About Me

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

Friday, December 20, 2013


2013 was a year filled with adrenalin rushes, expectations, waiting, laughter, happiness, satisfaction, highs and lows, cheap airlines, rundown airports, meetings, proposals, headshaking, briefings, presentations, bad food, terrible water, long hours, little sleep and some blood, sweat and tears is nearing its end.

Like so many people, I also had my share of sadness this past year. Fortunately, I have also been able to meet with some really good folks north of our border and I truly enjoy that part of my work.

There has been much to laugh about and equally much to shake our heads about as well. Unfortunately, some not-so-good folks have been disrupting both my blog and my LinkedIn Account. As they say – small things amuse small minds. Sadly though, there are no tablets for stupidity. Trials and tribulations will always be there but it is not the fire we walk through that counts but rather how we walk through it.

Thank you to everyone who read and contributed to the blog throughout the year. Your comments are always appreciated and highly valued as they give me insight and allow me to broaden my own knowledge base.

To everyone who is far from home at this time, and to those who are deployed in the conflict zones around the world, beit as soldiers, sailors, airmen, law enforcement officers, spooks or PMC contractors, keep your heads down, your eyes peeled, your weapons close at hand, stay safe and be ready to do what needs to be done.

Let us also remember those who will not be able to be share this time with those they hold dear as well as those who have lost friends and loved ones. They should never be forgotten. Nor should the sacrifices they have made ever be forgotten.

I would also like to wish each and every visitor to the blog a blessed festive season. To those who celebrate the meaning of Christmas, I wish you and your families a blessed, happy and joyous festive season.

To those who do not celebrate Christmas for whatever reason – along with my Muslim friends - I wish you all a time of happiness and peace with your families and friends.

I would also like to wish each and every one of you – and your loved ones - a great 2014. May the coming year be filled with good health, happiness and safety.

‘Till next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The future conflicts and wars in Africa will seldom, if ever comprise large conventional forces pitted against one another.

Whereas conventional engagements will occur in primarily government-versus-government actions, they will be on a much smaller scale than witnessed in the past decades. Mobility, manoeuvre, surprise, speed and firepower will still remain of critical importance yet these operations will be hampered by a lack of intelligence, unreliable air support and inadequate logistics coupled to challenging terrain and varying climatic conditions.

The presence of the local population and other non-combatants has always – and will always – add a very real and unavoidable complexity to the battlefield. Whereas the government forces will attempt to co-opt and win over the support of the population, the enemy will attempt to take control over the population to force and maintain their support.

However, when the populace believe and feel they have been forgotten, failed and neglected or oppressed by their government, their support for an insurgency or an invading enemy will be more energised. This in itself ought to be cause for alarm to African governments.

In the early stages of an internal uprising or revolution, there is often a common popular belief that the coming conflict will provide the populace with “freedom” and “a better life”, hence their tentative support for the insurgency or revolution. As the conflict escalates, the enemy will take steps to protect their gains by tightening their control over the populace. This can result in the populace being subject to physical abuse, torture, executions, forced labour and recruitment. Any attempt by the populace to rid themselves of this yoke of control will result in vicious and swift retribution from the enemy.

Regardless, the populace – along with refugees - will form an integral part of the battlefield and will play a large role in the plans of both the government and the enemy as they will become both the prize and the victim of the opposing forces.

The future conflicts and wars in Africa will comprise a host of different threats, groups and forces utilising both urban and rural terrain. They will be driven by different actions and motivators employing both unconventional and limited conventional methods. These actions and motivators will cover the spectrum of general civil disobedience, violent and non-violent protests, political anxiety and isolation, violent criminal activities, insurgencies, proxy wars, state-sponsored cross-border actions, religious differences, terrorism, tribal and ethnic anger and xenophobia, territorial and resource greed along with poverty and hunger and so forth.

Attacks on tourist areas, shopping malls, business enterprises, hotels, resource mining and production areas, industrial areas, airports and harbours, isolated farms and villages, energy-supply systems, transport networks, government buildings and communication systems will become prime enemy targets. These attacks will be aimed at eroding the economy, over-stretching the security forces, creating negative national and international perceptions and sapping the will of the populace whilst creating a sense of panic.

Enemy successes will be widely proclaimed using the mainstream and social media networks to market their successes, however limited, and instil a sense of despondency and fear in the populace. Marketing of successes will also be aimed at showing the inability of the government forces to successfully counter or stop the enemy.  

When unconventional enemy forces sense defeat, they will withdraw and call for a “cease fire” and “negotiations” – a tactic aimed at gaining time, replenishing losses and creating the impression that they want peace. This tactic was and has been used in Angola, Sierra Leone, DRC, CAR, Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Mozambique and so forth. However, peace is the very last objective they have in mind, especially when the enemy forces are acting as proxy forces on behalf of foreign sponsors to secure foreign interests. Governments will heed these calls for negotiations and unconditional ceasefires at their own peril.

Whereas both the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies will play a significant role in defeating these groups and forces in the field, they will need to be correctly trained and equipped and have access to actionable intelligence. Without intelligence, the enemy will always retain the initiative and government forces will remain unbalanced and blind to enemy plans, trends and shifts and thus remain reactive as opposed to proactive.

To ensure success, government forces will require political, military and populace will along with resolute leadership to defeat the enemy. Furthermore, African armies will need to break-away from their current organisational structures and reshape themselves to take the battle to the enemy and rapidly respond to enemy plans, actions and threats. Current structures prohibit rapid, proactive actions.

African governments will, additionally, need to reassess the manner in which governance is applied and maximise their use of the Pillars of State to identify, locate and neutralise these threats. It is at the political level that serious actions will need to be coordinated and integrated with the other Pillars.

Unless governments begin serious preparations to protect and defend themselves, their territory and the populace, they will be ill-prepared to face the coming conflicts and wars – and they are coming.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I took exception to Prof Blattman’s blog entry on EO where he lied three times in two sentences. I also sent him a copy of my blog posting challenging him to prove his allegations and to give him an opportunity to clarify his lies – despite him not giving me an opportunity to comment on his false and slanderous claims.  This resulted in an email debate between Blattman and I and I simply followed the old adage – if you give a man enough rope, he will hang himself.

Ironically, it was Prof Blattman who wrote about “sloppy journalism” and the lack of research…

Given the recent upsurge in articles aimed at increasing the disinformation already out there on EO, I have decided that enough is enough. Whereas the company was in no way perfect and also made many mistakes (as its founder and chairman I must take the blame), I cannot sit by while armchair journalists and suspected disinformation agents apparently acting on behalf of African terror groups openly lie about good men who did what they did to end conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. I cannot allow people to tarnish the name of good men who sacrificed so much to bring about an end to conflicts by those who never set foot there and are too lazy to conduct decent research.

My thanks to the many that sent me mails attacking and criticising Prof Blattman. However, this is not about attacking the man but rather about showing how he abused his position of trust to lie to achieve someone else’s goals.

I leave it to the readers of this blog to decide on the validity of Prof Blattman’s answers to my three basic questions.


On Dec 2, 2013, at 6:58 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:

Dear Prof Blattman,

I read your blog entry on Executive Outcomes with much interest.

I have decided to respond with a posting questioning your "facts" regarding EO.

Perhaps you would care to enlighten me on your "facts" as obviously you seem to know things we do not know.

I have attached my posting hereto for your attention and response.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Eeben Barlow

On 2013/12/02 04:17 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:

Thanks. If you have an HTML for the attachment I'd be happy to link to it. Or I can just post the PDF.


On Dec 2, 2013, at 11:06 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:

Simply posting it on your blog is really no response to some serious allegations you made.

It appears you choose not to respond to my questions?

On 2013/12/02 06:31 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:

Hi Eeben

I do think it’s important that anything I blog is held accountable to critics, especially any who are being criticized, and so posting your objection would be the minimum I could do. Moreover, in order to respond, or have my readers respond or comment, I’d prefer to be able to link to your full comment. I could simply upload the PDF to my site but I thought you might have a website of your own you’d prefer me to link to. I don’t have a strong preference.

I’ll do my best to respond to the comments on the blog, and hopefully it could lead to a discussion from me and the readers that provides a more comprehensive response. My first impression is the following: The main point of my blog post was to say that there there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding EO—you describe it quite clearly in your comment--and that it’s reasonable to expect a publication of the caliber of the New Yorker to discuss this and provide the best evidence for or against. If the case against acts being “dodgy” is a strong one, this would serve you well. But casual observers like me are not in a position to do this research themselves, and it’s hard to judge if journalists or state organizations who have critiqued you are discredited as you say. This is what we rely on the specialized journalists and academics to do. The New Yorker author failed here, in my opinion. If quality investigation would vindicate you, then they also failed you and EO as well, since the half-informed like me are unconvinced.

In light of this, I should have written “allegations of dodgy acts” rather than “dodgy acts” since I don’t have expertise or knowledge here. I did balk at your point that acting on behalf of a sitting African government by definition makes an act not dodgy. In my opinion, few African governments had a strong claim to legitimacy in the 1980s and 1990s, whatever that might mean. Even if they were legitimate, however, the actions of a legitimate government and their agents can easily be questionable, wrong or illegal (and often are). The job of journalism and academics is a democracy is to ask and debate these hard questions, and ultimately that’s what disappointed me about the New Yorker article. I wasn’t looking for them to string up EO (indeed, as I mentioned, I think that some of the EO record is quite commendable) but rather to discuss rather than obscure important controversies.

Your thoughts welcome.




On Dec 2, 2013, at 11:57 AM, Eeben Barlow wrote:

Hi Chris,

Thank you for responding.

Surely you can do better than that!

My rebuttal to your posting is posted on my blog for all to see and comment on. I have no problem with fair criticism but your comments on EO were so off the mark that it was amazing that an intellectual will simply state lies as fact and perpetuate what has been acknowledged to have been a massive disinformation campaign against EO. I suppose to use your model of research, that makes you a disinformation agent.

I would suggest that you go back and investigate where the controversy came from.

I asked you three questions – all three of which you want to avoid. To now claim that you are merely a “casual observer” is basically passing the buck, isn’t it?

The journalists and organisations I wrote about in my book were all entitled to sue me. None did. Those journalists have now been so discredited that they are seldom able to practice their “craft”. The Star newspaper in SA published a full page apology to me and admitted they had been misled re EO. Basic internet research would have indicated that to you.

As you blog about EO and appear to want to come across as a knowledgeable person on the company, how can you now claim to be “half-informed”? Surely, research is exactly that – an investigation for the truth.

It was you that brought up the “dodgy” acts – I merely elaborated on them. If a government anywhere in the world is recognised as “the government”, regardless of where they are or what political system they adhere to, are they then actually not legit? After all, the USA recognised all the governments that contracted us as the legitimate governments of those countries – and note – they contracted us to help them. We didn’t invade them – and we still remain friends years after we left. But are you also telling me that these governments are therefore, in your opinion, not legitimate?

I am still waiting for the “outlawed” and “disbanded” explanation.

I appreciate your comment on EO’s commendable acts but I take umbrage to three lies you stated as “fact”.

To tell me that you “don’t have expertise or knowledge” on the matter is really poor especially coming from someone who is entrusted to teach facts to your students.



On 2013/12/02 07:04 PM, Chris Blattman wrote:

Hi Eeben

I’ll do my best to post something in the next day or so. But I am definitely passing the buck. In part because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and the blog is most definitely a sloppy personal exercise. As I remind my readers often: I ain’t the New York Times. But passing the buck in academia means deferring to the experts, and expecting them (including New Yorker journalists) to do this job for us. That’s the nature of specialization—not all of us can do the detailed research. I imagine it would take me months to do what you propose. So should I be more cautious in some of my comments? Sure. And I’ll make that point. But was I erroneous to raise concerns about the controversy and the opaque dismantling of EO, and hope for more. Surely the answer is yes, and that is the serious and main point of the post. Wouldn’t you agree?

On 2013/12/02 07:17 PM, Eeben Barlow wrote

Hi Chris,

I don’t think it is necessary to post anything on your blog as the damage you intended to do has been done, wouldn’t you say? The article you referred to happened to portray the old EO in a positive light and you took exception to that – without much effort at thinking or doing research.  Instead, you chose to mislead your readers whilst attacking a lady who does not just talk the talk but is willing to put her money where her mouth is. There certainly aren’t many like her around and whether you believe it or not, she went out and DID something instead of simply criticising all and sundry. Had she contracted an American or British company, I am sure there would have been no complaints.

Like you, I too have too few hours in the day, but if I write something, I will stand – and die by it. And, by the way, my blog writing is also a sloppy personal exercise. But, I never pass the buck and blame someone else for my mistakes.

I am not too sure I understand your last sentence so I shan’t comment on it.

The bottom line, regardless, is I do not agree with you.

Thanks for your time.



Monday, December 2, 2013


Executive Outcomes (EO) has again come under attack despite the fact that the company’s doors have been closed for more than a decade and a half. The premise is the more you repeat a lie, despite it being easily disproved, the more people will want to believe it. This principle of successful disinformation is particularly true when it comes to Africa – and EO.

A piece recently written by Assistant Professor Chris Blattman (Columbia University, USA) stated that “Whatever acts EO have on the positive side of their ledger (there are several), there are a great many dodgy ones to balance it out. I might also mention they were outlawed and disbanded…” (          http://chrisblattman.com/2013/10/30/is-the-newyorker-publishing-puff-profiles-of-mercenaries-executive-outcomes-now-its-joseph-kony-related/)

Although Blattman gives EO some credit, he refers to a “great many dodgy” things EO did and also that the company was “outlawed” and “disbanded”. Why doesn’t he list these “great many” dodgy acts? And why does he not say when EO was “outlawed” – and by whom and for what reason? As for being “disbanded”, his inference is very clear. Sadly, he appears to have lost himself in his own plot as in two sentences, he lied three times – a disgraceful act for a so-called intellectual. Unless, of course, he knows something we don’t…

Neither EO - nor later STTEP - ever engaged in any criminal activities nor smuggled drugs to embassy personnel anywhere, sexually assaulted foreign nationals where we worked, simultaneously supported governments and those who oppose them, interfered in the internal politics of African governments, killed innocent civilians under the guise of “collateral damage” and invaded countries, to list but a few. We were invited by governments to assist them and those men of EO who broke the host government’s laws were swiftly dealt with when such knowledge came to our attention.

In terms of “dodgy acts” – this inference and innuendo was started by the old SA Military Intelligence and certain old-SA government officials and their advisors in an attempt to discredit EO whilst saving the rebel forces they were supporting.  This was fed to and propagated by numerous now-exposed and discredited journalists who were working under control as agents and propagandists - and was later grasped by all who wanted EO stopped lest we expose their multiple agendas, duplicity and criminality.

If being contracted by legitimate African governments falls within the ambit of “dodgy acts” then EO must plead guilty and so too STTEP. If we ended the conflicts and wars decisively and as swiftly as possible then we are guilty of that too. If we saved thousands of innocent African lives and stabilised legitimate African governments whilst destroying or disrupting criminal, rebel and proxy forces then we are definitely guilty. However, does that make the African (and other) governments that contracted us equally complicit in these “dodgy” deeds?

Truth is, EO was never “outlawed” as the professor falsely claims. But we know the US DoS placed – and still places - enormous pressure on African governments not to speak to us as they remain very concerned that we might upset their agendas in Africa. Even African governments have now acknowledged this deception with some dismay – a deception that is aimed at ensuring that these conflicts simply continue.

Nevertheless, if Blattman has any proof of what he alleges to be true, why not list it? Why keep his readers in such suspense? If his intentions are honourable, why the concern about a company that no longer exists? And why purposely lie about it? Even more pertinent, why hide his deception behind the façade of being both intellectually concerned and principled?

Strangely enough, Blattman did not mention that EO warned Uganda in 1996 that the LRA would rise again – something western governments scoffed at. But, I forget, he studied this for six years – our lifetime on the continent has no measure against his studies. What did the six years of his study of Kony achieve and at what cost?

However, if the purpose is to mislead students, citizens and governments and discredit people and companies with false accusations, one must resort to innuendo and create false and misleading perceptions to appease your paymasters – especially if part of your covert aim is to discredit a defunct company. To work at achieving this aim, you need to exploit those journalists and their handlers who were and are too lazy to do research and intelligence gathering as they will believe and publish whatever rubbish is fed them.

Anyone who can expose this agenda must be discredited as rapidly as possible lest the truth be revealed. They must become “persons of interest” and be "blacklisted” to add credibility to the deception.

It is apparent that the truth about EO and STTEP must be prevented from becoming known at all costs. Apparently, deception and lies must prevail.

Ultimately though, it is about creating “bogeymen” and then acting according to the so-called Global War on Terror to neutralise these bogeymen – often creations of their own making and sponsorship.

I am truly grateful that I was never under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Blattman, a man who appears to have little to no clue on a subject he apparently considers himself to be quite knowledgeable on. Perhaps he would care to enlighten me on his “facts” and sources.

I look forward to his exposé on EO.

Note: I have emailed this posting directly to Assistant Professor Blattman and will publish his responses when I receive them.



The international condemnation regarding the on-going intelligence gathering of the world’s intelligence agencies exposed by the NSA whistle-blower and fugitive Edward Snowden is in reality much ado about nothing.

Most citizens of the world are blissfully unaware of a dangerous, secretive and ruthless parallel world that co-exists alongside them but which they do not see or even think about. In this parallel world, agents are recruited, intelligence is gathered and plans formulated and executed to disrupt, destroy and neutralise threats. It is this parallel world that keeps the governments – and by implication the populace - safe and their enemies in a state of constant concern and vigilance.

Without intelligence, governments are unable to “see over the hill” and adapt and modify their strategies according to new or developing threats. All intelligence agencies gather overt and covert information/intelligence not only on their enemies but also on their allies. To achieve this, laws are sometimes broken and sometimes crimes are committed to discover the plans of others. 

Spying on ones allies is nothing new. This has been done for centuries and has numerous aims such as determining if their allies are silently acting or turning against them, making decisions that could impact on the national security, provide early warning to allies of pending threats and even coordinate and support actions that are being planned against their allies.

Espionage and covert direct action are major components of this parallel world. Telephones are tapped, email communications are monitored and sometimes disrupted, prominent persons are watched and followed, high-value targets are assassinated, threat networks are infiltrated and penetrated, false-flag operations are launched to confuse and mislead opposing intelligence services, disinformation operations are launched and so forth.

The golden rule is always: “Don’t get caught”.

Being caught or compromised can result in a major embarrassment to the government that launches the operation. However, despite the political rhetoric and public anger that then takes place, even the targeted governments understand the need for intelligence gathering and other covert operations – as they too conduct similar operations.

Without intelligence, national strategies and national security strategies will be empty shells with no direction or guidance. Without intelligence, these strategies will not be able to adapted and provide sufficient early warning to the government of threats and pending or planned actions.

In Africa, major intelligence failures abound – Mali, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Libya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia and so forth to name but a few. These failures occur because insufficient attention is given to intelligence operations or intelligence is simply ignored. This lack of intelligence is a major contributing factor to providing any threat network with an advantage. The results are clear for all to see.

Whereas the world was shocked by the extent of the NSA’s capabilities, the media storm that erupted was in fact much ado about reality. Those that shouted the loudest often do not realise that without these operations, they would probably not have the freedom they claim to advocate.