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, November 11, 2011


My friend RG sent this to me for Veterans Day – a day we ought to remember with thanks to the many men who gave their lives for what they believed in. Without their selfless contribution, our world would surely be a lot different. We must never be allowed to forget that they gave their tomorrows for our today. A greater sacrifice there can never be. May you all have peace where you may be.


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
'Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you ?
Have you always turned the other cheek ?
To My Church have you been true?'
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
'Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'

Author Unknown~


Much is said and written about the different environments soldiers need to conduct operations in.

A crucial factor that needs to be appreciated when developing and formulating the operational design/commander’s intent is the operating environment (OE).  Failure to appreciate this environment in detail can lead to problems and even disaster once the operational design is implemented. This is because the OE has a major impact on our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

The operating environment can by defined as the result of the appreciation of a combination of factors that include – but not restricted to - terrain, climatic conditions, population distribution and their feelings towards opposing forces, vegetation, infrastructure (or lack of), tribal distribution, religion, culture and so forth.

               The OE can vary within a single AO

The OE is therefore the result of several appreciated factors in order to determine their impact within the Area of Operations (AO) that can, may or will influence combat operations.

This will allow the commander to determine to what extent the OE favours either own forces or those of the enemy and what can be done to negate enemy advantages as well as ease and sustain own forces combat operations.

The OE is classified as friendly, neutral or hostile. In turn, this can result in limited activity operations to highly complex operations and can result in both conventional warfare operations and COIN operations within a single Area of Operations (AO).

Combat operations in Africa can, within a single AO, result in operations being conducted in a savannah-type area to very dense jungle. Dry, flat, sparsely vegetated desert-like conditions to hilly, swampy, water-logged areas are not uncommon.  This variation within a single AO will determine the type of transport assets that will be required and will greatly impact on the type of logistical supply lines to sustain combat forces.

A detailed appreciation of the OE will provide guidance on:

1.      Classification of the OE

2.      Type of area(s) operations may or will be conducted in

3.      Type of environment that operations may or will be conducted in

4.      Infiltration or deployment possibilities

5.      Type of warfare/combat operations soldiers will be expected to carry out

6.      Offensive options

7.      Adaptions to TTPs

8.      Logistical possibilities and options

9.      Medical possibilities and options

10.   Communications possibilities and options

11.   Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to own forces

12.   Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to enemy forces

13.   Termination and withdrawal options, etc.

Additionally, this appreciation will expose vulnerabilities that own forces may face during the conduct of operations.

Assessing the OE is part of the commander’s appreciation, the result of which is his operational design and intent. This, in turn, forms part of the larger formation design for battle, a design that ultimately stems from the military strategy.

Monday, November 7, 2011


  Douglas Karr, USN Veteran
  Operations Desert Storm & Desert Shield

(I would not normally publish another writer’s article on my blog but this is for a good cause. My hope is that veterans that visit this blog may find some value in Doug’s article).

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education close to half of all veterans have contemplated suicide and 20 percent have made actual plans to kill themselves. Suicide among returning soldiers has become a rampant problem over the past decade.

Reasons for Suicide

There are many reasons veterans contemplate suicide. Frequently, returning soldiers are faced with difficulty reintegrating into civilian life when they return from combat. Additionally, in today’s economy, veterans are also forced to deal with the difficulty of finding civilian employment and may also be stunned to discover that their home is in or on the verge of foreclosure. Add to this potential injuries and long-term health issues that arise from being exposed to combat conditions and the risk of suicide escalates among veterans.

When someone contemplates suicide, it is often because they simply cannot see a future for themselves. They do not have feelings of hope that things will get better or their lives will improve. For veterans with PTSD or severe physical injuries, pain can also be a contributing factor. For those with PTSD, the symptoms of the condition can be so overwhelming that soldiers may feel completely out of control and they may never regain their equilibrium. For those with physical pain symptoms, the pain may become so hard to cope with that they would rather not live than continue living with the pain.

Symptoms of Depression and Suicide Risk

Depression often goes hand-in-hand with risk for suicide. Common symptoms of depression include irritability, difficulty sleeping (sleeping less or more than normal), changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual), feeling down or depressed, feeling hopeless, feeling sad, crying, problems with concentration and difficulty being motivated.

People who are contemplating suicide may have access to ways to hurt themselves, they may actually develop a plan and may even consider what to say to those they leave behind.  They may go through a process of giving away possessions that mean something to them. Or may also talk about what they want to happen when they are no longer living.

Suicide and depression are health conditions that are vastly different from those faced by veterans who were exposed to hazardous materials like asbestos and later developed mesothelioma and asbestos cancer. Depression and risk for suicide often cannot be traced back to a specific cause, but to an accumulated set of events.

If you believe you are depressed or know of veterans who you are concerned may hurt themselves, call the Veterans Crisis Line. They have trained staff to help them and potentially prevent a tragic death.

For more information or if you wish to get advice and help, please contact Doug at dkarrusn@gmail.com

Friday, October 28, 2011


I am sorry to have been off-line for a few weeks. As I was busy travelling and jumping on and off planes, I did not have sufficient access to the internet to allow me to answer the comments on the blog.

Before a new rumour starts – no, I was not near to or even in Libya. In fact, I was neither in the Middle East nor North Africa.

I note that there have been several attempts to contact me by the media demanding to know if I am - or was - in Libya. I hope that they can understand what I am saying although some days, I have to wonder.

I will shortly be adding another posting to the blog so thanks to those who, despite my apparent tardiness of updating, continued to visit the site.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Fighting an apparently elusive enemy during COIN operations can be very frustrating, especially for the men in the field.

The frustration is increased when it appears that the enemy has the initiative – which he indeed has at times - as he can chose his place, time and method of attack. These attacks are usually of short duration but have the sole aim of killing, wounded or delaying own forces members – and getting maximum publicity for their cause.

When the enemy believes he has the initiative, he becomes bolder and more daring. When we believe that the enemy has the initiative, it places us in a reactive state-of-mind, thus giving the enemy the initiative.    

Wresting the initiative from the enemy is not as easy as it sounds, but it is not impossible. We need to place the enemy in a position of continual disadvantage and then exploit it with speed, aggression and firepower.

One aspect I feel is not emphasised enough in COIN operations is the principle of “relentless pursuit”.

Relentless pursuit implies the enemy is pursued with speed and aggression, without stopping, pushing him past the limits of his endurance whilst we continually substitute the men doing the pursuit with fresh troops. This forces the enemy into a state of exhaustion as he has no time to eat or rest. It also impacts negatively on his morale, leads to panic and subsequently leads him to make mistakes.

When the enemy is tired and hungry, he becomes weak thus slow in his movements, disorientated and prone to making poor decisions. It is these mistakes we need to identify and exploit in order to seize the initiative.

Troops conducting the relentless pursuit should not be over-burdened with equipment and gadgets. They should only carry the very essentials of what is required to achieve their mission.

Implementing relentless pursuit requires, amongst others, that troops:

&1. Can eat whilst on the move
&2. Can track an enemy at speed
&3. Have the ability to leap-frog ahead of the enemy by means of helicopters
&4. Have outstanding communications
&5. Are aggressive
&6. Are adept at night operations
&7. Must outgun the enemy

      Troops need to be “taught” how to eat whilst on the move. During relentless pursuit, troops cannot stop to prepare meals as this will give the enemy time to make good his escape.  Dry rations and water is all these troops need to carry with them especially since they will only be moving for a few hours before being relieved by fresh troops.

The ability to track humans is an essential prerequisite. Good trackers can tell the age of a track as well as indicate if the enemy is carrying heavy loads, the types of weapons he has (this is identified when locating enemy resting points), if the enemy is moving hurriedly, what he is eating and so forth. Good trackers are also able to identify disturbances in the soil or tripwires indicating a possible landmine or IED.

The use of helicopters to substitute troops after a few hours of follow-up adds to the concept of relentless pursuit. Tired troops can be replaced with fresh troops in order to maintain momentum and keep the pressure on the enemy.  Once the trackers have analysed the age of the tracks to within an hour or less, helicopters can be used to deploy troops into blocking positions as well as deliver troops onto tactically advantageous ground. Alternatively, troops can be deployed to seal off villages and prevent their use to the enemy.

Good communications is essential to ensure that pursuit forces do not engage in so-called friendly-fire incidents. Communications is also essential to enable the calling for air support, fresh troops, and reinforcements and so on. By frequently reporting the pursuit forces coordinates, operations officers will be able to plot and even predict the enemy’s intended direction of movement.

Troops need to develop their aggression level to such a point that the enemy fears them. Aggressive pursuit is aimed at initiating contact as heavily with the enemy as possible.  

Pursuit must continue after dark and into and during the night. Equipment such as night vision goggles and illumination flares must be used to the optimal. Battlefield illumination, when closing with the enemy, is useful for slowing an enemy’s progress or forcing him to show himself prematurely.

The enemy must be engaged at maximum range, terrain depending, in order to force him to deploy tactically. Long distance engagements may not cause enemy casualties but it will slow his progress and allow own forces to begin offensive tactical manoeuvres. Weapons such as the 20mm PAW, 60mm patrol mortars, RPG-7s and so forth can force the enemy to slow his progress, take cover and thus slow his escape.

When the enemy scatters (bombshells), at least one set of tracks should be taken to ensure a successful pursuit as it is likely that the enemy may regroup at an emergency RV.

To apply relentless pursuit, the troops need to be fit, mentally alert and ready to immediately take offensive action.  

Failure to apply relentless pursuit will continue to give the enemy options and advantages, often at our own peril.  

Friday, August 19, 2011


I am used to being falsely accused of many things although I never expected a so-called Professor Emeritus to allow his blog to be used for disinformation purposes – unless, of course, he has proof of what he allows to be placed on his site or he is acting as someone’s propaganda agent.

Even less did I expect Professor Robert Black (http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2011/07/general-magnus-malan.html), a man of the legal profession and who so eloquently states on his blog that he “is often referred to as the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands” to allow such a libellous and slanderous comment to be placed on his blog without even taking to trouble to verify it. This certainly does not say much for the esteemed professor’s abilities as a man of the law.

The lie I am referring to was placed by a person who identified himself as Patrick Haseldine. This buffoon wrote the following:

Eeben Barlow, commander of South Africa’s Civil Co-operation Bureau (CCB) Europe Branch coordinated the Lockerbie Bombing on 21 December 1988 by targeting UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, the most prominent of the 270 victims.

At Heathrow airport, CCB operatives had six hours in which to substitute the “bomb bag” for Bernt Carlsson’s checked-in suitcase, while Carlsson was attending a meeting in London with De Beers diamond cartel. No trace of his suitcase was ever found following the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster.

The esteemed professor simply published Haseldine’s lie without doing any research. As he touts himself as “the architect of the Lockerbie trial”, I have to question his legal reasoning – and feel pity those whose interests he apparently claims to be working for.

Perhaps Patrick Haseldine (and maybe even Professor Black?) is still smarting from the fact that EO destroyed the terrorist groups UNITA in Angola and RUF in Sierra Leone (perhaps they would prefer the term “liberation movements”), thus leading to financial losses all round? After all, many people – and even listed companies - were supporting these two groups in exchange for cheap diamonds.

Since Patrick Haseldine has decided to spread lies about me, I have decided to spread the truth about him. Haseldine was a British civil servant that was found unsuitable for service and considered to be a mediocre government official. Apparently, his superior prepared two confidential reports on his performance whilst he was employed by the UK’s FCO – both of which were very unflattering. One report even stated that he had “some serious weaknesses, not good enough to get by”. He could have been demoted, taken early retirement or even dismissed. These reports were counter-signed by different officers who agreed with the conclusion of his superior, namely that he was not suited to work in a political department. He was eventually given the boot and sacked.

Professor Robert Black, on his web page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Robert_Black, claims to spend “six months of the year at his second home near a remote village in the Northern Cape of South Africa”.

Now, were I to say that I will trace the good professor and pay him a visit next time he is in South Africa, he will no doubt state on his blog that I have threatened him and then most probably ask for South African Police protection. But, I also have to wonder who in Military Intelligence visits him whilst he is here?

The dear professor should however not worry as I am not about to waste my time on someone such as he.  I would however love to meet this gigantic legal brain.  

I have made my feelings on the UN’s Peacekeeping Department perfectly clear – and I shall stand by them. I have long held the belief that they create conflicts in Africa and then prolong them. One only has to do a bit of research on their performance to come to that realisation.

 I trust that Professor Black (he has certainly given meaning to the term “black propaganda”) will likewise stand by the comment he allowed on his blog that I was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.  Given that the professor probably has a cosy relationship with the South Africa law enforcement agencies, I also hope he will now call for my extradition to stand trial for a crime I never committed.

I would love to stand trial for this alleged crime and I cannot wait to hear what evidence Haseldine and Black will present during my trial.

Note 1: Thanks to “Jackson” for the Private Message referring me to Black’s site. I will also post this comment on Black’s blog. 

Note 2: On 25th August, Prof Robert Black, the man who deemed it necessary to allow a posting on his blog alleging that I was the “mastermind” behind the Lockerbie bombing, finally came to his legal senses with a comment on his blog. He wrote: Because Patrick Haseldine does not have any evidence. This correspondence is now closed. All further contributions will be deleted. (I just love his rape of English or perhaps in his haste, he simply used a full stop where he shouldn’t have).

Monday, August 15, 2011


I do apologise to everyone who wrote to me and sent comments to my blog and have yet to receive a reply or an answer.

Having been away for a few weeks, in an area where internet connection is something of the future, returning home and being able to read my mail and your comments, was indeed a pleasure.

Please give me a day or two to catch up on all my mail. I shall get back to the blog within the next few days.

In the meantime, keep your comments coming and stay well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Having read an article about the sheer lunacy of an instruction to exercise “courageous constraint”, I have to ask myself what on earth are we doing?

Going to war is a political decision.

Making war is the military’s responsibility.

Making war and in the process minimizing collateral damage is something all soldiers accept as necessary. However, there will seldom be a situation where an enemy action provokes an own forces retaliation with zero collateral damage – unless the enemy acts away from population concentrations. Sadly, this is something the modern-day enemy does not do.

To order troops not to fire on the enemy as it risks waking up the local population is going several steps too far. By having to get permission to open fire on an armed and identified enemy laying IEDs – or face murder charges if that order is violated - is nothing other than surrender without honour.

Playing politically correct games with the enemy at the expense of the lives of the very people the politicians sent there must surely border on treason. Given the deaths that have already occurred due to this stupidity, those who formulated and applied it should be tried for manslaughter – as that is what it is. Better still, they should be forced to show soldiers how to apply this new principle when under a looming threat.

It is even more shocking that military commanders seem to go along with this treasonous order. It seems to me that they are no longer soldiers but wannabe politicians posing as soldiers, more concerned about their media profiles and political futures than the lives of the men they supposedly command and their mission.

To add credence to this stupidity, the next thing will probably be a medal to those who were able to exercise this “courageous constraint”. In fact, cowardice under fire can now be ascribed to acting with "courageous constraint".

Whereas it is seemingly fashionable to be politically correct, it is this correctness that will lead to the deaths of many good soldiers – and has already led to the deaths of soldiers.

As it now appears that the politicians and senior commanders have lost the stomach to follow through on their decisions, perhaps the Principles of War ought should be whittled down to 2 basic principles in order to appease them.

Principle #1: Do not fire at the enemy.

Principle #2: If you observe the enemy, either run away or surrender.

When senior military commanders simply accept such orders, they are, in my opinion, not fit to command. If they lack the moral courage to stand up for their men, they ought not to be in uniform at all. If they are so lacking in moral fibre as to bend and buckle with the political whims of the politicians who drafted their mission, then they may save more lives by simply surrendering to the enemy and then disbanding the armed forces and going home.

It is time the real military commanders stood up for their men, accepted their mission and brushed aside the stupidity generated by politicians whilst doing the job the politicians sent them there to do.

Unless, of course, there never was an intention of ending the war....

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Whether we like to admit it or not, Africa is in a state of perpetual war.

Most countries view their neighbours as either threats or potential threats. The political situation is fluid and subject to dramatic changes that have the potential to erupt into armed conflict. Foreign policy is viewed through the lens of power and this may entail supporting – or being part of - proxy or insurgent forces to destabilise a neighbouring country and gain a position of “one-upmanship” in the region.

Governments are forced to choose regional and international allies often at great cost to the political, social, military and economical well-being of the country.

The military strategies are often flawed and based on optimistic assessments and an over-estimation of the abilities of the armed forces. Intelligence collection plans are not always carefully thought out, nor are they correctly executed. This results, in part, to flawed military strategies. The armed forces are required to conduct tasks and missions they are not always trained, equipped and prepared for.

Planning for war and conflict is, for many reasons, not always done with vision and the resultant effect is often being caught by surprise when a potential threat suddenly becomes reality.

To overcome this disadvantage, African countries need to revisit the phases of war and understand that those of Western and Eastern powers cannot simply be used as templates with which to conduct offensive operations. African governments should reassess their entire approach to both the offense and the defence and in doing so they will create a situation where they are not caught off-guard by an “unexpected” threat.

As Africa remains in a state of perpetual war, I believe that the phases of conventional offensive war need to be readjusted as follows:

Intelligence Gathering: All strategies are intelligence driven. Without this critical prerequisite, it will be impossible to know and understand the potential threat(s), where, when and how the enemy will react to an attack, strike or incursion, what weapons and weapon systems the enemy will deploy and how, and so forth. This activity or phase remains ongoing throughout the duration of all offensive and defensive operations. Without this intelligence, it will not be possible to develop a viable military strategy.

Sound intelligence will, furthermore, give commanders an indication of how the enemy will react to an offensive operation. Knowledge of these enemy operational counter-plans are imperative to enable own forces to devise operational plans that will surprise and overwhelm the enemy’s forces and reduce the enemy’s reactions.

Simultaneously with the gathering of intelligence is the screening of own intentions to prevent the enemy from knowing what is being planned, how, where and when. This is achieved by applying Operational Security (OPSEC), deception, ruses, counter espionage actions and so forth to confuse the enemy.

Reconnaissance: Intelligence can change dramatically and within a short space of time. To allow commanders to rapidly readjust plans and thereby maintain the initiative, the deployment of reconnaissance teams is imperative.

Whereas the initial aim of the reconnaissance teams will be to verify the intelligence on the ground, these teams can be deployed in several different ways.

It is possible that within a single theatre of operations, different types of reconnaissance teams and units can be deployed simultaneously or in conjunction with one another.

Although reconnaissance teams and units deploy with stealth and guile, they must nevertheless able to fight if necessary.

Advance: With the necessary intelligence and the associated ground truths gleaned from reconnaissance, the advance can be planned in detail and executed to best achieve the aim – the aim being to move into enemy-held territory or to make contact with the enemy or to follow up a retreating enemy force.

The advance is an offensive manoeuvre aimed at moving the advancing forces to just beyond the range of enemy fire or to follow up a deliberate enemy withdrawal.

During the advance, continued reconnaissance of the front and flanks is maintained to provide early warning of unexpected enemy movements or actions.

Air superiority is critical to ensure the advance maintains momentum and speed.

Advance to contact: Beyond the range of enemy indirect fire systems such as artillery, mortars and heavy machine guns, the units manoeuvre into an attack formation in order to be correctly postured to follow through with an attack or counter an enemy attack. These positions will have been identified by the reconnaissance teams/units.

Utilising momentum and speed, the advance to contact is used as a method of establishing final contact with the enemy or re-establishing lost contact with the enemy.

Control of air space remains critical to provide aerial reconnaissance and provide close air support to ensure momentum and speed.

Contact/Attack: Contact, by means of fire-and-manoeuvre/movement, is made with the enemy positions that are to be attacked.

The attack is the most important phase of offensive warfare as it is this action that will bring about the defeat of the enemy – or the failure of the commander’s plans. It furthermore requires the skilful application of fire and movement – and coordination - of all direct and indirect weapons onto the enemy and his positions. It also requires commanders to act with audacity.

Consolidate: As each objective is overrun, seized or captured, the commanders will immediately alter the attacking forces’ posture in order to defeat an enemy counter attack.

Exploit: An attack does not end on the objective. The enemy is kept under fire, even in the withdrawal or retreat and must be pursued in order to inflict maximum casualties and loss of equipment.

Known as the exploitation forces or the follow-up forces, these forces are assembled and deployed prior to the attack and are tasked to maintain contact with the enemy and drive home the attack. Mobile reserve forces are particularly well suited as exploitation forces.

The limit of exploitation, determined prior to the attack, is usually conducted to a tactical bound beyond the objective.

Defend, hold and dominate: Upon the follow-up forces reaching the laid down limit of exploitation, the attacking forces move forward to take possession of this position. The aim is to occupy, defend, hold and dominate the ground that has been gained from the preceding actions or phases.

During this phase, reconnaissance elements are redeployed to the front in order to obtain ground truths, thus allowing the commander to readjust his plans where necessary and continue the advance.

The above phases of war presuppose that the armed forces are correctly trained, correctly equipped, correctly postured and correctly sustained during operations.

I shall soon be giving my thoughts on the phases of defensive warfare and unconventional warfare.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Having been away for a couple of days, Matt (www.feraljundi.com) alerted me to the fact that the New York Times had finally responded to my letter accusing them of lying about Executive Outcomes in an article they had published.

The New York Times printed a correction on 18 May and although not apologising for the deception, wrote the following:

An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Ironically, it seems that the New York Times considers the murder, rape and mutilation of innocent civilians by foreign-backed insurgents as mere “rebellions”. Of course, they also felt it very necessary to, in their correction, mention that some ex-EO men were involved in Simon Mann’s poorly planned coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea whilst not mentioning any other company’s ex-employees. But it appears as though every time a South African is involved, it should be blamed on EO.

Whereas I am not entirely satisfied with the correction without an apology, I shall be discussing the matter with my legal council before deciding what action to take next.

I note that there are several comments pending approval on my blog. I apologise for not yet publishing and responding to them – I shall do so as soon as I have caught up on my backlog of administration.

On request of several readers of the blog, I have finally opened a Twitter account. I am still trying to master this new element of social media but until such time as I can, I shall remain a twit.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


They say if you tell a lie enough times, it eventually becomes “the truth”.

The New York Times have certainly tried to keep up with that adage, prompting me to write to them a few minutes ago.

My letter read as follows:


South Africa

15th May 2011

Dear Editor,

It was with interest that I read your article headlined Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder dated 14 May 2011 by your journalists Mark Mazzetti and Emily B Hager.

As the founder and chairman of the now defunct Executive Outcomes, I found it of even greater interest that they state in their article as fact that Executive Outcomes was “a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts...in Africa”.

Indeed, the only fact in their reference to Executive Outcomes is that it was a South African company.

Had your journalists done even the most basic of research, they would have discovered that:

1. Executive Outcomes was intimately involved in drafting the South African government’s legislation on foreign military companies

2. Executive Outcomes had a licence from the South African government to conduct its business

3. Executive Outcomes only accepted contracts from legitimate, internationally recognised governments. This included South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Indonesia to name a few

4. The South African media apologised to me for allowing themselves to be used to perpetuate disinformation on both myself and my company.

The book Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds, was written by myself and published in 2007 by Galago Publishing, detailing the company’s origins, contracts and activities. To date, no information I gave in the book has been refuted by any party.

I personally remain opposed to coups and I also run a blog where I have written, warned against and prevented coups in Africa (http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/warning-against-joining-planned-coup.html)

However, as your paper accepted and published a factually incorrect comment on Executive Outcomes, despite it being libellous, I reserve the right to take legal action. Meanwhile I demand that your journalists furnish me with proof of any coup attempts planned or staged by the defunct Executive Outcomes. Should your journalists argue that the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea is an example of such an action, may I point out that Executive Outcomes closed its doors in January 1998. It therefore cannot, in any way, be linked to a coup attempt several years later. If any ex-Executive Outcomes men were recruited by the planners of such a coup, Executive Outcomes can still not be linked to the attempt.

I look forward to your comments.




I received a reply back that read:

THANK YOU for writing The New York Times. We are grateful to readers who take the time to help us report thoroughly and accurately. Your message will reach the appropriate editor or reporter promptly.

I will keep you all informed of their actions and responses as I in particular want to know when EO acted in the manner they claim it did.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Many have written asking on the progress of my planned book and exactly what it will cover in terms of military operations in Africa.

To date, I have completed 20 chapters. They are as follows:

Chapter 1: Understanding war and conflict in Africa

Chapter 2: The relationship between political strategy and military strategy

Chapter 3: Understanding strategic warfare

Chapter 4: Developing an African art of war

Chapter 5: Land warfare principles in Africa

Chapter 6: Military operations related to war

Chapter 7: Operations other than war

Chapter 8: Intelligence operations

Chapter 9: The development of doctrine

Chapter 10: The phases of war

Chapter 11: Reconnaissance

Chapter 12: The advance

Chapter 13: The attack

Chapter 14: Consolidation

Chapter 15: Exploitation

Chapter 16: Defence

Chapter 17: A concept force for manoeuvre

Chapter 18: A concept force for counter insurgency

Chapter 19: A concept force for semi-conventional warfare

Chapter 20: Pseudo Operations

Chapter 21: Night operations

There will probably be an additional 5 chapters (I have not yet named them) added to the above.

To date, chapters 1 to 8 have been edited and I am still working on bits and pieces in chapters 9 to 21 before I submit them to my editor, Dr Deane-Peter Baker, a lecturer at the US Naval Academy. Deane has done a great job on the chapters he has had under pen and I am really happy at the guidance he has given me.

Unfortunately, time has been a constant threat to my efforts and I write when I can.

The reaction I have had from the blog readership as well as several African armies has been very encouraging so I continue to slog away when I have time.

My hope is that once the book has seen the light of day, those who read it will be able to have a better understanding of this very demanding and different theatre of conflict and war and if called upon, will be able to make a positive contribution to ending that which has and continues to devastate Africa.


This is totally off-topic but given the concern of many people both within and outside of South Africa on the situation here, my wife decided to write a blog with the hopes of making people see things differently.

It is a more humorous view of life here and if you are easily offended, take yourself too seriously, have a chip on your shoulder, find it impossible to laugh at yourself or your fellow beings, then do not visit it.

However, if you are someone who can see the funny side of things – even of tragically funny things – then you may enjoy the blog and have a few good laughs as well.

There are perhaps many South African colloquialisms and phrases that my foreign readers may not fully understand but I am sure that you will get the picture.

If we South Africans cannot laugh at ourselves and see the funny side of things, then we will be doomed forever.

Her blog can be found at http://southafricansociety.wordpress.com/

Thursday, March 31, 2011


We cannot dominate the battlefield if we cannot control it.

The Area of Operations (AO) is greatly influenced by the terrain and the prevailing climatic conditions in which the operations take place. Exploiting and gaining control over the Area of Operations with surprise, speed and firepower ought to be a priority for own forces commanders.

The Operating Environment, also referred to as the Operational Environment (OE), is a combination of circumstances and influences that impact greatly AO and, in turn, on the decisions of commanders and subsequently, the deployment of forces and assets.

As Own Forces control over the AO/OE will place the enemy at a disadvantage and allow commanders to dictate the flow and tempo of battle or operations, the enemy will use every means possible to prevent this control and thereby attempt to impede Own Forces’ momentum and deny Own Forces the initiative.

To gain and maintain control over both the AO, the enemy or insurgent forces must be denied the ability to:

1. Prevent Own Forces access to the AO: The enemy will achieve this by denying, delaying and disrupting own forces that wish to enter the AO. These actions will be strengthened by propaganda, mines, IEDs, ambushes, stand-off bombardments, selective demolitions or a combination of these actions. Access routes and logistical lines will become prime targets to prevent effective deployment and sustainment of own forces within the Area of Operations.

2. Influence the local population: Regardless of the type of operation, the enemy will make maximum use of influencing the local population to his advantage. This advantage can include the gathering of intelligence on Own Forces entering or in the AO, assist the enemy in channelling forces into preplanned killing grounds (this can be done with simple methods such as using children or even livestock to block a specific route) and so forth. If the local population realise that Own Forces will withdraw soon after the operation, they will support the enemy to prevent retaliation after these forces have withdrawn.

3. Disperse forces: The enemy will attempt to divert the focus of Own Forces commanders in order to preserve his combat forces. This will be achieved by deploying his forces over a wide area/front whilst exploiting terrain of strategic and tactical importance to stage smaller actions aimed at inflicting casualties and confusing commanders. These actions may induce commanders to attack enemy forces at a time and place favourable to the enemy, thus causing casualties amongst the local population and unnecessary collateral damage. This will turn the local population against the attacking forces. Dispersion will, furthermore, prevent Own Forces commanders from accurately determining the enemy’s Trinity of Gravity

4. Impede momentum: The enemy will exploit every weakness in the advancing or attacking forces thrust in order to slow down the momentum. Ambushes, nuisance minefields, IEDs and such will prolong the conflict whilst drawing forces into terrain that is favourable to the enemy. By impeding momentum and thus prolonging the conflict, the enemy will attempt to survive tactically in order to achieve a strategic victory over the advancing or attacking forces. Logistical supply lines - along with static forward bases - will become prime enemy targets, being subject to assaults, raids, stand-off bombardments and even suicide bombers. These actions do not only lead to Own Forces casualties but may deprive commanders of the initiative.

5. Neutralise strengths: The enemy will attempt to neutralise the attacking forces by occupying villages, towns and other complex areas in order to divide the forces and attack them at a time and place of their choosing. Using villages to shield their actions, the enemy will be able to inflict casualties and even achieve small tactical successes. As the enemy will often know the AO better than the attacking forces, he will use the terrain to his advantage and strike high-visibility targets to gain a propaganda and psychological advantage. Retaliation by the armed forces may result in excessive collateral damage, resulting in increased local support to the enemy and the resultant propaganda proclaiming the enemy is “everywhere”

6. Deny safe areas: The enemy will make every attempt to deny safe and secure areas to the attacking forces during all phases of the operation. Using indirect and direct fire, landmines, IEDs and so forth, the enemy will target laager areas, temporary bases from positions that prevent Own Forces retaliation, such as villages, towns and so forth

7. Achieve surprise: As the enemy will in many instances be more familiar with the AO than the attacking forces, he will use every advantage he has in order to gain a strategic or tactical surprise. This may include the use of deception, feints, raids, stand-off bombardments and other actions to confuse the Own Forces commanders.

8. Gather intelligence: Good OPSEC measures as well as counter intelligence techniques must be used to prevent the enemy from gaining a clear understanding of Own Forces’ strengths, weaknesses and TTPs. Avoiding routine, alternating routes, night operations and so forth can be used effectively to confuse the enemy and deny his understanding of how Own Forces operate.

Climatic variations, although having a significant impact on operations within the AO, are beyond the control of both Own Forces and the enemy. Like terrain, it favours the one who “reads” it correctly, and uses and exploits it.

Whereas air power is crucial to achieving air superiority, conducting aerial reconnaissance and providing Close Air Support, air power loses much of its utility when the enemy make use of towns and villages to shield his activities.

Controlling the AO should therefore not rely exclusively on air power but rather rely on soldiers who are correctly trained, equipped and deployed to ensure domination of the area.