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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, February 10, 2012

PROGRESSION OF WAR AND CONFLICT IN AFRICA

Africa has been wracked by numerous wars, civil wars, rebellions and insurgencies, conflicts that have all been very similar in progression - a progression that closely follows Mao Zedong’s views on how these actions ought to be conducted.

This does not imply that those insurgencies have all been Maoist in thought and deed but rather that the Maoist progression model has been relatively easy to implement.

In the West, those who ferment such a revolution with the aim of overthrowing a government are often viewed as “freedom fighters” or “non-state actors”. Within Africa they are not viewed as such as the term itself gives those who turn to armed conflict a legitimacy that is often undeserved. As such revolutions inevitably make use of extreme torture of captured opponents, brutality towards the innocent and extreme terrorisation of the local populace, they are instead referred to as “rebels”, “terrorists” or “criminals”. 

Africa has also been witness to numerous coup d’etats, the results which have often led to the establishment of military juntas that are inexperienced in political matters and therefore prone to mismanaging the political responsibilities associated with government. This has been partly due to the large influence of politics within the military as well as the quest for ultimate power.

Conventional wars, as understood in the Western sense of conventional land battles, are not common to Africa. Although there have been large, isolated classical conventional battles on the continent post 1945, it is the manner of conduct and approach to war that differs vastly from Western military thinking. Examples of such conventional battles are the Ugandan invasion of Tanzania in 1978-79 and the South African Defence Force battles against Cuban and Angolan forces in 1987. Such conventional actions have all followed the same progression:

·        Antagonism, anger or perceived danger/threat
·        Diplomacy
·        Failed diplomacy
·        Build-up of forces
·        War

The African model for revolution is often misunderstood by Western military thinkers. This model invariably follows the following progression: 

·        The mobilisation of the people against real or perceived oppression
·        A phase of armed struggle utilising the operational environment as well as the political environment. 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 is referred to 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 Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) are employed but should rather be viewed as a phase in which the insurgents mount large-scale operations. Vehicles or motorcycles 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.

As can be noted, the above progression closely follows the Maoist model for revolution despite the fact that many insurgent groups are not Maoist organisations.

This type of progression, with variations, has become a very successful conflict-model and has proven itself in numerous armed insurrections in Africa. Although not every revolution in Africa has been successful, many important lessons are evident – lessons that remain applicable to counter-insurgency students – regardless of origin.

It is only by knowing and understanding this progression of conflict that an effective counter can be designed and implemented.

27 comments:

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

100%!! Well written. As my journey takes me deeper into the OE assignments, I recognise so much of what you've written AND how applicable to SWA/Angola/SWAPO/UNITA/32/FAPLA days and then the OE/FAPLA/UNITA days.

Have you ever considered writting a book on the Science of Warfare? Years ago I purchased a book called "Fighter Combat - Tactics and Maneuvering". It's a Practical and Scientific instruction on Air Combat. I know that you lecture and instruct, thus you probably have all the paperwork done, just formulate it into one solid work...Blueprint for Battle - Just a thought.

For what it is worth, I am immensly proud to say that I a South African like Eeben Barlow.

I hope you never stop your work or this blog, and I hope that you go from strength to strength...I really like seeing you fly in the face of those serpentile cowards of years gone by. Keep it going Eeben!

Regards
Robin

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

My apologies, I see that I have been typing too fast and typing OE instead of EO. So Sorry.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the kind words, Robin. I too am proud to be a South African.

I am already busy with such a book, Robin. However, time has been a constant enemy as I was unable to write much for the past 10 months.

As long as there are people who have an interest in what I say or think, I will continue with the blog. Sometimes though, I simply don’t have time or I am unable to access the blog due to location.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No problem Robin. I suspected you meant EO.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

It is is very good to see so many relevant posts coming up. I had to read this through a few times to catch that your "African progression" of revolution is beginning to appear here in the USA as the OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement, perceived resentment followed up by ever increasing violence (acts of terror) against soft targets for media attention.

I have always been fascinated by the history of South Africa, Rhodesia, and South-West Africa as a precursor to what may happen to my home country. Your points are valid but it is my belief that OWS here in the USA really has deep backing (with several layers of cutouts) to Marxist groups. Such is my fear.

I will have to keep thinking. And yes we are all interested in your next work. Just from this post alone the importance is ratcheting up.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Most of these so-called protests may start with noble aspirations John, but sooner or later they are exploited by others to achieve a set goal. I find it ironic that the OWS movement’s participants were able to receive an education, exercise free speech and generally have capitalism to thank for being in a position of privilege where they can protest. They have NO clue of real poverty, hunger or desperation. If they had, they wouldn’t be part of the OWS.

However, if I look to the north of Africa and flash points in the Middle East, the trend still seems to be relevant and is likely to grow as these protests gain ground and sponsors to keep them going.

Unless they are identified in time and corrective action implemented, they have the propensity to get out of hand. The media are usually quick to give these protests sympathetic coverage, something that motivates them all the more.

Rgds,

Eeben

Herbert said...

Eeben,

I found your piece on the Maoist model's continued applicability to African conflict to be intriguing. I'm not sure, but do you think the African application might be related to the fact that Mao's model was developed for a rural environment, and the rural environment still applies to much of Africa? Now I appreciate the urbanization underway in Africa and the fact that others (not least the Bolsheviks) successfully adapted Mao's model to primarily urban settings. I expect I need to think this through a bit more.

Your comments on whatever to call our terrorists, criminals, or the like cause me to again laugh at our newspapers here in the US who agonize over what to call them--their style guides constantly change to accommodate politically correct nuances. "Terrorist" has disappeared from the lexicon; "fighter" seems to be the most popular neutered compromise. Hell, my four-year-old granddaughter is a fighter.

Regards,
Herbert

PS: Having seen this gent Henk van de Graaf (representing South African farmers, et al) appearing before some EU forum, I've spent the last couple of days (old retired guys can do that) getting smarter on current goings-on in South Africa. As most of my input was from the internet, credibility is open to discussion; however, as one who has always held South Africa in a warm spot in his heart, I am very worried about what I see. I know that is a discussion for another day.

simon said...

Thanks Eeben. In my Novel/ Series, I intend to follow through all these levels in the following volumes. I hope I can do the concepts justice. Been studying this progression for some time. Thanks for all your insight and your book.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Africa is a continent that still has huge rural populations Herbert although many are gravitating towards the towns and cities in the hopes of a better life. The infrastructure was however not designed to cope with these influxes.

That said, I suspect it is taking what works and continuing to use it but obviously with adaptions where necessary. However, the model is also very applicable to urban scenarios. If we look at South Africa, there are many who do not want to see that first phase is already starting - the main causes being a lack of service delivery to the rural and urban populations as well as unemployment. The riots are already old news with new riots breaking out in numerous towns. Unless these grievances are taken care of rapidly and efficiently, the situation may escalate to the next phase in an attempt to install people who want to govern and are serious about it.

Although no armed struggle is yet taking place, a definite “verbal” struggle is underway. Many will however see the continued slaughtering of farmers as a definite second phase of a developing conflict and the lack of arrests and sentencing due to these murders leaves many extremely concerned. I know that many farmers have taken their concerns relating to farm murders and lack of security to the UN and the EU. I do doubt that they will get the results they want.

I am continually amused at how we try to give the bad guys politically correct names. I agree with my African brothers that all that is happening is that we are giving them a legitimacy that is defiantly not deserved. This false legitimacy is grabbed by certain elements in the media and used to propagate the enemy’s cause. In turn, this erodes the will of the people to resist what is happening as the perception is created that these poor “fighters” are merely trying to improve their lives.

Unless we wake up now, we won’t wake up until it is too late.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased you find some value in my ramblings, Simon.

I must admit that despite not having had much time to read lately, I am enjoying your book very much. To those wondering what book Simon wrote, I would suggest a visit to http://www.amazon.com/Task-Force-Intrepid-Katanga-ebook/dp/B006LLWWLW

As soon as I have done with it, I will definitely be writing a review for Amazon.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

Would I be right in saying that in Africa cash is king and one is able to 'purchase' intellegence to help in derailing the insugency faced? How else does one stop an enemy that drops his cammo's and puts on his jeans and t-shirt like the other 500 000 citizens in the town?

Also, the traditional 'communist' eastern countries that did their stints in Africa, certainly left a mark. In your book - 1994 we saw UNITA even displaying Marxist paintings. I can't help but think that many were totally instructed in the maoist ways.

Lastly...If Africa solved Africa's problems, surely we would be a much stronger and stable continent? Surely?


Regards
Robin

ps. Simon's book looks very good!

Hippofeet said...

A couple years ago, as I was going through the initial testing for the FFL, I met a fellow from Africa who believed, I think sincerely, that he stood a chance of being a "Big Man". Do you think this is common? I have since wondered if this sort of idea adds to localized conflict, and to the instigation of violence. Weird thing is, he was a really nice guy. he just wanted to gather guys to his banner, and be a local warlord. How many of thoses guys are out there, making life difficult?

Herbert said...

Eeben,

Thanks for your expanded thoughts regarding my first comment to this posting. I expect you are right: the Maoist model is a proven path that works. No better reason for using it.

Your comments concerning South Africa unfortunately confirmed in spades my impressions based on my research. All the signs, indicators, and red flags are in full view: Conflict ahead if immediate action is not taken. Call me cynic, but I expect the worst.

Regards,
Herbert

Ben said...

Eeben,

I only just started reading your blog but I've found both the entries and the comments to be a fascinating discussion of low-intensity conflict. Though your observations are specific to Africa, I think the rest of the world could certainly learn a thing or two. It seems a bit common-sense at times, but on the other hand it took the US Military several years to figure out how to fight these wars properly - in spite of the impact Vietnam had on our national psyche!

It seems we could definitely use more common sense in the profession of arms.

Latching onto the subject of what to call terrorists and insurgents, I think the ambiguity is very useful from a rhetorical perspective because it allows people to do some interesting mental gymnastics. Take the Libyan conflict, for example, where NATO supported, with the help of our (the US) military, an insurgency against Gaddafi's government. I interpreted this as the peoples' aspirations, given what information I had, but I noticed that there was a strong desire among critics of the intervention to call the National Transitional Council forces "traitors" or "rebels".

If the West had done nothing, we could then turn around and call the NTC's forces "freedom fighters" or "martyrs" instead, once Gaddafi was done with them. I'm certain the comparisons to Rwanda and Bosnia would have started almost immediately.

I am also looking forward to this hypothetical book on the science of warfare. Having finished about half of your previous book on EO, I find your writing style very effective and compelling. I must admit, I've developed a newfound appreciation for, or maybe it's more accurate to say interest in, Africa as a result. I suppose I was too young to do so when I was at the international school in Kenya, studying the Cold War as we did from a very Western perspective.

Regards,

Ben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Even though money is a motivator in collecting intelligence, one still needs to work to make sure you get what you need and not what the agent thinks you need, Robin. Its role in neutralising an insurgency is often relegated to a position it ought not to be. As all strategies are intelligence driven, it should be the foremost factor that is planned for.

There are very effective ways to locate an enemy who prefers jeans and t-shirts to a uniform. We have very successfully implemented strategies for governments who have had massive success against these types of insurgents. Obviously I will not discuss what the strategies are as it may compromise on-going counter insurgent operations.

I believe very strongly that Africa should solve Africa’s problems. But as long as it is held hostage by non-Africans, it will never achieve the stability and strength it could have. I have propagated this approach for a long time and it has done me no good beyond our shores. But such is the concern some have regarding a stable Africa.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t think it is a pure African phenomenon, Hippofeet. I have likewise met people beyond our shores that have the same ideas.

But, you will find that within certain areas the tribal hierarchy is still very powerful and therefore the sons of chieftains will see themselves as taking over the tribe one day – and want to maintain their customs and traditions. Does it add to localised conflict? I would suspect that in areas where tribes have for long held open animosity towards one another, it may well do. That said, I have found many of these younger chieftains to be much more amenable to co-existing peacefully with neighbouring tribes. Where foreigners (ie people not from their tribe) enter their areas and run business enterprises, this can give rise to jealousy and hence xenophobia.

In areas where the government has broken down, it is usually the criminal element who fight themselves into the position of warlord. In such an instance, it is rule of the strong-man through the barrel of a gun. They are ruthless and “rule” through fear and terror, despite making much of how they want to free the people. Usually this implies that they want to free the people of their assets and subjugate them completely.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is something that concerns many of us, black and white, immensely Herbert.

The red flags are certainly there. What does add to the concern is that the criminal element – they are well armed - seem to be leading the second phase of what we see happening. No-go zones are being established and as hard as we want to wish them away, we cannot.

A lack of action in this instance by the law enforcement agencies actually serves as a motivator.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Welcome to the blog, Ben.

In hindsight, many things appear to be common-sense. Although I focus on primarily on Africa, there are many parallels between conflicts here and elsewhere.

In the case of Libya, I personally thought it did more damage than good for the West to intervene. Within Africa, it has given cause for concern especially when we see how events are now unfolding in Libya and how Gaddafi, as a new-found “ally” who was courted by the West was suddenly deposed with Western support. Your comment re rebels vs freedom fighters is very valid in this case. Much of what people had in the “old” Libya will certainly be absent in the “new” Libya. I say this not because I was a fan or supporter of Gaddafi but because that is how these things inevitable turn out to be.

Thanks for your comments on my EO book. I am struggling to find time to complete the book I am busy with but I am sure my publisher understands my predicament as I spend a lot of time away from a computer. But, I will get there...In fact, I have to as a few African armies have also approached me for the book for their staff colleges.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

Is the day ever going to come that Africans wipe their own ...ummm noses? What was Iraq and Libya really about? Granted Iraq is outside the continent, but same old same old. If we never had gold, diamonds, platinum, oil etc. I can't help but think that we would be a rather quiet continent. Oh and while I'm on that topic, why do these money-pocket-lining fools keep using phrases like 'mining concessions'? And so what if African remunerate differently to the west, why should that be frowned upon? In Africa some people still pay with cattle. I'll go so far to say anyone that says anything negative about mining concessions is cheesed that they missed out. In 'War and conflict in Africa', in my opinion, one will almost always find that most conflicts can be rooted back to a wealthy western supporter with a hidden agenda.

BTW - have you approached the gov about dealing with Rhino poachers? A small team of ex 32 or Koevoet should be able to eradicate that issue quite quickly? (Unless the gov is still diving for cover when you enter a room?)

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Africa will only come into its own when governments take control over their resources for the good of all their people, Robin. I am not talking about nationalisation but rather about ensuring that African companies benefit from African resource extraction. Until that day, things will continue as they are. But, resource abundance is part of Africa’s curse.

Phrases like the one you mention are important in order to keep pressure on governments. I agree with you – they can pay in any way they wish. However, a concession holds no benefit unless it is extracted correctly and safely. Of course, the jealousy that abounds when “company x” is awarded a concession over “company y” is mind boggling.

Taking it one step further, look at what happened to Armscor and how it has taken giant leaps backwards after selling off the family silver. Again, this can be traced back to some foreign governments purposely misleading the SA government into believing that the defence industry was of no value to SA. Hidden agendas abound on this continent and we are all paying the price.

Rhino poaching can be stopped but as it is an organised criminal activity, it needs to be approached in the same manner. We are too soft on crime (inability of police to cope, poor training, human rights and all that rubbish) and the end result is that we are losing our wildlife heritage.

Rgds,

Eeben

Ian Westrip said...

Hi there,

Long time reader, first time poster and all that rubbish....

I firstly would like to say that I find your blog fascinating. Your understanding of war and armed conflict: it's methodologies, extensive operational knowledge and broader political awareness of the subject is absolutely baffling and all well grounded information. I suspect that you would be more informed on the subject than a majority of modern day soldiers and officers

To be perfectly straight I was very young when all of the conflict EO was involved in was occurring, and indeed, your earlier career with the SADF. I 'jumped on the boat' so to speak in my young adult life through study in the field of international security and intelligence.

I particularly like your reference to intelligence in that "you need to make sure you get what YOU need, not what the agent thinks you need". This is ever more occurrent in todays intelligence climate as states rely more and more on dependable intelligence; however, I have found that practitioners are often giving sub-par analysis of or misinterpreting good intelligence resulting in many late (say, past 10 years) outright intelligence failures.

To pick your brain, how do you find the intelligence climate in South Africa and its surrounds?

I am looking forward to reading your book 'EO:Against All Odds' and certainly would be interested in getting a hold of your forthcoming title. In the meantime, keep the posts coming, it's all great stuff.

Regards,

Ian

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for visiting and reading the blog, Ian. Your kind comments are also much appreciated.

I can only imagine how much of a challenge your studies have been but one fact remains and that is that no one can take away your education. Well done to you.

I believe that many of today’s military and law enforcement problems are as a result of poor intelligence, poor analysis and subsequently poor or disjointed strategies. In turn this has given the bad guys the initiative and motivation to continue with their actions against governments and communities. To make matters worse, they pursue their aims and objectives with a ruthlessness we do not reciprocate with – or really prepare for.

In my dealings with African governments, my approach is always to advise them that if they do not take control, the bad guys will. These are problems that will never be resolved over a cup of tea. If they do not ensure stability and security, investors will become wary and ultimately damage the economy – something the bad guys will exploit, to say nothing of how the media will use this to discredit whoever they wish. Additionally, they ought to solve their own problems and not rely on a foreign power to do it for them – the price they will be required to pay is simply too high – plus, they become susceptible to political and economical blackmail.

The intelligence climate in SA is closely tied to the political and economical climate. People who feel they have lost hope will turn elsewhere to find hope – even if that includes supporting the bad guys in order to fend for themselves and their families. I think our intelligence community, despite having capable people, has lost the initiative in terms of threat identification and threat forecasting and given gaps for the bad guys to exploit. Over reliance by the intelligence services on OSINFO has also created a lapse in targeting and I don’t believe we have the intelligence access we once had. All of this renders us unprepared to deal with threats that may endanger our national interests.

Rgds,

Eeben

Danco Roux said...

Why can't a country like Sierra leone use mining rights as a method of payment for the assistance from companies like EO? I recall in your book " Against all odds " that you never accepted this form of payment. Why is this considered unethical or illegal if the country itself cannot utilize these assets because of the exact same reason that they require help from companies like EO?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Countries can use their resources as they wish, Danco. However, despite the liars masquerading as journalists, EO never accepted that form of payment for the following reasons:

1. We needed money to pay the men, buy food and fuel, etc and not gold, diamonds or oil that would take time to sell – and we also did not know that type of business
2. We thought that had we accepted resources as payment, we would have been accused of some form of neo-colonialism. Regardless, we were accused of exactly that!!

When the rumour and innuendo started that EO was supposedly being paid in resources, many Western countries openly attacked us in their propaganda war. Ironically, they are now “helping” Africa in exchange for - or control over resources. The end result is that countries are losing control over their own resources. I guess that ultimately, that is seen as progress.

Rgds,

Eeben

Naman said...

Hi there..

First time poster and yada yada..

Having lived in Botswana for the past 10 years..I consider that place as my home.Even though I am Indian what happens in Africa is of great interest to me.I am currently a Lieutenant in the Indian Army and since this is my first command and we have deployed in Kashmir..so Sir any advice on how to deal with the insurgents who are very good at hit and run strikes.Our forces get hit on a regular basis and when we return fire .we are criticized for being trigger happy men.Sir you have been in this position on how to deal with guriella warfare.. so any additional advice would be brilliant

Thank you

Naman

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Welcome to my blog, Naman.

I am fortunate in that I was born, raised, schooled and fought and worked in Africa. It is a continent you either love – or as many others do, hate it. Despite its numerous challenges, I love the continent, its diversity and its people – except the “bad guys”.

Congratulations on being granted your first command. I am sure you are going to excel at your tasks and overcome the challenges that lay ahead of you.

Insofar as guerrilla warfare is concerned, terrain is everything. As you know, terrain dictates tactics and terrain in itself consists of geography, vegetation and population. Guerrillas utilise hit-and-run for numerous reasons but (in my book at least) the terrain allows them to do so. Contrary to belief, terrain is usually always neutral and he who uses the terrain to best advantage can achieve an advantage. I say “usually” because the perceptions of the populace within that terrain can impact on the neutrality of terrain. These perceptions are shaped by many influences such as the media, tribal ties, ethnic ties, religious affiliations and so forth – and of course how we and our men conduct ourselves when in their areas or houses.

In the conduct of counter-guerrilla operations (similar to COIN operations) your forces need to identify and neutralise the Trinity of Gravity of the enemy. At your level, this is not really possible as intervention at a higher level is required to cut the financial/equipment flow. Similarly, at your level, you can only exert a limited influence on the population within your AO – the larger influence comes at higher levels in order to shift perceptions in your favour.

What remains is therefore attrition of the enemy forces. In turn, this requires you to exploit the terrain to your advantage, inflict maximum casualties on the enemy and reduce your own casualties whilst limiting or negating any collateral damage.

Mental agility, detailed planning, good command and control, relentless pressure and aggressive action are some of the factors you can build on and instil in your men. That and terrain exploitation are key to your success.

I wrote a few pieces on COIN on this blog and perhaps they can be of value to you? Let me know if they are of value to you.

I wish you and your men good luck.

Rgds,

Eeben