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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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

LEAVING THE SHORE BUT MISSING THE BOAT

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

THE COUNTER TERRORIST MAGAZINE

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