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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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WHY GOVERMENTS FAIL...


I was recently asked my thoughts on why I think governments fail at countering insurgencies.

As I had recently completed that chapter of my book, I could list several reasons why I believe that governments fail in countering an insurgency. (It must, however, be borne in mind that these reasons are different from those of why a law enforcement agency or the armed forces fail at COIN).  

There is no single reason why governments fail in countering an insurgency; rather it is a colliding of a host of different factors and reasons that culminate at the right time to give impetus to an insurgency.

I believe that many governments fail to recognise that an insurgency is not “war” but rather a means to an end.

The following are inter alia some of the more common reasons (I have only briefly listed the points) why governments fail when having to counter an insurgency:

1.      Poor intelligence
2.      The lack of a realistic containment strategy and weak policies
3.      Denial or out of touch with the situation
4.      Lack of unity between government agencies and departments
5.      Ineffective policing approaches and techniques
6.      Incompetence and inefficiency within government agencies and departments
7.      Unacceptable high levels of corruption and crime
8.      Failure to understand the importance of perception of the nation
9.      Failure to understand the insurgent’s strategy
10.   Failure to isolate insurgents
11.   Believing that relative strengths decide the victor
12.   Failure to prepare
13.   Lack of credibility
14.   Lack of legitimacy
15.   Lack of information to the nation
16.   Lack of national and international support
17.   Poor governance and service delivery
18.   Divine right (A misguided belief that when having assumed power the government has a divine right to govern and to promulgate self-serving agendas)
19.   Abuse of power
20.   Failure to listen to the nation
21.   Losing the moral high ground
22.   Over-reliance on foreign aid and assistance

Governments that govern at the expense of the nation as opposed to governing for the nation place themselves in a position that will be rapidly exploited by aggrieved people and may ultimately result in a national uprising, a challenge to their authority or even into an insurgency.  

Governments will inadvertently provide the insurgents with numerous advantages if they fail to take note of the above factors. These factors provide the insurgents with a fertile breeding ground for discontent and recruitment. With national and international media coverage and support, the insurgency will intensify and government reaction may result in both heavy-handed action and over-reaction.

Unlike a conventional war, a COIN conflict’s main effort is aimed at restoring faith in the government and redressing real or perceived wrongs against the populace who are partaking or supporting the insurgency. Failure to do so will simply fuel the insurgency.

When government’s failure is handed-down to the armed forces to “rectify”, the armed forces become the target of government pressure to resolve the situation as fast as possible as well as actions and propaganda by the insurgents who, by their very actions, get free publicity in the media for their cause. 

42 comments:

michael b said...

It seems that everything you have written here is precisely what is happening to the T in Syria. One would think that those in government and positions of power both corrupt and otherwise would have read guidelines like these? Apparently the ascension to total power seems to negate the necessity for intelligence (of both kinds)and that the strong hand approach by means of torture, murder and the suppressing of civil liberties will ensure their tenure for decades to come.
The new trend that is sweeping the Arab ,Muslim world is worrying in that these despots are being toppled by "rebels" who are armed and supplied by groups both clandestine and quite openly within Western governments. It is strange that these countries wage wars against terror and then help install the very radicals they are waging this mythical war against?!

There are vociferous debates on forums pertaining to this sleight of hand practised by the American policy makers and shakers and it is guaging from the responses both in the social media and print media turning otherwise very proud "patriots" to the stars and stripes into home based dissidents against their president and his policies.

I wonder what the angle is being played by the current policy makers in America, it is in my mind akin to playing Russian roulette with a machine gun.

The seemingly lack of understanding of the basic premise you put forth in your piece is the undoing of Bashar Al Assad`s regime. Had he been a tad more liberal and westernized in his actions as oppsosed to just his outward appearance, he would not be in the pickle he currently finds himself in. He and his very pretty / callous westernized wife must surely have emergency travel bags packed and ready. More Arab inclined leaders should be reading more articles like yours and using the hearts and minds approach as opposed to the blow off their heads and tear out their hearts as is seemingly being practiced.
Michael B Da Silva (just a brain fart)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Due to space, I obviously shortened each part of what I see as the reasons for failure, Michael.

Whereas any country that values its liberties will do whatever is necessary to protect its national interests and vital interests, I think that what we are seeing happening in MENA is going to come back to haunt one day. There has also been a massive outflow of weapons such as SAMs, HMGs etc out of these newly “liberated” countries. One can only speculate who will be using the SAMs and against what.

You need to remember that the US currently prefers to engage in Foreign Internal Defence (FID) ie pre-emptive attacks against any potential or real threat. With its massive strategic warfare capability, this actually makes sense. I cannot condemn this – after all, we did it too but simply called it what it is – a pre-emptive strike. After all, the best form of defence is attack but one needs to be sure who you are attacking. I think the lines as to who is friend and who is foe are becoming blurred and that makes for a very complex operating environment.

The points I listed are what I consider reasons why governments fail at containing insurgencies. Looking at why armed forces fail at COIN is a different matter.

Whereas Hearts-and-Minds have an important role, I believe that it has an entry point and an exit point. However, when governments expect the armed forces to adopt an offensive posture to a passive posture, it is an admission that government has failed to govern and fulfil its obligations.

As for Syria, it is a matter of time before it too collapses into total disarray. The pressure in the pressure cooker is building up and it is likely to explode into total chaos. I am very concerned.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

It just seems like the insurgents hold most of the cards. They commit atrocities with impunity, they intimidate, they do everything and anything they can to strike fear into the population and almost bully then into supporting them. Just how big is that mountain that one must climb to squash an insurgency? I guess the bigger picture is make it so that an insurgency never happens.

And who the heck supplies these guys with their weapons to fight a war on the government? I'm not one for conspiracy theories, however I'm certainly not a fool, I do believe that Syria is paying a price for possible involvement in supporting the Iraq insurgents. Who is supplying the Syrian 'uprisers' with arms and funds?

You really punch above your weight Eeben. Your ability to travel in the shadows of publicity, yet have this expanse of rich and valuable knowledge is a loss to RSA. I said it in one of my first posts, I wish that our gov had seen beyond the smoke and mirrors. We would have had the finest armed force anywhere.

BTW - Could not wait, so I bought Roelf's book from overseas, looks really good.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

They truly hold the cards only when governments fail to live up to their obligations and promises, Robin. When governments truly govern, the locals will resist attempts to subvert and bully them. Look at what happens in SA where the police fail to do their duty – the people create vigilante groups and police their own neighbourhoods.

In its early stages, it is not that difficult to overcome – no matter what anyone says. However, the longer it is allowed to continue the more difficult it becomes to defeat it. But it is still possible if approached smartly. The problem usually is not in defeating armed insurgents, it’s about winning back the support of the populace.

The Syrian uprising is the result of numerous failures at government level and at intelligence level. One only has to look at the media reporting to see who is actually fuelling this.

Thanks for your compliment. The SA government has been its own worst enemy re its foreign policy and that has opened the door to numerous governments and their PMCs. SA’s loss is their gain. Unfortunately, it has passed the tipping point and the SA govt has lost the strategic initiative. Yes, our armed forces are a sad reflection of our defence capabilities. Our government was foolish enough to listen the many foreign advisors who advised them to strip it bare of experience and discipline. The result is what we see.

I have not yet read Roelf’s book but I am pleased to see that he wrote it. There are many sides to a coin and I could only tell part of the story. I am sure his book will fill in many of the gaps.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben, I have a rather valuable collection of books on 32Bat and EO, so I often look for additional reads and came across this, do you know if it is any good or is it 'not ok-ed'. http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Executive-Outcomes-Jesse-Russell/9785512792544

BTW - I am still happy to help anyone in getting your book when they are available here. Overseas people struggle to get it, the retail at the moment is about ZAR350 excl shipping. I don't mind you passing my email on and helping a few guys. Your book is a must read.

Regards
Robin

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

And just to rub salt, it makes matters worse when the insurgents commit atrocities while dressed in regular national army fatigues!

(Off topic - Did the S/Leonne Gov ever come good on the astronomical sum owed to EO? According to my research, they never did and a lot of operational funds had to be paid by EO's savings from the Angolan operation that ended.)

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Piet Nortje is writing a new book, Robin. He wrote “32 Battalion” and the new book is a follow-up on it. He also recently published a limited edition on Operation Savate (Op Tiro-Tiro). Although I never took part in Savate, it was the operation that blooded 32 Bn.

Thanks for pointing me towards the Russel/Cohn book re EO. I would not set too much store by it as it is apparently compiled from Wikipedia. Anyone who writes a book and is too lazy to do any research immediately sets of bells in my head.

Unfortunately, the EO book I wrote seems to becoming more and more expensive for folks across the pond. However, as I am not the publisher, I can do nothing about it. Thanks for your kind offer to assist anyone who is looking for it. If anyone writes me, I shall be sure to pass your contact details to them – once I have cleared it with you.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Unfortunately it is something we see happening over here as well Robin, although here it is criminals sometimes masquerading as policemen.

No, the govt of Sierra Leone never honoured their agreement – and never will. They were pressured by the World Bank, the IMF, the UN and a few Western countries to get rid of us so they could pretty much dishonour their agreement and have massive backing behind them to do so.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Thanks Eeben,

I have Piet's 32 Battalion book, not the Savate one though. Thank you for the heads up. I'll find it, it will be a must for my collection. What I do know is that 32 battalion lost 10% of their total dead (in the war) right there in that attack and that UNITA contributed rotten intel that contributed to the carnage.

As for the wiki book, the same thought crossed my mind regarding the laziness not to mention the accuracy of a cut and paste book.

I must tell you that your ambush in the Cahama area in the dark targeting the trucks....um...while sitting 'amongst' enemy mortar positions is a story that sits in my mind. To be running with a hornet's nest literally within shouting distance of your back and turning air extraction away....absolutely incredible. Most men would have brought a chopper into a very hot extraction and probably cost that aircrew their lives and the loss of a valuable machine. Simply heroic Eeben.

(IMF, World Bank, UN...one and the same. My project is still on track and their ineptness is a strong point within the context. Speaking of which, Roelf's book is a major bridge over a few chasms for me, really excited about it)

Thank you again for this valuable blog.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

UNITA always gave bad intelligence, Robin. It was also a case of int officers wanting to believe them instead of confirming what had been told. UNITA were however very quick to claim credit for SADF operations. Sadly, our politicians and some senior officers were enamoured by UNITA and trusted them more than they did their own men on the ground. Their love of UNITA ultimately lead to some serious problems for the SADF and ultimately for SA.

Cahama was a very scary place in its heyday. I think all of us were scared that night but then with a lot to do, training and pride takes over. I knew that if we lost the chopper, the pilots would be reluctant to extract us in future. No heroics there...simply survival.

I look forward to reading Roelf’s book as well when I lay my hands on it.

Good luck with your project.

Rgds,

Eeben

Herbert said...

Eeben,

Your posting is in my view quite complete and representative of both your experience and expertise. My comment may well be just my need to get something off my chest, but here goes.

I began to read and study about insurgency (Mao, Guevara, et al) and counterinsurgency (Fall/Indochina, Thompson/Malaya, et al) over 50 years ago. I have gone to war and personally killed insurgents in multiple theaters and two national armies. I have taught counterinsurgency in a US national war college in addition to serving many years in a US national intelligence service. I believed the mantra of counterinsurgency and applied it. Looking back and trying to be honest, I can't say I can see much overall success.

What I am ineloguently trying to say is that I have lost faith. I have cycled back to "kill the bastards" and do it rapidly and fiercely. I know the arguments against this "inhuman" and "uninformed" approach. Stalin and Mao didn't have much problem with insurgents and dissidents, did they. No, I don't want to live in a Mao/Stalin-like society, but I think I have decided that Western societies don't have the backbone, tenacity, and wherewithal to counter insurgencies successfully.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and may have gotten myself off track. What do you think?

Regards,
Herbert

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You have opened a can of worms and my comment is about to make it worse, Herbert. My answer to your comment will most probably result in people abandoning my blog...and accusing me of “inhuman” and “uninformed” beliefs and taking no cognisance of the poor insurgent’s human rights.

You hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned. The piece I wrote was why governments fail at COIN – and not the armed forces. Of course, the most crucial mistake I believe is that governments view COIN as something mystical and wondrous and they do not know what they are dealing with nor how to deal with it. They seem to think it is a “strategy” but it is not. But there is nevertheless the absolute lack of backbone and drive to end it decisively from government’s side – especially given that they - through misguided policies and an inability to govern - usually caused the insurgency anyway.

Why the armed forces fail is a different story. Part of the problem is the misunderstood mantra of “hearts and minds” – and the decision by government to order the military to conduct tasks that should be government tasks. Soldiers are supposedly taught to find, fix and fight the enemy – not build infrastructure and govern people. To do this, they need to be correctly trained, equipped, supported, well-led and aggressive as hell. Their aim should be to hunt down the insurgent – and kill him with ruthless efficiency.

To me, “hearts and minds” means where possible, reduce collateral damage, treat the locals and their property respectfully when encountered and if the situation and time permits, we can provide some medical care. Our mission is to kill the enemy – government’s mission is to do its job and govern – and that implies providing the services and support to the populace that they ought to. Hearts and minds has sidetracked us to the point where we seem to think it is our primary mission and the hunting and killing the insurgent secondary.

The insurgent views his approach as one of protraction – ours should be one of maximum attrition as rapidly and aggressively as possible. As he believes in what he is fighting for, so too should we believe in what we are fighting for.

Mao and Stalin didn’t have an insurgency problem because they eliminated any opposition with a vengeance. Whereas we do not wish to live in a similar environment, there are many lessons to be learnt from them.

Ultimately, the main effort to end an insurgency lies with government. The armed forces must remove the violent aspect of the insurgency and thereby create the climate in which the government can do its job. Although one cannot attribute percentages to this, I believe government has an 80% responsibility and the armed forces a 20% responsibility to end the insurgency.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

Your response to Herbert`s comment is one that may illicit some human rights activists to poo in their panties but it is truly a fact that the military are there to do the job and get the business done. doing this entalis the use of deadly and decisive force. I made mention of hearts and minds in my comment but i was by no means saying or meaning that i believe in tree hugging and sitting around a camp fire singing Kumbaya and holding hands with the enemy. The hearts and minds that EO practiced was what i was hinting at and those approaches EO had as you also wrote in your book are the type i spoke of.
the enemy must be sorted out by military means and these means mean that violence is necessitated. No army has the time to sit around and fulfill humanitarian requirements while chasing down the enemy but they must respect the civilian populace and their homes.

killing people is what war is about. It is a dirty business but it needs to be done, if the world adopts the courageous constraint approach then the dissidents will run amok,create chaos and murder with impunity assassinating whom they want summarily and without trial.
I hope i have not come accross negatively but i concur with Hebert`s comment in its entirity and i always take your posts as a veritable gospel as you have always shown clear thought and maintained your ground and writing.
A tad off topic:
I have recently started reading a book titled Secrets and Lies and deals with the Wouter Basson chemical weapons and biological program. I dont truly trust the author`s as they seem to be tree huggers and doing their best to expose and discredit everything. The program may have had its flwas but i suspect every entity within the old regime had its niggles and detractors etc. What was done right under the worlds noses is quite a feat in its own right. I don`t know how you feel about Stoute Kabouter Wouter Basson but at least one thing is clear. The old South Africa had one hell of story to tell and its going to be a far better one than the current regime`s story which is so deeply slumped in nepotism and self enrichment that it eclipses that of the old regime. The old guard paved the way for the new and if it were not for the old the new would have no Komrades or martyrs to hold up high.

I am very concerened by the recent rumour mill around the veteran benefits that has all the old soldiers voluntarily arriving at camps to give the intelligence apparatus their details including cell numbers and addresses. I must admit that out of desperation i too "paid" R80 to some charlatans to process my application, but i no longer can be found at that address anymore. I have the express belief that it is in the interest of the current regime to keep tabs on their old adversaries who live in the country afterall there are many thousands of well trained soldiers out there and will be the basis of any rebellion if it ever came to that!
This is not war talk but i am very concerned about the trend in getting old soldiers to willingly disclose their details such as addresses and cell numbers which can very easily be triangulated and their whereabouts be plotted to within 30 metres or so. I live with the belief that this is Africa and weirder stuff has happened in the past in our neighboring countries and more recently in the north. COIN would be so much easier if the "enemy" had already willingly given their exact co-ordinates.

just blowing spit bubbles here.
regards MIKE:

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suppose it depends who they support Mike, either the insurgents or stability. The reality is that the only way to stop armed insurgents is to kill them or force them to lay down their arms. This can only be done from a position of strength and not weakness. As Gen Subianto said to me several years ago, one day the West will realise that you cannot come to terms with them over a cup of tea.

Where EO did practise hearts and minds ie medical, providing clean water etc, it drew condemnation from all quarters – apart from those we helped. Those that were quick to condemn us either lost their lucrative arrangements with the insurgents when the wars ended – or lost their jobs after losing their credibility. But as far as hearts and minds go, it is NOT a primary responsibility of the armed forces.

Courageous constraint and restrictive rules of engagement are, in my mind, attempts to make war in such a manner that the enemy retains the initiative and that his human rights are upheld at all costs. There are those that openly condemn conflict but secretly do everything they can to keep it alive – even if it means disadvantaging our own forces.

There were a lot of good things in the old SADF but some not so good things as well. As for the development of our A-bombs, several governments were aware of the development and provided some assistance. But, history is always written by the victor and although the SADF won the shooting war, we lost the political war – so the bottom line is, we lost.

I would not worry too much about giving my info to the intelligence services – unless I have something to hide. I am sure they have most guys’ details anyway.

As for a rebellion, I doubt it will ever come from the old soldiers. We are currently witnessing the beginnings of a low intensity insurgency in SA but no one seems to have noticed. And, it is not coming from the old soldiers...But that is an entire political matter and not within the scope of my blog.

Rgds,

Eeben

michael b said...

on a totally unrelated topic.
mega congratulations, you have eclipsed the 200 thousand views of your blog.

Mike

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

Many years ago I was in Dublin and met with a friend. I asked the question "why does the south not support the IRA in their armed struggle over Northern Ireland and why is the south not in favour of the IRA winning?" The answer was a life lesson that we are seeing here now: He said "The problem is that all the IRA know is to fight, if they win, what will they do, who will be next on their list?" The struggle for RSA remains, it's the role players that have changed and new enemies have emerged. This insurgency started many years ago. That monster that ate the Lion? It's eating itself.

And it was a WWII American military man that said (referring to the Japanese)"to win any war,you have to kill the bastards in their thousands." We all know how that ended.

Your blog has taken me to the doorstep of Koevoet. Your description of a successful COIN operation/unit describes Koevoet very well. PLAN/Swapo always knew that when they were being tracked, that certain death would follow. Some escaped, but the result was almost always the same. I still believe that Koevoet was one of the finest COIN examples to date and the only reason why they were villianised was because they did their job well. (Much like 32 Battalion)

Eeben, you are so right, how on earth can anyone expect a soldier carrying a weapon that is there to kill when required, win hearts and minds? C'mon, 'hearts and minds' is a political term and that is where it belongs.

Although a good example of winning support was EO eradicating the RUF from the major areas in S/Leonne. Ofcourse politics stepped in and made sure that this was reversed and the UN showed us how to win the hearts and minds of the RUF! Someone should have told Foday that he was supposed to 'have' coffee not Kofi.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Mike!

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

As I had no involvement in the Irish situation Robin, I cannot comment with first-hand knowledge but I do believe the situation was rather complex as well. However, as we see in SA, simmering anger and disillusionment can create massive problems for any government.

In a counter insurgency operation, it is – in my opinion – always protraction versus attrition. Koevoet was very successful in its mobile operations as was 101Bn and they both made use of mobility to ensure attrition. Koevoet became well-known and therefore attracted a lot of publicity especially from those in the media who supported the insurgency and that – along with some members not respecting the locals – put them on the defensive as far as the media was concerned. But, I still believe the entire effort was lost due to politics.

Of course, the UN’s involvement in all of these African conflicts has resulted in successes by the armed forces being reversed in order to achieve political victories for the insurgents. Both Angola and Sierra Leone serve as good examples of incompetence.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Life sometimes hands us terrible moments, Private. You have lived some of those moments and your recent loss added to the burden. These moments sometimes leave us bitter and angry but being bitter and angry does not change anything as we cannot turn back the clock.

As someone once said, “It is not walking through the fire that matters but how you walk through it”. We all have moments of weakness but again, it is how we deal with them that matters.

Keep your chin up and don’t let the past haunt your future.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alex said...

Hi Eeben,

I just came on here to quickly ask any recommendations you may have for good books on 32 Battalion - and then found that there was already a conversation running on that particular topic! I plan to get a copy of Nortje's book ASAP, I think it will prove useful for my research in future. Roelf's book too, I'd love to manage to establish a collection of 'reputable' works on EO and similar subjects.

Also, I have noticed that your book has shot up in price over here as well (UK). On Amazon the cheapest used copy is now about £90. I got mine new for about £20 but that was three years ago. A shame it's so hard to get abroad, but rest assured I'm currently reading it cover-to-cover to refresh my memory, and it remains an excellent read. Looking forward to your next publication.

Regards,

Alex

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I enjoyed reading Piet’s book on Operation Tiro Tiro (Savate), Alex. Although it was before my time, it was probably the most defining battle in the Bn’s history. The book’s title is “Victory at a price”.

Of late, there are many ex-soldiers writing their stories. I am very pleased because if these things are not documented, they will be lost forever. I am equally pleased that Roelf wrote his account of EO as he was at the forefront on many occasions and played an important role in SL.

I am led to believe that my EO book is incredibly expensive. I too have noted its price on Amazon but sadly I have no control over prices as it is something my publisher controls. I am also aware of the fact that it is virtually unobtainable abroad but again, I have no control over its distribution.

My current work is edging closer to its edit and I must admit that it was a lot more work than I anticipated.

Rgds,

Eeben

Marco said...

Eeben,

Ek het 'n hele paar jaar gelede jou boek gekoop maar eers onlangs begin lees(by hoofstuk 38 op die oomblik). Was ook al toevallig op jou (gewese?) plaas, die Cowboy school, waar ek 'n paar baie lekker boots gekoop het. My ouers woon nog al die jare daar in die omgewing (Hartebeestfontein).

Ek moet sê die dikte van jou boek het waarskynlik veroorsaak dat ek dit nooit voorheen gelees het nie, lol. Was maar redelik onlangs wat ek besluit het om die boek te vat en jou kant van die saak te lees. Soos jy duidelik verseker self weet is daar geweldig baie informasie en disinformasie in die wêreld en na aanleiding van 'n ander boek geskryf deur 'n vorige NIS agent het ek onthou dat ek iewers 'n boek van jou nog het en besluit om die te lees (baie inligting in hierdie tipe biografieë alhoewel altyd nogal moeilik om waarheid en leuens te onderskei). My belangstelling was nie werklik om meer te weet omtrent EO. Was meer om meer agtergrond te kry oor die vorige "bedeling" (regering) se optredes maar ek moet sê jou boek was baie interessant en het heelwat dinge bevestig oor wêreld gebeure en optredes van sekere wêreld organisasie. As leek bly dit 'n interessante wêreld en kan mens baie inligting bekom deur hierdie tipe boeke te lees (het ek al agter gekom) maar dit bly maar moeilik om waarheid en leuen te onderskei en elkeen probeer ook maar deur sy "eie" metodes om sin te probeer maak van dit alles. Deur uit die geskiedenis te leer kan mens beter die toekoms in gaan (wyse manne lank voor my wat hierdie waarhede kwytgeraak, lol) en daarom dat hierdie gebeure my o.a interesseer.

Wat vir my baie interessant is omtrent jou boek is die erge propaganda veldtog wat teen EO gestry was. Soos ek reeds genoem het was dit vir my 'n bevestiging van sekere organisasies se MO (agter die gordyne). Dit bevestig ook maar net weer (ongelukkig) dat regerings nie maklik vertrou kan word nie.

Eerlik gesê, ek is nou nie juis 'n ondersteuner van die bestaande regering nie aangesien sekere aspekte van die vorige bedeling vir my meer sin maak maar dit is maar 'n persoonlike oortuiging. Uit jou boek is dit duidelik dat jy nie in politiek belangstel nie en jou ook nie deur godsdiens laat beïnvloed nie (beide "belangrik" in my beskeie mening). Snaaks genoeg het ek heelwat respek vir die feit dat jy jou nie daardeur laat beïnvloed nie (godsdiens/politiek) en plaas dit jou (en ander in baie gevalle) in 'n (unieke)posisie om in baie gevalle 'n baie nugtere opsomming te kan maak van 'n spesifieke saak (iets wat ek sal erken die res van ons ook by kan leer!).

Ek sou baie graag wou hoor hoe jy die toekoms (van die wêreld en nie spesifiek SA) beskou. Ek aanvaar natuurlik jy is 'n baie besige persoon en sal verseker nie geaffronteer of beledig voel indien jy nie kans sien nie. Sal ook eerder verkies om dit via epos (wat meer privaat is en verhinder dat elke tweede Jan-Raap-en-sy-maat daarop kommentaar lewer as jy nie omgee nie. Maar weereens as jy nie kan (of wil nie), geen probleem! Ons het elkeen ons paadjies wat ons loop en ons dinge wat ons moet doen om dit te laat gebeur!

Ek sal ook graag wil weet of jy ander boeke ook geskryf het (rondom strategieë, ens) wat beskikbaar is om te koop. Kennis kan mag wees en daarvan het jy duidelik heelwat! Ek reken jy kry natuurlik baie sulke "requests" en is al seker redelik dik daarvoor (veral aangesien baie dit wil misbruik)! So ek gaan jou nie kwalik neem indien jy dit wil ignoreer nie, lol (my navraag).

Ons het maar elkeen ons idees oor hoe die lewe veronderstel is om te moet wees en elkeen dink maar hy is reg (wat nie noodwendig so is nie)! So oordeel ek ook maar net volgens wat ek dink moet wees. Maar wat vir almal geld is dat mens altyd iets by iemand anders kan leer.

Marco.

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

I have ordered Piet's latest publication due for release on the 15th Sept - The Terrible Ones: The Complete History of 32 Battalion: Volumes 1 and 2. (I also ordered A Whisper in the Reeds: Nine Charlie 32: Signalling 'the Terrible Ones' by Justin Taylor)

I have not found 'Victory at a Price' yet, but I will.

I am well into Roelf's book and I must say it is what has been missing for me. But it really shows the challenges that EO faced on the ground. How on earth did the guys ever pull all the pieces together in both Angola and S/Leone?

I must ask you, when your guys hit the ground in Sierra Leone and you got the info on what they were facing, (Terrain, massive RUF controlled territories, no links between Government strongholds etc) was it what you expected or were you concerned? It seems from Roelf's book that it was a surprise that the government strongholds were each isolated, and the ridiculous vegetation!

Regards
Robin

michael b said...

http://cryptome.org/za-disrupt.htm

mike. needless to say.

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

BTW - The 'wiki' book is using a Rooivalk on the cover for EO! Says it all, I'll give that a miss thanks.

Regards
Robin

Alex said...

Hi Eeben,

Just read this article on one of the current multitude of African conflicts, and thought I'd chuck it into the mix.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18796872

Seems to fit rather nicely with the context of your latest post, but the thing I found interesting is the points it makes about the integration of rebel groups and their fighters into the military and the parallel with the FAA's insistence on you and EO coming up with a plan to integrate UNITA into the Angolan Armed Forces as part of your contract.

I don't have a question, per se, on this, merely the observation that the demobilization and integration of former rebels into a unified state is a continual and recurring problem in Africa, as well as elsewhere. I have read in more than one instance that Paul Bremer's arbitrary disbanding of the Iraqi military and police provided a huge boost to the insurgencies, both in terms of unemployed and desperate men needing income in a poor and dismembered country, and so many ex-soldiers and policemen trying to figure out what to do next.

The advantage EO was able to glean by employing men like this when a similar situation occurred in SA is well-documented in your book, but I can imagine it is one of the hardest points for a new regime trying to rebuild a country after a civil war (DRC for instance, or it will be when the conflict is resolved properly if the day ever comes)is the reintegration of the members of rebel movements into the state apparatus without disenfranchising them completely but also weeding out the ones who were 'caught up' in it from the genuinely psychotic war criminals.

Also a side-note that of course I don't mean to equate the men of the former SADF, Koevoet etc with the nastier elements of various rebel organizations, I hope my above points do not imply such a comparison.

A side note: I know the article's referral to the UN as 'a reputable organization' may raise some hackles here but otherwise I think the article was a reasonable assessment of the points at issue. Correct me if I'm wrong.

As I said, I don't have a 'question' as such, but if anyone has any thoughts on this I'll be interested to learn from them.

Regards,

Alex

Ben Gill said...

Hello Eeben-

My name is Ben Gill and I'm a freelance journalist based in Ventura, California. I'm extremely interested in your career and work, especially with Executive Outcomes during the 1990s, and I was wondering if you might be willing to speak with me via email a bit further. You can contact me at ben.gill394@gmail.com

You can read more about me and my work, if you're interested, over at my website at bengarnettgill.com (still under construction). Thanks in advance.

-Sincerely, Ben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visit, Marco. I am responding in English for the benefit of my international visitors as well as the fact that I write atrociously in Afrikaans.

Re my book, no one I named as agents or provocateurs has to date come forward to deny their roles in creating and providing disinformation on EO and myself. In that sense, I did not use my book to misinform as so many others used their pens and the media to expand on their lies. Additionally, what I wrote came from EO documentation and numerous interviews with EO staff as well as foreign client-government staff.

Whereas one can harbour your own thoughts on matters such as politics and religion, I have never seen it as my duty to force my views on others. I understand the importance of both matters as much as anyone else. But, when working in a foreign country on behalf of a government, neither I nor my men are tasked to give political and religious indoctrination. Indeed, these are the two aspects that directly lead to the majority of conflicts and wars and we view our role as adding value to military, intelligence and law enforcement operations to reach a speedy conclusion and not in prolonging them.

I mainly keep my thoughts on what I see happening in the world to myself. When I am asked by a paying government for my opinion, I give it with the rider that it is my opinion.

I am in process of completing another book (details are posted on the blog) but time has been against me in keeping to my deadline.

I learn from anyone and everyone who is willing to speak to me and impart knowledge.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I too am looking forward to readings Piet’s works on 32 Bn, Robin. Sadly though, I have not been able to find Roelf’s book in my local down the road. I have noted that there are several new books appearing written by men who were there. If they do not document their side of what they saw, felt and experienced, some important history will be lost forever.

I was extremely fortunate that there were many good men in EO who understood the challenges they were faced with and could work around them or exploit them. Everyone had a job to do and the majority did their jobs incredibly well.

Military outposts are often placed with the misconception that by simply having them, the area is dominated. This not only shows a lack of understanding of the situation but also reflects badly on whoever devised the strategy.

Terrain is always a major factor but like the weather conditions, it remains neutral. Roelf and his men were able to exploit it to their advantage and the disadvantage of the rebels.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I wrote about these clowns in my book, Mike.

The compiler of that report was the same person who set up a fake EO to ensure that he and his cronies could generate a lot of false information on the company and get paid. Not only was he using the intelligence services as a cover for his economical crimes, he later (just a few years ago) fleeced the SA government and a European government out of millions of dollars. Perhaps because he was one who fed the media they did not dare report on his criminal activities.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Alex.

I am not convinced that an integration of rebel forces that have not conclusively been defeated into a regular army makes that much sense – unless it is very strictly overseen. The mess the UN have achieved in the DRC is an example of what can go wrong if you arm and retrain rebels forces and they then take back to the jungle.

FAA correctly assessed that the UNITA’s military forces were at odds with the political structure and wanted the war to end. But still, the forces of UNITA had to be defeated on the battlefield. That would have made integration easier but still not without its problems. However, the internationally imposed ceasefire simply gave UNITA breathing space to rearm, recruit new forces to replace the decimated forces and then go back to war – whilst being “overseen” by the UN.

History is written by the victor and therefore, the SADF, Koevoet and other SA forces will forever remain the “evil ones”. All the lessons that were learnt during those years are not accepted as it would be politically incorrect to do so.

I believe that rebels or terrorists must be relentlessly pursued and destroyed with ruthless aggression. Only once they are defeated can a negotiation take place but if it is done from a position of weakness by the government, then it is a waste of time.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visit, Ben.

Unfortunately, I have no desire to speak to the media on most things, least of all on what I am now doing.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

Sadly, I don't think Roelf's book will be in SA yet. I order from bookdepository.co.uk (or .com) They ship free internationally and seem to get these books first. And I must add, they deliver very quickly.

One thing that Roelf's book shows is how incredibly adaptable a well trained/experienced force can be and how they clearly used 'other' things to counter the vegetation. It is a must read. Another thing I like is that he talks of failures on EO's part. The book is not just sunshine, he talks about the first time he ever turned around while on an advance, it is a brilliant read. He is an extraordinary man, (and I don't mean to detract from the fact that most EO men were giants).

Hope you get the book soon. Guaranteed to delay your completion of your book even further! I cannot put it down. I'm tying it in with your book, Fearless Fred's, AL J Venter's 2 books and a book by a West African author. WOW!

Thanks for always answering all replies. Sincerely, thank you.

Owi said...

Hi Eeben. I saw this article in a Nigerian newspaper today and it mentions you specifically and past dealings of executive outcomes. The article attempts to draw business links between you and a fellow called Tony Buckingham and also a company called shoreline oil.I think you will be very interested in the article. Follow the link below:

http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=92278:former-mercenary-signs-850m-nigerian-oil-deal&catid=31:business&Itemid=562

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The majority of men in EO were great men, Robin. Of course, there were problems with a few and many who later claimed to have been EO but never were. Men such as Roelf did their jobs well and in fact, some local parents in SL named their kids after many of the EO guys – including Roelf.

It sounds as though you are building up quite a collection of books.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link Owi.

It is unfortunate that journalists in Nigeria perpetuate the story that Military Intelligence in SA started. It is a fact that I met Tony B in 1993 and I think the last time I saw him was in 1996. But, lazy journos research their stories on Google and, when they don’t find what they are looking for, they become “creative”.

I would have thought that Nigerian journalists had more important things to write about than perpetuate disinfo and try to smear someone who is investing in the country. But such is the power of the internet.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robin said...

Hi Eeben,

I read that they named their new born after Roelf!! How he did what he did in SL, I have no idea. He literally administered and policed an entire region of that country.

As for that Nigerian report, it's fraught with inaccuracies, and some wonder why you won't entertain reporters...prime example.

As for my collection of books, I do have a very extensive and valuable collection. But, if I want to know the truth, the real picture, I need to read the same story through more than one eyewitness. In doing so, not only do I see the truth, but I am also fortunate to get rich detail when the recollections link up.

One fact that rings through and throughout about EO in all my reads, is that there was a genuine care for their personnel. Your book is very clear on the lengths that EO went to, to evacuate the wounded and to get them to the best medical facilities at massive cost to the company. A fact that I recently learned was that EO was one of the only PMC's that paid leave. Nellis documented that when he took leave he was paid.

EO was one of the greatest companies, and the wonderful thing is that, as you so rightly say, through these books, it will live forever and will be viewed through facts not imagination and speculation.

Regards
Robin

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That is correct, Robin. I understand a few kids were named after EO men.

There were many things that were wrong in EO as we often had to learn as we went along. But all in all, I am immensely proud of the men who made it what it was. However, I cannot understand a company giving the very men who make the company what it is leave and then not paying them. Pathetic at best.

Rgds,

Eeben

Zach said...

Howdy,

I am a political science student so the question of how a government does its part in countering such domestic upheavals interests me greatly. Personally I would put an emphasis on asserting or maintaining legitimacy. There are numerous reasons why insurgencies might arise, even in nations that practice good, contemporary political discourse. However most, if not all armed civil conflicts stem from the same basic problem: a lack of legitimacy. This is not to imply that the individuals participating in the conflict on either side or the regime that is threatened will necessarily understand this to be the cause. Indeed a lack of legitimacy takes any forms, most frequently unchecked corruption, most notoriously when governments force sanctions, criminalize, take actions against, or institutionalize the inequality of a certain subset of the population.
Legitimacy is the basis of government; the monarchies of centuries past derived their legitimacy from divine right. That worked until the governments found it necessary to weaken their particular Church and in doing so undermined their source of power. Later, the monarchies that had survived the dissolution of theater-wide religion were forced into parliamentary systems to preserve unity, the legitimacy of the monarch had become second to the legitimacy of currency, this provided an avenue for the aristocracy of many nations (I am thinking of Brittan as an example) to take power from the monarch and invest it in a legislative body. This movement towards a broader base from which a government could draw its claim of legitimacy eventually led to the modern forms of democracy we are acquainted with. At present democracy is the most legitimate form of government, by that I mean one can draw a straight line from the decisions made by the people of a democratic nation to the decisions made by the legislative and executive bodies of that nation and therefore the law and policies will reflect, to a certain extent, the will of the people (note: this applies more to some nations than others and it can certainly be argued that in certain circumstances the will of the people is entirely subverted by elected officials, it is also important to note that there are many forms of democracies and some have a greater claim to legitimacy than others).
The modern constitutional state is capable of a significant amount of latitude if its base of legitimacy is intact, i.e. military action to protect against invasion, police action to control the populace, and actions abroad may be undertaken without significant risk to the regime. In the instance of police action to control the populace upheavals are easy to quell when the people want to be governed, if support for the political structure is intact the desire to return to normal life is evident. Regimes that cannot claim that populace as the source of their legitimacy have few other options to back up their claim. Those other options are the legal structure of the nation or the military might of the regime. Both of these claims can be defeated, the first by legal contradiction or public will, the second by arms or international intervention.
Regimes that are forced to depend on a legal or militaristic claim to legitimacy are weak and unstable. Few such regimes last a generation and those that do are destined to use force to maintain their position. Examples include North Korea, Libya, Egypt, etc. I am at a loss to provide an example of a regime that possessed a legal claim to sovereignty that did/does not depend on force.
Alright, clearly I have no question to present to you Eeben, nor any disagreement with the argument you’ve presented. However I hope this illustration of legitimacy has been enlightening regarding the governments duty in restoring order, because you are exactly right, it is 80% their job. But at least 75% of their task is to restore or strengthen their claim of legitimacy, the other 25% is getting the water back on, healing the wounded and bridging whatever divide led to insurrection in the first place.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your contribution, Zach. You have given us some really good insight into legitimacy – something you correctly state is not always understood by those that partake in the insurrection.

The piece I wrote was really an abridged extract from the book I am currently writing and it assumes that governments have legitimacy – and despite that legitimacy, it can still fail in its endeavours to quell an insurgency. However, I did list legitimacy as one of the reasons for failure – although I did not give it as much prominence as you did – something I ought to have done.

As legitimacy is derived from the populace, I always find it amazing how some governments, once they have received that legitimacy, squander it in favour of governing for themselves and to hell with the populace. This is not something unique to Africa either.

On the other hand, governments sometimes find that even though they have the support of the populace, they do not necessarily have that acceptance of the international community.

Politics is indeed a strange occupation!

Thanks again for your input and good luck with your studies.

Rgds,

Eeben

Cate said...

Hello,

I'm currently writing my thesis on the efficacy of using PMCs in COIN operations and am using EO in Sierra Leone as a case study.

I'm searching, in vain, to find a detailed summary of the terms of EO's contracts there. Do you know where I might be able to track these down?

Thanks for any information you can provide.

Cate
Canberra,Australia

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I do not think that those contracts will be available anymore Cate. My reason for this comment is that EO ceased to exist in the late-1990s and by law, all company documentation is must be kept for a certain period. It is usually destroyed thereafter.

You may find some information in my book (Executive Outcomes, Against all Odds) or in Roelf van Heerden’s book (Four Ball, One Tracer). But the focus of those books was not to cover the terms and conditions but rather the task at hand.

Alternatively, you may try the Sierra Leonean embassy in Aus (I am sure there is one) or perhaps direct your query directly to the government of SL.

Hope that can help.

Rgds,

Eeben