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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

CUT THE SOURCE OF THE FUNDING

Fighting the complex and diverse wars of today requires us to be prepared to face an enemy who has no scruples in utilising crime, and total terror against innocent civilians in order to coerce their support with the aim of placing themselves into power.

This does not mean that conventional land battles are something of the past and unconventional warfare something of the future. The fact remains that armies need to prepare for both scenarios as well as their various off-shoots.  In many instances, they will need to conduct these missions in support of the law enforcement agencies.

Utilising unconventional methods, and in the process developing their armed gangs, we have allowed these unconventional forces to move funds and equipment, ie arms and ammunition, and in some instances, sympathetic governments have even provided these thugs with passports or allowed their territories to be used for “training”.

This has given numerous terrorist groups freedom of movement as well as financial freedom. Sometimes hidden beneath layers of ostensibly legitimate business, their activities aimed at instilling terror continue – and in some instances they are still able to move large sums of money, albeit in the shape of resources, to fund their activities and crimes. Even more so when they act as proxies for governments who plan the demise of neighbouring states or aim at creating regional instability.

Much has been done with international banking laws and regulations to follow the money trail but I suspect it is the wrong approach to follow. Ex-President Thabo Mbeki recently made the claim that Africa loses US$ 50 Bn annually to illegal activities. Whereas I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this figure, I do know that the amount lost in terms of monetary value is huge.   Not only has this undermined the continent, some of this funding has also enriched and empowered those that seek to cause instability.

I dislike using the “when we” label, but when Executive Outcomes assisted African governments with devising military strategies, the prime strategic military targets were the sources of funding. This led to an outcry in the local and international media with wild claims that the company was interested in seizing the sources of funding – mainly diamonds and oil – for its own purposes.

Had those who shouted the loudest spent five minutes thinking about it, the reasons for following that strategy would have become quite obvious:

1.      Deny the enemy his source of income
2.      With no income, no weapons can be purchased or replaced
3.      With no funding, freedom of movement is curtailed
4.      With no funding, the enemy will slowly bleed itself into destruction.

What the military-strategists-posing-as-journalists failed to understand was that the enemy – call them rebels, terrorists, activists or whatever – were resorting to criminal and terror activities in order to overthrow legitimate governments. In their foolish attempts to create suspicion on the company, these so-called journalists were not only assisting the rebels but also condoning crime. The crimes got worse when young children were forced to kill their parents and elders as they were coerced into joining rebel or terror networks. This was conveniently not reported.

It is no secret that illegally mined gold and diamonds are leaving the African shores to be sold elsewhere. Much of these profits are filtered back into radical terror networks. This continued access to funds allows them to perpetuate their activities, be they crime or terror actions.

It is also no secret that some countries in Africa have become transit points for drugs shipments to Europe – some of these shipments being coordinated by criminal groups with close association with terror groups.

Despite these facts, we have done very little or nothing to attack the source of the funding. Instead, we have given these forces the freedom to continue with their activities. Ironically, they are doing so in total safety with no real aggressive efforts to stop them.

We need to drastically step up our intelligence gathering capabilities, formulate intelligence-based strategies to attack the sources of funding to reclaim our stability and neutralise those who threaten it. We need to conduct this with aggression and vigour and give no quarter to those who seek to disrupt peace and replace it with terror.  

As long as we leave the sources of funding intact, we allow these people to continue with their actions, erode our belief in the state, damage our safety and security and implement their form of rule through savagery.

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.

Monday, February 6, 2012

THE LEVELS OF WAR


The military strategy is an intelligence-driven, intellectual process that results in possible future or definite action.

The waging of war ie the implementation of strategy is conducted at four distinct yet inter-related levels. These levels are known as the levels of war and consist of:

1.      The political level
2.      The strategic level
3.      The operational level
4.      The tactical level.

The Political Level: Sometimes referred to as War by Political Means, this is the highest level of war and is often ignored by the military. Although the Grand Strategy or National Strategy is the highest level of strategy, the political level of war is, likewise, the highest level of war and is associated with political, economical and/or covert politico-military operations. Sometimes referred to as War by Political Means, it is the applying of political and/or economical sanctions against a country that is considered to be conducting unacceptable political practices. Likewise, financial sanctions aimed at wearing down or exhausting a country economically are further examples of war at the political level.  Other examples of the war at the political level include expelling of diplomatic staff, pressure to ensure international isolation of a threat country, international boycotts, international support to nationalist groups, and the conduct of highly-sensitive, high-level covert operations aimed at achieving a specific political goal and so forth. The conduct of highly-sensitive, high-level covert operations are usually deniable by the government. Where war at the political level may require discretionary warfare, these types of operations straddle the boundary between political and strategic level warfare yet remain highly sensitive and are usually deniable. War at the political level is ultimately aimed at bringing about a regime change without overtly committing the armed forces to direct battle.

The Strategic Level: At this level of planning, strategists and planners will ultimately be left with four definitive choices of how the government will want to resolve the situation. These are: 

·        Neutralising rebel or insurgent forces intent on usurping government support through violent means
·        Annihilating the opposing forces
·        Exhausting the opposing forces
·        Attrition of the opposing forces.

The threat, the terrain, Own Forces capabilities and the economy or support to sustain the war will determine how it will be fought at this level. Military operations conducted at this level are referred to as strategic warfare. War at the strategic level will encompass either distant or close strategic offensives as well as strategic defensive warfare.  Strategic defensive warfare can take the form of conventional, unconventional and semi-conventional operations and can include long-distance offensives, cross-border raids (sanctioned or not sanctioned) and Counter Insurgency (COIN) operations.

The Operational Level: War at the Operational Level is aimed at achieving the strategic military objectives through a series of battles and/or campaigns, conventional or otherwise, aimed at achieving the theatre objectives and can last for weeks, months and even years. These actions are not restricted to operations beyond the borders of the country but may unfold nationally as well.

The Tactical Level: At this level of war, short term engagements are fought between Own Forces and the enemy utilising Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) as the foundation of the engagements.

It is at the levels of war that the strategy unfolds via the approved military strategy, commander’s intent, designs for battle, operational plans and action. However, a lack of sound intelligence will result in weak or poorly executed strategies that may bring about a collapse of the government or a defeat of the armed forces.

Prematurely extricating the armed forces from operations that have been poorly planned and executed may lead to grave embarrassment of the state and a decline in regional and international respect. In turn, this may adversely impact on both the security of the state and even the tenure of the government.