many of them really are.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I have had numerous calls, mails and posts asking about the progress of my planned book on strategy and tactics.

Unfortunately, I have not had the time I would have wanted in order to continue with my writing simply due to work-related pressure. Added to this is pressure from my publisher to pull my finger out of my ear...

However, I recently made a change of direction with the content as I have realised that many African armies are using NATO/US/UK/old USSR approaches to strategy. Whereas many elements of these approaches remain relevant, they cannot be used as a template in African operational theatres.

This follows that many subsequent doctrines are in many instances also irrelevant to Africa. This can be attributed to many reasons which I shall not expound on here. Additionally, they have fallen into the trap of using buzz-words and catch-phrases that tend to create their own confusion – and do not contribute to resolving conflicts or wars.

Therefore, the focus of the book has now changed to strategic military operations in specifically Africa. The book will, however, also be of interest to military commanders and students studying conflicts and wars elsewhere across the world.

On the positive side, there is already interest in printing the book in Arabic, Spanish and Chinese. Also, I have been approached by two African Command and Staff Colleges who wish to use the book as a textbook.

I will try to keep you all updated on the progress.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Counter Insurgency (COIN) is a topic that is currently the subject of hot debate. Its leap to prominence stems from the hard lessons currently being learnt by the forces engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, DRC, Yemen and so forth. Ironically, we seem to be continually thinking up new names, phrases and terms to ascribe to this not-so-new method of doing battle.

Although no universally accepted definition of an insurgency exists, it is commonly accepted that it is a movement with a specific political aim. In achieving its aim, the insurgent movement can resort to violence or to non-violence. But ultimately, the movement is dedicated to using either subversion (active or passive) or armed actions to overthrow a constituted government with the aim of replacing it with their own form of government – with the support of the local population. Guerrilla warfare and acts of terror and intimidation are simply two of the methods the insurgents will regularly adopt to achieve their aim.

There is however nothing new about an insurgency, apart from the weapons availability and technological ability of some insurgents. From my own limited experience, Angola, Sierra Leone and Indonesia were examples of insurgencies where violent actions were employed by the insurgents to overthrow or pressure those governments. But it appears as though a whole new cult-following has been established when it comes to countering insurgency and no cognisance is given to the lessons that have already been learnt and are clear to see. These lessons very clearly point out that an insurgency can be defeated.

Effectively countering the insurgency does not require a dedicated COIN army. It requires a conventionally-trained army doing conventional warfare correctly. This training, with its discipline and fire control, allows for flexible operation plans and an easy adaption to different tactics, techniques and procedures and adds operational flexibility. The army, however, needs core competencies in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations as well as in counter-terror (CT) operations. But it does not need to change its entire posture.

The success of the army will depend on:

• Its ability to gather intelligence. This requires focussed HUMINT operations and not massive technological operations. The HUMINT targets include operational plans of the insurgents, bases and hide-outs, their logistical supply lines, where IEDs/landmines are being manufactured, etc. These critical factors will not be identified using technical means. However, to get to successful HUMINT operations requires sound intelligence strategies and thorough planning.
• Its understanding that the spoils of the conflict are the minds of the local population. A lack of cultural respect and tradition, heavy-handed tactics against innocents, collateral damage and so forth will simply increase the flow of recruits to the insurgents.
• Combined arms competencies to allow for effective operations
• Its ability to influence the local population by means of operations other than war.

An insurgency is however a progression phase of the conflict and is not the main conflict. As such the insurgency lays the groundwork for a future phase of war.

Following the development of conflict, especially in the African context, it can develop in the following phases:

• The mobilisation of the people against real or perceived oppression
• A phase of armed struggle utilising the operational environment – both the political environment and natural terrain. This is usually in the form of guerrilla warfare and may include acts of terrorism. However, soft targets are of primary importance to show results and get mass media attention. It is this phase of war that is referred to as an insurgency and the fight against it as counter-insurgency. Engagements are of short duration and the insurgent will then melt away into the bush and blend into local population concentrations
• Mobile warfare aimed primarily at rear areas with the aim of cutting supply lines and capturing arms and ammunition. This is not a phase where AFVs are employed but should rather be viewed as a phase in which the insurgents mount large-scale operations. Vehicles may be used to deliver them to close proximity of their targets.
• Conventional warfare – a phase where mass support from the people has been given to the insurgent movement – a phase where numbers and anger will tell .

There are many very valuable lessons pertaining to the effective neutralisation of insurgencies. But, one of the most important issues to take note of is that ultimately, the armed forces will find themselves caught in a clash of cultures. Failure to understand, plan and effectively utilise this factor to their advantage will lead to a long, hard war-of-attrition – and allow the insurgents to realise their strategy.

Perhaps it is time we revisited the lessons we have already learnt and somehow forgotten about.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


As I am about to go away for a couple of days, I shall unfortunately not be able to respond to any new comments posted on the blog. However, I shall not be gone for too long and all things being equal, I shall be back on or about 16/17 January.

Please do not stop visiting and/or commenting...I shall respond to every comment upon my return.

Best regards to you all.


Monday, January 4, 2010


Normally, I tend to ignore imposters as I have personally met several people over the years impersonating me or claiming to have started Executive Outcomes or even to have commanded it, managed it or planned its actions.

However, I was recently alerted to my apparent Facebook page. The person impersonating me on Facebook is using both my name and the company logo of Executive Outcomes.

I have tried to contact Facebook to report this issue of “identity theft” but have not been successful. Additionally, many people who visit this blog have written and asked me why I don’t respond to them on Facebook. The answer is quite simply: I have never had a Facebook profile.

To those of you who have tried to contact me on Facebook, I am sorry that someone has been using my name and EO’s logo to bait you. This lurker and identity thief must have a very devious and nefarious reason for doing this.

But, given my inability to have Facebook take action against this waster, I have decided to do so myself and expose this dishrag as both a fraud and an imposter. Added to that is his apparent attempt to use the name of a once-great company to either gather intelligence or generate business for himself. One can sink no lower than that, especially as I doubt if he would have had the moral fibre to have been part of EO.

Due to my own self-imposed blog policy (to refuse the use of foul language), I am forced to only tell this fraud to stop using my name and the logo and name of Executive Outcomes and to get a life.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Despite the controversy over the term, the phrase “narco-terrorism” is increasingly used to refer to known (and unknown) terrorist organisations that use the illicit drug trade to fund their operations, entice followers and buy expertise, weapons and explosives.

What initially started off as attacks against counter-narcotics agencies in South America – and particularly in Peru – has become a methodology used by illegal drug traders and traffickers to build up forces and attempt to influence the policies of governments and societies by means of violence, intimidation and terrorism.

Whereas the destruction of their crops is a good start, it cannot - and should not - end there. There are many other targets that can be attacked over a wide front to destroy this enemy and no stone should be left unturned in eradicating this scourge. Indeed, those who prefer this path should be attacked with aggression and cunning and given no moment of respite.

Yet the West seems to be afraid of infringing on the human rights of the drug traffickers, syndicates and cartels despite its calls for these activities to be stopped. Ironically, when drug traffickers/mules are sentenced to death in the East, European governments protest loudly and call for clemency, claiming the convicted suffer from some incurable mental disease. However, this “mental disease” seems to surface only once the perpetrators are caught. Will we witness a similar pattern when these governments are dealing with narco-terrorists? Do these traffickers and dealers have any mercy on those they have dragged into the murky world of drug addiction? When their ill-gotten gains are used to purchase weapons, explosives and know-how, do they for a moment stop to consider being merciful towards those they are about to kill? I doubt it.

That most basic law of economics – the law of supply and demand – needs to be readdressed, reanalysed and the situation re-appreciated. Part of this problem is that the purity, along with the demand, of many of these illegal substances has risen while the prices have dropped. This has widened the market and increased sales. This in turn empowers the criminal syndicates and cartels, damages the legitimate economy, creates additional strain on law enforcement agencies and adds to a climate that breeds terrorism.

According to Interpol, the illicit drug trade is a major source in funding terrorism. Apparently it is a US$ 400 billion business annually, taking about 8 percent of the world’s trade – and growing. This implies that the organisations running this global empire have sufficient funds to source and buy whatever they need to expand their empire. Stopping them will require more than simple crop-burning.

Narco-terrorism needs to be attacked over a wide front, utilising overt, clandestine and covert methods – with no regard to the human rights of these criminals. Failure to do so will simply increase the revenue stream to the terrorists. Additionally, the underlying issues of addiction and prevention should be addressed in order to reduce the market size and demand.

Taking the fight to the narco-terror networks should be Priority #1. This requires an intensified effort to infiltrate/penetrate the cartels and syndicates, direct hard action against the villas, haciendas and other hideouts and laboratories, intercept mail and telephone calls to identify and target accomplices, freeze bank accounts (these funds can be used against them), show no mercy when applying the law against them, sanction governments that provide succour to the narco-terrorists, disrupt them in their own areas, identify and attack High Value Targets and so forth.

The financial gains the narco-traders and narco-terrorists make from their crimes stem from the host of buyers, sellers, traders and traffickers. This grouping should be likewise targeted without mercy. Prison sentences in cushy jails should not even be a consideration. Instead, they should receive hard labour sentences where they are given no respite. Let them build roads with picks and shovels – even in areas where no roads are needed.

The west coast of Africa is increasingly becoming a hub for the illegal drugs trade and trafficking from especially South America. What was once known as the Gold Coast is rapidly becoming known the Coke Coast. If no action is taken, this volatile area may soon become a focal point from which not only increased drug trafficking is launched into Europe, but very possibly narco-terrorism. But, the longer this serious issue is ignored, the more time the narco-terrorists are given to entrench themselves and their followers, build their networks and wreak havoc. But this volatile area in Africa is also starting to produce its own drugs – the implications can be imagined. Likewise, East Africa is also becoming a hub for narco-terrorism.

Despite the noises made about narco-terrorism, it is unlikely that much real effort will go into stopping this very lucrative and dangerous criminal endeavour. Where efforts are made, they fall far short of denting the narco networks. Throwing money at a problem will not make it go away. Only a decent aggressive strategy will do that.