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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, January 24, 2010

HAS COIN MADE US LOSE FOCUS?

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.

77 comments:

graycladunits said...

Dear Eeben:

I cannot help but notice that your phases of insurgency are similar to Mao Zedong's writings on the phases of revolutionary warfare. To what extent have his writings influenced insurgencies in Africa and your own understandings of insurgencies. I ask because I think that understanding the ideas of those who have influenced insurgents and how the insurgents have adapted those ideas to their own struggle is an important HUMINT factor that should never be overlooked in order to defeat an insurgency.

Also, with regards to focus, I think you are right. I would add that the reasons for our loss of focus have accumulated over time and is the result of cultural changes in western civilization. The West began losing its focus on everything under the sun when Communism fell apart in the late 1980s. We just haven't had a singular, clearly defined enemy in a long time. On top of this, the constant warfare of the 20th century has left everyone disillusioned by the,once, unifying concept of the nation state. So, we find ourselves in the post-nation state era. In part, these factors have helped along with numerous other factors to lead to the decay of faith in the western world. So, we also live in what many scholars call the post-Christian era.

In the end, my point is that these changing cultural factors of faith, the nation state, and the threat of Communism have made the West feel as if their is no real reason for focus on anything except making money. All three factors that helped us focus in every realm of life are nearly gone. Now, our lack of focus has caught up with us in the COIN realm as a new, tricky enemy has been found. If only we could have stayed prepared for radical Islam and narco-terrorists. After the Cold War though...I think the West was just too tired and disillusioned overall and needed a rest. So, it will take us awhile to get back "in gear" for fighting a COIN. If the West doesn't get back "in gear" for COIN, the power of the once mighty West may be lost forever.

Sincerely, GCU

thecorporatewarrior said...

Mr. Eeben,

Very interesting post and especially relevant. Amidst accusations of undermining counterinsurgency efforts due to the excessive use of force, how do you see the aspect of rules of engagement for PMCs?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, they are very similar GCU, as Mao’s works had a great influence on many insurgency movements in Africa. That does not make all of the movements Maoists but they took what was relevant and applicable and used it. Whereas the broad principles of revolutionary warfare remain applicable, it is how those principles are realised on the ground that differs. But if we understand the process, it becomes easier to identify it on the ground and counter it.

HUMINT remains critical in all types of warfare yet somehow we seem to have forgotten that. Had this element of the intelligence war not been neglected, I believe the threat would have been identified much earlier and allowed us to be pro-active instead of re-active. Being re-active has put us off guard and we lost the initiative.

In many ways, the West has itself to blame for its decay and lose of focus. This you point out in the changing cultural factors. But I believe it goes deeper than that. We have allowed a soft approach on crime, we criticise those who enforce law strictly, and sanction those who do not adhere to the West’s version of democracy. By doing this, we have lost friends and driven them elsewhere.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting question, corporatewarrior.

When operating in theatre with other allied forces, PMCs are supposed to respect and abide by the allies’ rules of engagement. However, if the allied commanders do not understand the development of the conflict, they will not understand the use of force correctly. Incorrect use of force creates unnecessary collateral damage and serves as a recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

As a young officer, I recall being taught “You cannot fix a bad strategy with heavy firepower”. I don’t think the PMCs are the ones to blame for what we see happening as they didn’t develop the strategy.

I believe that future wars (especially in Africa) will be wars where we see a combination of conventional and unconventional actions. If we fail to prepare for them, we will be preparing to fail.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your message, PRIVATE. I am sure all will turn out for the better. You know that they say that “all good things come to those who wait”. I am sure your wait is nearing its end.

Rgds,

Eeben

thecorporatewarrior said...

Mr Barlow,

I very much appreciate your insight. You say PMCs can not fix a broken strategy and I agree with you. PMCs are however profit-driven. How will all these incidents affect their future ability to gain contracts? What I am thinking is that the industry is turning its back to what can be a very profitable and insufficiently tapped market: the non-profit sector. Do you think PMCs could somehow avoid/hedge these risks?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, PMCs are profit-driven but I have witnessed and read of numerous so-called PMCs that are simply out to milk the cash-cow, corporatewarrior. Too many of them were simply handed their contracts on a silver plate without having a clue what they ought to be doing. This in itself has been exceptionally bad for the industry and at times, their behaviour has been disgraceful. It all boils down to the people they recruit and how well-prepared (or not) those people are.

I know of one or two PMCs that work solely on the basis of costings with no residual profit. I think they identified an opportunity in the market and targeted it. But, a problem they have is the misconception that if they are way below the quotes of other PMCs, the potential client views them as perhaps “not so good”. I believe this perception will, over time, change.

Rgds,

Eeben

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/25/2010, at The Unreligious Right

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you,UNRR.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

You know who I think would be interested in PMC's? The Saudis. They have tried using their forces, which are worthless and pampered, and they have even contracted with Yemeni tribes to do their fighting for them. And that has failed as well.
Not to mention that they have been contracting with Vinnell Arabia for years now, learning how to use LAV 25 and other advanced military equipment. But as everyone can see with their little scuffle with the Houthis, that stuff really isn't that effective against rebels.
So if there was one place that could use a competent PMC for a pesky little border war, it would be Saudi Arabia. They certainly have the cash for such a thing.
I just thought I would put that out there, because the pieces have kind of been organizing in front of me on my blog. And Vinnell Arabia just picked up another five year contract, so Saudi Arabia definitely doesn't mind working with us infidels for this kind of thing.
So going back to the COIN thing, I don't have much to add. Eeben is right about how there is nothing new with this stuff. We just need to whip out the history books and learn from other people's mistakes or victories.
There is one question I have about COIN. Does focusing purely on this type of warfare, ruin an army's ability to conduct other types of warfare in a world where insurgency isn't the only game in town?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your blog has certainly kept close tabs on the Saudi situation, Matt. Thanks for keeping us all informed. In the EO days, we went to Saudi and spent some time with the Western Deputation of the SANG. Needless to say, we heard later that they were asked not to work with us. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out who was behind that.

Using LAV 25s and other advanced military equipment is no guarantee for battlefield success.

I think that by focussing solely on COIN, an army loses its ability to conduct other operations. I base my opinion on the fact that I have worked with armies where the sole focus was COIN and when the button was pushed, they could not operate smoothly in another combat environment. They learnt the hard way that you cannot change from a COIN force to a more conventional force under fire.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

In the EO days, we went to Saudi and spent some time with the Western Deputation of the SANG. Needless to say, we heard later that they were asked not to work with us. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out who was behind that.
----------
Sorry to hear that Eeben, and I am sure business back then was very frustrating.

MichaelCarl said...

Insurgency is something Americans should be concerned about after the release of a new report over the last couple of days. Writing in the American Thinker, J. R. Dunn says terrorists in the U. S. will likely target shopping malls because they're soft targets and fairly undefended.

What's the best way to deal with terrorist threats of this type?

Michael Carl

Robby said...

Always a thought provoking post Eeben....here's my 2 cents ...not all insurgency is equal I think in Africa's case it's one thing and in America's case something completely different.I will defer to your theory on Africa however when it comes to America it's a whole other kettle of fish.

America's war on insurgency (kind of ironic considering America was founded on insurgency) is based solely on religious grounds as this recent article in the Daily Mail proves

Propaganda fear as our troops in Afghanistan are given U.S. guns carrying secret Bible codes
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1244440/U-S-military-weapons-dubbed-Jesus-guns-inscribed-secret-Bible-messages.html

That being said America's other major problem that no one wants to deal with... is the blind support the US gives the state Israel which is at the root of all Muslim anger and is seen by them that the US is not being a honest broker...which it is not....all the roads to Americas screwsup's for the past few decades globally lead to one place....the CIA...do away with these goons and the world will be a safer place

Sure as hell hope they are reading this ....which I'm sure they are :-)

As that great philosphier Kurt Cobain once said "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you"

Another reason I'm coming home!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That was the way it was back then, Matt. Nothing one could have done would have brought about a change in political and economical influence.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suspect that these types of actions may start up in the US, MichaelCarl. But, cowards will always go for soft targets as they instil fear amongst the population and get mass media coverage for their “cause”. Of course, there will also be those who wish to simply seek attention by placing bombs and watching to see what happens. There are many sickos wandering our planet.

Personally, I don’t think there is any best way of dealing with this type of threat. It requires a multi-facetted approach which includes intelligence, citizen vigilance, access control, random searches, emergency evacuation plans and so forth. When it does happen, it becomes incredibly difficult to defend against and one does need the cooperation of every citizen as it is an impossible task for law-enforcement agencies to police.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think that all insurgencies have the same ultimate goal, Robby. Indiscriminate bombing is but one method of achieving this aim regardless of geographical location. Also remember that what I write on my blog is my personal opinion and not something that has been scientifically determined. So, I too could be wrong.

I saw the piece about the secret Bible messages on gun sights. An interesting article with many possible interpretations.

It is always difficult to assess a country’s grand strategy and how allies and enemies are determined. Ultimately, a country with an aggressive foreign policy uses its military and intelligence services to promote that strategy by whatever means possible. So, although the military and the intelligence services often take the rap for happenings, the cause lays with the foreign policy.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Yes you are so very right the CIA is to America as Guido is to the Mafia ....there are a few politicians in America who speak out about it

Ron Paul: After ‘CIA Coup,’ Agency ‘Runs Military’

US House Rep. Ron Paul says the CIA has in effect carried out a "coup" against the US government, and the intelligence agency needs to be "taken out."

Speaking to an audience of like-minded libertarians at a Campaign for Liberty regional conference in Atlanta this past weekend, the Texas Republican said:

There's been a coup, have you heard? It's the CIA coup. The CIA runs everything, they run the military. They're the ones who are over there lobbing missiles and bombs on countries. ... And of course the CIA is every bit as secretive as the Federal Reserve. ... And yet think of the harm they have done since they were established [after] World War II. They are a government unto themselves. They're in businesses, in drug businesses, they take out dictators ... We need to take out the CIA.

Paul's comments, made last weekend, were met with a loud round of applause, but they didn't gather attention until bloggers noticed a clip of the event at YouTube.

http://rawstory.com/2010/01/ron-paul-cia/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I cannot speak with any authority on the CIA, Robby.

The fact of the matter is that Foreign Policy – as with strategy – is intelligence driven. When that foreign policy becomes hyper-aggressive, intelligence becomes even more important in executing the policy.

Likewise, intelligence input may bring about adaptions or even changes to a military strategy. This becomes especially relevant when we are off-balance and have lost the initiative on the battlefield. When this happens, the intelligence services find themselves under pressure (rightfully or wrongfully) to redress the balance and help their forces to gain the initiative. From my own limited experience, the politicians then blame the intelligence services and the military for what are actually foreign policy failures.

Ultimately, the intelligence services and the armed forces are an aggressive extension of a government’s foreign policy – or a deterrent to those they perceive as threats. But, when the wheels fall off, the politicians deflect blame by pointing fingers elsewhere – knowing full-well that the services don’t stand up and deliver grand speeches.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

There is no question about the fact that the CIA is the enforcement arm of Americas foreign policy,no matter how misguided or immoral it may be.

Have you read "My life with the SA Defense Force' by Magnus Malan?

thecorporatewarrior said...

Mr Barlow,

Very interesting comments. I am curious to find out your opinion about the kind of wars we are fighting today. Do you think industrial war, using conventional armed forces is likely in today's security environment? I was reading a bunch of stuff Rupert Smith wrote in his book, The Utility of Force, and how come the wars we're fighting today are only "amongst the people." What's your take on that?
Switching topics,I was asked today if PMCs consider themselves "entrepreneurs" that bring about "change". During the EO times, did you consider yourself an entrepreneur, an agent of change? How is the industry looking now?
Thank you!

Kaye said...

Eeben,

You say that COIN, or whatever the current buzzword for it is- can be achieved by conventional forces with conventional training.

But what about that training? The heavyhanded approach some NATO forces in Afghanistan are now using are certainly counterproductive. On the other hand, the softy-softy approach doesn't score points either. So, again, we end up in the middle ground. From what I hear the 3D approach and 'Inkstain' strategy as used by the Dutch army in Uruzgan seem to work. 3D stands for Defence, Diplomacy and Development. Maybe just a new term for 'Hearts and Minds', so maybe I'm showing my age?

Coin, as we know leans heavy on intel. But it also leans heavy on common sense and on insight on all levels of command. Knocking on someones door and having the master of the house accompanying you on a house search will get you more goodwill than knocking on a door with a 40mm and searching the rubble for IEDs and contrabande.

What I mean to say is this: Showing some humility and loosing the arrogance that we as Westerners can bring the light of Democracy to backwards natives would be a good thing! I think it will save lives.

Just my tuppence,

Kaye.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Intelligence services are usually blamed for a lot of things, Robby, because they remain tight-lipped at even the worst times. This is especially so when it comes to foreign policy.

No, I never read his book but did glance at it. As he lacked total backbone when it came to protecting his soldiers, he simply didn’t have it. Looking in his book, he happened to not even mention this. Also, I am told that he didn’t write it but that it was written by one of his aides. Did you find it a good read? If so, perhaps I should lay aside my prejudice and make work of it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting question, corporatewarrior – and please call me “Eeben”. I believe that the coming wars will contain elements of various types of warfare and will not be restricted to conventional actions or COIN actions alone. But, I do believe that conventional forces will be used, especially in the last phases of the development of the combat theatre.

Jake Alan very kindly gave me Rupert Smith’s book and whilst I certainly enjoyed it, I did not agree with his entire take on war. All wars have been fought amongst the people – we have just never given them much notice as the opinion was there that “if they are not on our side, they are the enemy”. The casualties amongst the civilian population in WWII were equally high but they weren’t seen in the same light “modern society” sees them. If one goes back in history and we the development of a revolutionary war, the civilian population has always played an enormous role, not only in keeping industry going and logistical lines open, but also supplying intelligence and so on and as a pool of recruits for the perceived enemy forces. I am sure many will disagree with me but that is simply my opinion.

I saw EO as a force for change and that is what we tried – and succeeded in doing – where we worked. I suppose in that sense we were considered by some as entrepreneurs but we rather saw ourselves as ex-soldiers trying to end wars and that our conduct and results would guarantee future work – and it did. I view today’s PMCs somewhat differently. As I have mentioned before, they get their contracts (most of them) regardless of capability or ability – and sometimes their results are disgraceful.

Rgds,

Eeben

eet kreef said...

It's all semantics, people often invent new terms to market their own brand of solutions. In the end, it's all been done before, and if you can get the basics right, you can win the COIN war

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your tuppence is well received, Kaye. It all revolves around training that is implemented by sound tactics derived from a good doctrine aimed at implementing a sound operational strategy/plan. Sadly, I see this lacking in total. There has to be balance in how forces operate. Without that, they are unlikely to be successful.

I believe what I wrote “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”.

Yes, I also show my age with “hearts and minds” as opposed to 3D operations. But I also believe that there are those that have taken the “hearts and minds” issue to new levels and prepared themselves for failure.

Common sense, humility and a lack of arrogance will, as you point out, certainly save lives. But we also need to have good operational plans, well-trained and well-equipped men who are not outgunned by the insurgents. But, I would disagree with you re “the light of Democracy to backwards natives” as in my experience, they do not necessarily want democracy nor are they backwards. Whereas we may view some of their traditions and culture as backwards, they view ours the same and we end up with a clash of cultures more than anything else.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree entirely with your comment, eet kreef. We have lost ourselves in terminology and catch-phrases and are unsure of what to do. To guide us back to the goal, we need a think-tank, a committee and an oversight committee – plus several others who simply add to the confusion.

Also true, if we fail in the basics we fail in the end goal.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

The only reason I read it (rather boring) was based on a report on African Crises website....he was a piece of work but does reveal the depth of CIA involvement in SA politics

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I did not want to mention it Robby but I too had heard that it was somewhat staid.

We all know the CIA were deeply involved in SA’s politics but we thought they were “allies” at that time. Well, it turns out they had other ideas....based on US foreign policy.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I could babble on at length about how so many domestic policy decessions made in America have a far reaching impact on the lives of people far from it's shores

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know, Robby. But, one of the principles of war is select and maintain the aim/objective. When this is not done, focus is lost. Also, many people mis-appreciate the centre of gravity and end up attacking the wrong targets. So too with foreign policy. Those that suffer the consequences of such poor policies or strategies are simply deemed “collateral damage”.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

This post brings to mind my recent reading of First In by Gary Schroen, one of the individuals who orchestrated the mujahadeen insurgency against the soviets. It took several years and millions to develop an intricate web of intelligence. In the Clinton era, HUMINT was gutted and these far off 'won' wars were not needed anymore or part of a future contingency.

Schroen describes the few contacts he had left in 2001 from his years in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a miracle any of those people were left and caused no small problems when the first SAD/SF teams were inserted. Although counted as a raging victory, on the inside, it was always one second away from implosion. One wonders how different the Iranian hostage crisis or the invasion of Iraq could have been different if HUMINT was still a priority with the politicians. There is a reason we bogged down in Iraq and now Afghanistan.

Your book pointed out the years it takes to cultivate good intel and relationships that go with it. Piss poor planning......

Btw,Ive finished up my blog on John Alan Coey, an American in rhodesia if anyone likes that sort of stuff.
www.theeagleswillgather.blogspot.com
Always look forward to your new posts.When is the book coming out ??haha

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The comment cannot accept attachments, Richard. Rather send me your email address, marked as PRIVATE and I won’t post it. I shall respond to you as soon as I can.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It sounds as though “First In” was a good read with some valuable lessons in it, Simon. The complex operational theatres of today demand accurate and focussed intelligence gathering. For the life of me, I cannot even begin to understand how plans can be made without Intelligence.

Thanks for giving us an update on your blog. It is always interesting reading.

Well, time is a great enemy but my book is slowly progressing. However, I fear there is a chance I will miss the publishers deadline...

Rgds,

Eeben

Kaye said...

Dear Eeben,

I'm afraid you didn't the sarcasm in my remark about “the light of Democracy to backwards natives”. I wanted to point out that the attitude we should loose is the one in which we believe that a) we bring Western ideas that people should accept because it's good for them and b) that people we encounter are backwards!

And indeed, as you say: all is based on a sound political and military strategy from which proper operational plans are derived.
Walk softly, but carry a big stick?

Please keep writing these blogs, Eeben. I learn a lot from reading them and your replies to your readers.

Sincerely,

Kaye.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My apologies, Kaye. My wife once told me that I have the sense of humour of a dead frog. That is, of course, quite true and since I lost my supposed sense of humour, I have never regained it. But, I am somewhat touchy on that issue because I was once told by a soldier of the West that we are nothing other than “third-world idiots” who should simply carry out their orders. Needless to say, he lasted no longer than a week before he had to leave due to “battle fatigue”.

Yes, you are right. There is this perception that we in Africa are all dumb and that we ought to accept what we are told to do without question. That is somewhat difficult to accept when we see what those who want to dictate are doing – and the results they are (not) getting. One cannot force a system upon people when they do not understand it or want it. Of course, then culture, tradition, perception and so forth enter the equation and further muddy the waters.

Thanks for your kind comment re the blog but I too learn a lot from those who question, argue and debate.

Rgds,

Eeben

Kaye said...

No apology needed, Eeben. I can imagine why a man would loose his sense of humour. I'm a bit more dour myself these days.

Just make sure you understand that most 'Western' soldiers I meet (mostly UK and NL) who know a bit about Southern African history greatly respect the forces involved. With that I mean RSA forces in the Border War, Namibia, Mozambique, but also the Rhodesian war. Whatever the political background at the time and the sentiments and ideologies involved, I feel that studying these conflicts can tell us a lot that we could use in Southern Afghanistan.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased you mention that point, Kaye. History abounds with lessons we can learn from, adapt, modify and use to suit our purposes. I see so many things happening in conflicts the West finds itself in and I think to myself “If only they had paid attention...”. I also see the centre of gravity often being mis-appreciated and therefore what might have been short wars, inevitably become long wars of attrition.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Kaye...I came to the conclusion (some call it bias) that the reason for the respect Southern African forces earned was based on how we were raised.Disapline was always a constant at home and more important school therefore the transition from civilian life to military life was a fairly easy thing.The US has nothing to learn from our conflict as we were not a "occupying" force

As for Afghanistan it's a lost cause the US is using the same failed model as many others did before them ...the latest Brit plan has finally come down this

Five-year plan to 'buy Afghanistan exit'
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7007091.ece

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree with you on that score, Robby. I recall that during basic training we were told that 8% of us could be killed in training and that no-one would bat an eyelid. That also motivated us to listen and follow orders precisely and do our very best in everything we were tasked to do. Whether this was true or not, it certainly scared us into acting even more disciplined.

Thanks for the link. Well now, this is admitting that the war has been lost and paying the opposition not to attack. Sickening, to say the least. But, it again proves that failing to plan is planning to fail.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Americas failure in Afghanistan was not so much a planning failure as it was not understanding the language culture and history of the region and by and large driven by a misguided desire for revenge for 9/11

Виктор said...

Dear Eeben,

My name is Victor D. Chaparro Miranda and currently I'm a undergraduate political science research student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Ponce Campus. I am doing my dissertation on the following "PMC's: how to get a defense contract with the US goverment", basically I'm trying to explain how the goverment request the services of PMC's and the "step by step" procedures of realizing a contract with a PMC. I have chosen you for your expertice on the field and most of all, for the respectable former Executive Outcomes company. I will appreciate any contributions you can make to my research, which are very valuable. Here I give you my personal email, maca_dragonetti@hotmail.com

Thanks!

Kaye said...

Robby, Eeben,

Thank you for your response. I certainly agree with you that the kind of society that South Africa and Rhodesia were in the sixties and seventies breeds men that can be trained easier. The men I trained untill recently certainly need more training. That doesn't mean we're soft on them though. It does mean that we have a high failure rate to train infantrists. but those that make it are certainly up to scratch!

I don't where you were, Robby, but there are people who disagree with you on the occupational force comment! I wont volunteer an opinion since I only recently started delving into the history of the Border wars, the Bush war and the goings on in South West Africa. But I do dare to say that we in Afghanistan can certainly learn from what you did there.

The operational issues have things in common, your solutions can be adapted and used by us.

As for the political strategy on 'Stan...Yeah...
The only positive thing I can say is that it is at least A direction. That's more than can be said about minister Van Middelkoop's lack of ideas.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Not having been privy to any of the planning, I cannot comment on the situation, Robby. But I do see what appears to be a lack of planning and a mis-appreciation of the enemy’s centre of gravity. Obviously, 9/11 played a major influence in the decision to enter into war. But, as you correctly point out, not “knowing the enemy” has led to a difficult position for the coalition forces.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I was initially hesitant to post your comment, Victor, as it has your email address on it. But on second thoughts, I decided to post it anyway as there are several visitors to this blog that will be able to give you far better insight than I can on how the US government awards contracts to PMCs.

You may also want to visit Matt’s site (www.feraljundi.com) and Jake’s site (www.privatemilitaryherald.com). I know that they are well-versed in how these contracts work. Sadly, when it comes to how the US govt awards contracts, I have no specifics although I do have my own perceptions.

Any other visitor that can help Victor, please make contact with him.

Good luck with your studies.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think the point Robby has made is very valid, Kaye, as we grew up with an “under-siege” mentality and the belief that only a disciplined approach will save us. That does not imply that we were better training material than other soldiers – we just had to adopt a different mind-set in order to survive.

I suppose it depends on how one defines “occupational force”. In Angola, we maintained temporary bases for short periods – usually for the duration of operations but they were never permanent bases as we see in Iraq or Afghanistan. In South West Africa/ Namibia, we had a semi-permanent presence that began during WW1 when South Africa as asked by then-Great Britain to occupy German South West Africa and prevent German military use of the harbours and also to neutralise the powerful German radio transmitter in Windhoek. This was done and the German commander finally surrendered to SA forces. After the war, SA was asked to govern SWA as a so-called C-Mandate area. Despite the mandate allocation to SA, this piece of territory became a major topic of contention at the League of Nations after WW2 and was on numerous occasions referred to the International Court at The Hague. So in that sense, we occupied SWA/Namibia.

In his book “Continent Ablaze” John Turner gives a good account of the subsequent insurgency and the role of the SADF in both SWA/Namibia and Angola. It is interesting to note that he states that this is the first modern-insurgency that has been won (despite later political events) and he goes on to say that it is a pity that SA’s lessons re COIN are ignored or forgotten. ( I am paraphrasing his words). Pity he got a lot on EO wrong but then again, I suspect he used the SA media as a source.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Kaye...Born and raised in Rhodesia was drafted in 1970 into the SADF however I did not become a professional solider as Eeben did...as some of my post's attest to I'm not very politically correct when it comes to American foreign policy.Being a talk host in America needless to say does not win me many friends when the subject of occupation comes up.Thankfully being a African I have a thick skin

The definition of occupation is the act or process of taking possession of a place or area : seizure b : the holding and control of an area by a foreign military force c : the military force occupying a country or the policies carried out by it

I guess my problem is that I have studied American history and the actions America has taken over the past few decades have all been contrary to the Founders intent

The traditional American foreign policy of the Founders and your presidents for the first 145 years of your history entailed three points:

Friendship with all nations desiring of such

As much free trade and travel with those countries as possible

Avoiding entangling alliances

This is still good advice. The Framers also understood that the important powers for dealing with other countries and the issue of war were to be placed in the hands of the Congress. This principle has essentially been forgotten.

Robby said...

Eeben I would be interested in your take on this interview with Thomas C. Mountain, who lives and reports from Eritrea.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IS7M-4cgQM

Robby said...

Kaye...Please don't assume I'm attacking you or the America people...just those who I regard as hippocrits or put another way Americans who have forgotten their own history

Boxed In: The Constraints of U.S. Foreign Policy

Geoffrey Wheatcroft

In his keynote speech to the Republican convention, the chairman used most exalted words. After reviewing the record and achievements of the administration, he asked sonorously, “When have we rested more secure in friendship with all mankind?”

One of the tests English undergraduates have to endure is the “gobbet,” an unidentified passage of literary or historical significance, whose date and author the examinee must guess. Maybe the arresting sentence just quoted will have stumped readers, but no one can possibly have dated that particular gobbet as 2008, or supposed that it was uttered by anyone at the last GOP convention in Minneapolis. John McCain and Sarah Palin, Lindsey Graham and Tom Ridge, could have said many other things. They might have boasted that the United States is the greatest nation on earth, or that it had never been more powerful, or that “We are winning,” which is what Graham did say—but “friendship with all mankind”?

Those words were in fact spoken at the Republican convention in Chicago in 1904 by Elihu Root, then Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of war, soon to be his secretary of state, and subsequently winner of the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize thanks to his work for international conciliation (not that it proved much use two years later when the greatest war in history broke out in Europe). His words can only seem utterly haunting today. Whether or not America is winning—in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else—is a matter of debate. What is beyond dispute is that the United States has rarely rested less secure in friendship with all mankind.

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/articles/2010-JanFeb/full-Wheatcroft-JF-2010.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. Certainly hard words... However, not being privy to much of what is happening in Eritrea, I cannot voice an objective comment. But, if what Mr Mountain says is true, then it is certainly cause for concern. Having said that, I am also wary of everything the media reports and will thus have to reserve judgement.

Rgds,

Eeben

Kaye said...

Hello Robby,

Born in Rhodesia and then via SA to the US. Makes me humbled. I was born in the Netherlands and despite a few travels outside it always stayed there.
So feel free to criticise anything and anyone; as long as it is based on sound arguments I'm willing to listen. Although a lack of PC-ness is refreshing!

Maybe becoming entangled in alliances is a necessity in modern warfare. France cannot maintain much larger forces (about bde sized) in the Ivory Coast than it does now. Same went for the UK in neighbouring Siera Leone. The US can send a division or two around but still needs the credibillity that an alliance gives.
Now think about my mini-army. My masters want credibillity as well. So they enter into alliances with (mainly) the UK and other countries. So they can get the kudos for going to war without keeping up the large army they used to. They can spend more on welfare / buying votes that way.

Things that worked for men like Adams and Jefferson didn't work for men like Roosevelt sr. Things that worked for the Roosevelts didn't work for Reagan etc... The playing field changed. So, yes, the last president is fully to blame for the debacle that Afghanistan is becoming; but the current one should only be criticised for the way he deals with an inherited situation.
That brings us to what I believe is the most important question: What is the REAL intent of the Obama presidency regarding Afghanistan? Even if they don't want to admit to it; knowing it is paramount.
Retreat with silent drum? Leave without losing face? Hand over to the Afghans so they will take the blame?
I don't know. But I'd like to know what I'm fighting for...

Robby said...

I understand however there is something going on with a major build up of military actions ...

From debkafile's

The Obama administration took the unusual step Saturday night, Jan. 30, of leaking word to major US media that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies - the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain - have accelerated the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks. They are preparing for Iran, or its surrogate Hizballah, to hit back for a possible US or strikes on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

http://debka.com/article/8573/

Robby said...

Kaye...Q...I'd like to know what I'm fighting for...
A...Hate to be blunt it's not for anything moral or patriotic you are fighting for the "Military Industrial Complex" as the chart below illustrates

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_H2DePAZe2gA/S2AC6p4Vn5I/AAAAAAAALLE/VOEmx_9TTEM/s1600-h/us-collapse-18-11.gif

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Whereas I respect everyone’s opinions, thoughts and beliefs, I don’t want this post to become politically loaded. Perhaps we should go back to topic?

Rgds,

Eeben

bones said...

Hi Eeben,

I have been reading the blog and some of the submissions and comments for the last week. With regards to COIN, the Rhodesian confict obviously utilised COIN extensively and in the latter part of the war, the crossborder raids on the enemy positions, particularly, in Mocambique became more conventional as that part of the insurgency war was moving into the expected conventional phase (particularly from ZIPRA and ZANLA's point).

What was depressing (after the fact) is that some commanders and operational soldiers were aware of the need to address the Western attitude of how the enemy were percieved to that of understanding who the enemy was and to mitigate the effect of subversion of the tribal populace. Unfortunately the winning of the hearts and minds was all too late. The lessons the Coalition forces need to understand is, what you and some of the other 'bloggers' have made, is that the understanding of the culture and respecting the population is paramount, particularly seeing the war is considered religious as well as idiological. There is enough material on the subject on how to work with the local populations, however, I do believe that the American military are more prepared to reinvent the wheel (therefore it is an original idea!) than look at history, which we all know history has a habiit of repeating itself.

Kaye said...

Sorry Eeben.

Counterinsurgency and loss off focus. Another thing that made us loose focus, while preparing for Coin and Assymetric Warfare and OOTW and so on, has been technology.
I believe we are now so obsessed with technological tools of the trade and all sorts of gadgetry that we're starting to mistake the map for the landscape, so to say.

Alan said...

Excellent dialogue. Sending some Bok Van Blerk to warm the blood. Special attention to the Jump Master and safety appearing to have a ripping good time.

Cheers, Alan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eke3l8Tmqdc&feature=related

Robby said...

Yeah sorry brother ...as for me can't help myself as I see the Counter- Insurgency crew is now shaping it's next target with greater urgency as the US economy is about to fall over the cliff

Robby said...

Tzu Sun - “War is based on deception.”

Alan said...

Eeben:

It would appear that the mission of the Private Military Company has experienced a wartime expansion.

Military Outsources Rescue Ops, Secret Tagging Tech (Updated)


In the American military, few missions are considered more important than rescuing missing or kidnapped troops. So it’s more than a little odd that U.S. forces in Iraq have decided to outsource that operation to a private company. The military’s Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan on Sunday handed out a one year, $11.3 million, no-bid contract to Blackbird Technologies Inc., declaring that the firm was “the only contractor that can currently provide the subject matter expertise needed” for personnel rescue operations.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/01/military-outsources-hostage-rescue-to-virginia-firm#ixzz0eFFpstfB

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/01/military-outsources-hostage-rescue-to-virginia-firm#ixzz0e3YXdeMz

Cheers, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You made some extremely valid points, Bones. I am very concerned that some commanders view COIN as a “strategy” without realising it is only a phase in a strategy. By misunderstanding the entire conflict – and the positive role the locals can play, they are setting themselves up for defeat. As you rightly point out, it will eventually evolve into a more conventional operation and those who advocate COIN as a “new” wave will be caught unprepared.

In the process of ignoring history – and trying to reinvent a round wheel – lives have been lost and casualties incurred. It has evolved into a war of attrition against the Coalition forces and obviously, the question is – how long can it be sustained?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Technology has become increasingly important to minimise casualties, Kaye, but this has led to a neglect of - and reduction in - individual soldier skills. I have expressed my concern at this confusion between gadgetry and strategy. If we over-rely on technology, we lose our ability to function without it.

I have always viewed technology as a force multiplier but never as the force itself. But even if our technology never fails, we will fail if we neglect the prize of the COIN phase – the local population.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alan. Watching it brought back many memories...I often wonder about the question he sings about. A sad piece of history no one wants to really remember but that few can ever forget.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Going off on a tangent is something I too am very prone to do, Robby. No sweat.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Absolutely, Robby. If we fail to use deception to our advantage, the enemy will exploit it and use it against us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the links, Alan. A very interesting take on how the military is developing its “not-so-often” used skills. I am sure this will free up troops for other operations. Good luck to Blackbird.

Rgds,

Eeben

Виктор said...

Dear Eeben,

Thanks for your help. As soon as I finish my research, I will lend you a PDF copy of my dissertation since U.S. PMC's contracting and regulation is very particular from other countries, I know that it will do any good for future discussions here on this blog. As for your contributions I shall recognize them on my dissertation. As for the article "Has COIN made us lose focus" I believe that the one of the key problems to counter insurgencies is the lack of knowledge and respect for the culture of these "insurgents". Throughout the history different conquering civilizations like the Spaniards on America used the archeology as a way to learn language, traditions, and of course the warfare doctrines of the inhabitants. As for my opinion, I thinks that psychological warfare must be waged against insurgency whenever the battle takes place, it will reduce the spending of government resources that nowadays are wasted and to exceed in the stabilization of a region by winning the confidence of the people as you commented on the post, instead of following this principles will breed more and more recruitment of insurgent militia. But against this, we must evaluate the tendencies of that place in economical, political and social terms. Very interesting topic!

Robby said...

I think this helps answers your question "HAS COIN MADE US LOSE FOCUS?"....

Obama Administration Vision: War Without End

Suicide bombers inside the United States. Nuclear-armed nations collapsing and losing control of nuclear weapons. Bloody new conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. American troops under attack at bases around the world. Terrorist attacks using unknown new diseases. Chinese missile attacks on Taiwan.
The Obama administration has unveiled a scary new view of the global security landscape and a new strategy intended to protect Americans and U.S. allies. It is a sharp change from previous Pentagon strategic assessments in that it focuses on the wars Americans are currently fighting, rather than on future conflicts in which the United States might be involved.
Get the new
PD toolbar!

And that future, in the Pentagon's view, is quite grim.
The new assessment -- reflecting "a bracing dose of realism,'' said Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- promises no respite from today's conflict-wracked world, and no backing away from the billions of dollars for new hardware and new capabilities that the administration says it will take to stay safe. On Gates' short list: new long-range attack aircraft, armed air and ground robots, attack submarines, more special forces commandos, two new Army combat brigades, a new military task force to snatch up loose nuclear weapons, and updated battle concepts for coordinated air and sea attacks into the territory of adversaries equipped with high-tech defenses

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/02/02/obama-administration-vision-war-without-end/

matt said...

Hey Eeben,

I thought you would get a kick out of this. DynCorp just purchased Casals. lol So not only will they provide international development services through their Casal group, but have a private army to back them up. L3 has bought a international development company called International Resources Group as well. Interesting moves in the PMC world. What do you think? -matt

http://www.undispatch.com/node/9529

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The world is a small place, Private. I do not recruit people any more but do travel a lot as an “independent” who is, from time to time, asked to assist governments and armies.

Yes, we had air support in Sierra Leone but nothing like the US and UK later threw into the picture. The men who were there did their job with minimal air support.

I have closely followed the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and still believe that you cannot fix a bad strategy with firepower.

I too love my country but I am not blind to the problems and challenges we face. Being aware of them allows one to plan around them.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are very welcome, Victor. I am sure that many followers of this blog will be glad to help you where they can. I would really like to read your dissertation when you have completed it.

I agree with your comment on an insurgency and fighting it. We used to say (old-SADF) that fighting an insurgency was an 80 percent political and a 20 percent military effort. This is very different to a conventional war. Sadly, the lessons we learnt were all ignored by the West in its fight against terror but then again, maybe they had good reason to ignore these lessons.

Psychological warfare has a very important role to play – if you understand what makes your enemy “tick”. If you don’t understand that, you will be wasting effort.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. A very interesting posting. Given the contents of the article, I get the feeling that we are no longer pro-active but reactive. This places us at a disadvantage.

As the Cold War ended so long ago, I would have thought that the intelligence efforts would have been focussed on future threats but in my opinion, it appears that this wasn’t done , hence the loss of initiative. Regaining the initiative costs money, effort and time – to say nothing of the lives lost – and then, we can only do it if we know the intentions of the perceived or real enemy.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the comment, Matt. I read it on your site and thought that Dyncorp are working hard at broadening their footprint. Whereas what I know about Dyncorp are based on rumours and some media reports, I cannot assess how successful they will be at nation building. But, let’s see what time delivers.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment Richard. I shall soon email you directly.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t use Skype, Craig but I shall email you shortly.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jeremy said...

Eben

I am interested to hear your comments on Operation Moshtarak. It seems the art of war and the element of surprise has been forgotten in place of media coverage. The fact the start time and place of the operation was publicised well beforehand is astounding. Or maybe they wanted the Taliban out of the way to keep casualties down. What do you think?

Regards

Jeremy

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I admit that I was also astonished, Jeremy. I thought that the principle of “surprise” was always relevant to wars and campaigns. By advertising the operation, the insurgents were warned to leave the area. Of course, this will reduce casualties but in order to be successful, ground will need to be held. If the locals think this won’t happen, they won’t give the attacking forces their full support as they know the Taliban will simply return. The question to me is: do the security forces have sufficient men to hold that ground and deny freedom of movement to the insurgents? Somehow I doubt it.

Whereas media coverage can play an important role in such operations, I don’t think it is very smart to have the media publishing details of an operation before it happens. I suspect insurgent casualties will be low and that security force casualties will be due to the fact that the Taliban were given warning and time to prepare their IEDs.

This makes me feel very sorry for the forces taking part in this operation.

Rgds,

Eeben