About Me

My photo
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.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

THE TRAGEDY THAT IS LIBYA


The end result of “regime-change” in Libya has brought nothing but bloodshed and misery to the majority of Libyans whilst giving radical Islamists another foothold on the African continent. Libya has become a failed state. Its infrastructure is in tatters and its oil exports rapidly dwindling. It has indeed undergone “regime change”. And while Libya burns, the world talks.

Two governments currently “rule” a divided Libya—maybe soon to be three different governments. One government is recognised by the international community, the other by the hard-line extremists. The plan to divide Libya into two or perhaps even three different states seems to be nearing completion.

I was never a fan of Muammar Ghaddafi or a supporter of his style of government. But, it is almost inconceivable that the plan to oust Gaddafi and his government did not appreciate or even consider the consequences of his demise. It did not require a very intelligent person to foresee what was coming.  Libya rapidly went from controlled hell to uncontrolled hell.

During 2013, I was invited to address the Libyan authorities on several occasions. We were asked to assist them develop a strategy aimed at containing what was then already becoming a highly toxic situation. Matters have since deteriorated significantly into a far more complex and dangerous situation and is unlikely to get better soon—if ever.

On each visit I undertook to Libya, I tried to impress on the Libyan government (at that time) what was likely to happen in their country if no drastic intervention was considered and decisive action taken. I believed that Libya would become an uncontrolled, divided tract of land where conflict between tribes and competing terror franchises became the order of the day.

On my last visit to Libya in July 2013, I was promptly apprehended on arrival in Tripoli, my passport forcibly taken from me (I stopped protesting when a rifle was shoved into my face) and I was locked in a small room in the immigration hall. After several hours, I was finally taken to see the Chief of Intelligence (who incidentally was the person who had invited me to Libya) where he apologised for the “harsh manner” in which I was received on my arrival but claimed that a foreign government had requested they no longer speak to me. I, in turn, wasn’t too happy especially as I was supposedly a guest of the Libyan government and was there only because they had invited me to speak to them. The Chief of Intelligence also informed me that our assessment and prediction of what was coming for Libya was deemed to be “incorrect and alarmist” by Western governments they had met with. Sadly I had heard that story before.

So, it is with almost morbid fascination that I now watch the daily fumbling of foreign powers trying to contain a very cancerous situation that could have been prevented a long time ago. The “democracy” and “freedom” they promised the people of Libya has come to nought. Instead, the chaos and destruction of Libya has become a rallying point for extremists from Africa and beyond.

The negative fall-out has resulted in what I refer to as “terror-creep” as the extremists expand their areas of influence and interest across North Africa, reaching as far afield as Nigeria. Left unchecked, they will expand their influence even further into Europe and deeper into Africa.

Air strikes may degrade some of the terror forces and disrupt their logistical and other support structures—for a while. But unless the results of the air strikes are immediately exploited by well-trained and correctly equipped and led ground forces, the effects will remain negligible, unexploited, achieve only minor success and simply harden the resolve of those who thrive on terror and misery.  

Sometimes I recall the GOC of the Indonesian Special Forces commenting to me many years ago that the West will one day learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists over a cup of tea.

If the current “peace talks” fail, then perhaps it is time to put the tea away and start doing something other than talking.

39 comments:

Unknown said...

Regarding the western govt who called your predictions "alarmist",

Is this because of their stupidity, or is there a hidden agenda ?

Sincerely.

M.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am not always sure what the motivations are Unknown.
I suspected it was aimed at shaping their future operating environment to achieve certain political and economic advantages. Sadly for the Libyans and many others, it did not work out that way.
Rgds,
Eeben

Die Stoor said...

Interesting article Seven. I suppose the Libyans could have for warned you not to bother to make that trip, or at the very least treated you more politely whilst you waited for a return flight but the Western nation probably also put in another "special request" to your welcoming party.

I found this on a forum which I thought rather interesting and rather than divulging any breaking info, I think it really just confirms what anyone can plainly see.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/26/spies-obama-s-brass-pressured-us-to-downplay-isis-threat.html

Die Stoor said...

Apologies for spelling errors in my previous post. Yet again my Samsung keyboard has outwitted me!

Herbert said...

Eeben,

I saw your posting a couple of days ago regarding the incomprehensibly dumb Western operation against Libya and its tragic consequences. I almost responded immediately but thought better of it because the very subject irritates me so much. Two days delay hasn't helped much.

My thoughts: Regarding your surmising that the objective (of the Western power) was to shape future operational and economic environments--no doubt. Supplemented by the lethal combination of arrogance and ignorance--for sure. Spurred on by an injection of malfeasance driven by the old duo of greed and power--I can only conclude yes.

Rgds,
Herbert

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct, Die Stoor. They could simply have told me not to come.
Instead, they probably felt they ought to follow through on their "instructions" but still at least they told me why they did what they did.
Regardless of their motivations, I still feel sorry for a country that had so much hope only to see it totally destroyed. Ultimately, the "advice" they got purposely led them down the path of destruction.
Thanks for the link. It certainly confirms much of what is happening across Africa. However, many African governments have come to realise that what they thought, is not so.
Rgds,
Eeben


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No problem, Die Stoor. Were it not for spellcheck, my keyboard would constantly outwit me!
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is disheartening and sad, Herbert.
I believe it is for these reasons that the East is gaining increasing traction in Africa. African governments have come to realise that the West is not here because they love Africans.
When I was in Benghazi in July 2012, I was informed that there was an attack being planned on the US embassy there. I was not told the details thereof but I was told that it would happen “soon”. As has now become almost SOP, no-one was willing to speak to me so again I watched a plan unfold that could have been stopped in its tracks. It reminded me somewhat of the attack on the USS Cole that we also warned about.
Take care.
Rgds,
Eeben

Chris Langenhoven said...

The refugee crisis that this is causing across Europe as a result of this outside interference, perhaps it's time that America held to that which is engraved on the statue of libery "send me your cold and huddled masses"

Herbert said...

Eeben,

I've been digesting your comments about your receiving information about the planning for attack on Benghazi consul, as well as USS Cole, and your not being able to get an audience. "Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face" doesn't even do it justice. What an absolute tragedy. When people die--and I don't mean just Americans--stupidity no longer suffices as an excuse. We have folks among us who have lost their moral compass.

Thank you for trying to do the right thing. I best swallow further comment.

Rgds,
Herbert

Unknown said...

How ISIS sees Libya,

http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/libya-the-strategic-gateway-for-the-is.pdf

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting comment Chris.
The refugee crisis is indeed a tragic effect of "unintended consequences" following the collapse of Libya. It also presents an ideal opportunity for an infiltration of terror groups and their supporters into Europe.
I doubt the US will entertain such a mass of refugees, less still adhere to the engraving on the Statue of Liberty.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is what it is Herbert. We have long accepted the view that the US will not listen to us. It is however not our loss. But, sadly good people die because of some silly decision someone has made.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link Unknown but I seem unable to access it. DO you perhaps have an additional link to the article?
Rgds,
Eeben

Besfort said...

Hello Sir Barlow,
This article is very enlightening, and brings back to consideration the failure of the international community. Here in Europe Libya is kind of hidden from the media, and is mentioned just in rare cases, and that just some seconds of attention are given to it. They firstly brought forth the "tyranny" of Gadhaffi, brought him down; it was a failure (maybe this was their intention? - nobody knows), and now suddenly Libya disappeared from the stage - "because it was liberated"?

Sir, I wanted to ask you about your opinion about the Russian's in Syria. I myself believe that Putin could be the man to stop ISIS in Syria, but what I've read until now the Americans even threatened the Russians:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mr-putin-makes-moves-in-syria-exploiting-us-inaction/2015/09/08/cd9fbe80-5648-11e5-abe9-27d53f250b11_story.html
- (“could further escalate the conflict . . . and risk confrontation”)
Looking carefully this statement says that the west don't want Assad there, so they will be in conflict then with Russia! In the other way it also means that they want ISIS to destroy Assad for them? -correct me please if I am wrong?

Another opinion of me is that Turkey (alongside Saudi Arabia and its other Sunni neighbors) is one of the greater financer of all terrorists in Syria and Iraq, I hear it from my home country, because of the over 90% moslem, and from the stories told by the terrorists that went to Syria and came somehow back. Erdogan is trying to be a Sultan, so is the opinion of many people here, and that the fact that by the bombardments against the terrorists Turkey mainly attacked Kurds - the Turkish Kurds, but nonetheless they help the Peshmerga - (how I know they are among the most effective fighters against ISIS!?)

If we defeat ISIS in Syria I think that the ISIS in Libya should be easier to destroy, because taking their holy land should be a great shock even for all the other supporters?

In this link I've read that ISIS in Syria and Iraq is 70.000 men strong:
http://tass.ru/en/world/766237
This is a big number! And if they, also, succeed in assaulting from Libya into Italy, even just suicide bombing, they could shock even the Vatican; and Europe should prevent this from happening at any cost.

best regards,
and have a wonderful day

Besfort

Munyul Verminard said...

Dear Sir ,
What are your views on the recent security warnings issued recently by the US to SA ?
Kind regards

Jimmy Cui said...

Dear Eeben, good. if you need HSSE Director /Manager, I am the one, thanks. Jimmy Cui Projects HSSE Director / Corporate HSSE Manager;
Chevron & KGOC Joint Operation Email: jimmycuigang@gmail.com; Now in Hong Kong.

Jimmy Cui said...

Dear Eeben, if you or you know Who need HSE Director/VP of EHS, hse manager, I am active now. thanks. Jimmy Cui Projects HSSE Director / Corporate HSSE Manager;
Chevron & KGOC Joint Operation Email: jimmycuigang@gmail.com

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It was clear from day one that it would turn into a mess, Besfort.
Libya has indeed become virtually “invisible” apart from the ongoing tea-drinking sessions by the UN and the flood of migrants crossing into Europe since it was “liberated.”
However, the military engagement in Syria by Russia as well as the West has the potential to merely increase the migrant problems whilst giving ISIL a huge advantage. That said, apart from https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QHLqaSZPe98&feature=youtu.be I am not well versed on that situation apart from what I read and see on the news.
What does concern me is what is happening in Africa and the links between ISIL, ISWA (previously Boko Haram) and the forging of ties with Al Shabab, ADF and Seleka along with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
As for Syria, I am afraid I cannot even attempt a coherent answer to your question as I do not focus on it.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A difficult question to answer, Munyul.
I believe that South Africa, in an attempt to thank African countries for supporting it pre-1994, opened the gates and we were flooded with refugees, migrants and so forth. This allowed many undesirable elements into the country who were able to establish themselves and plot and scheme illegal acts. This includes both criminals and anti-government forces.
These threats have been bubbling under the surface and some have burst to the fore such as crime and potential recruits for ISIL leaving SA to join in Syria, Iraq and Libya. That said, not all immigrants partake in crime or aim to join terror groups but some do and this merely encourages others to follow suit.
Insofar as the security warnings issued, there may be some validity in it. Even though the US fails to recognise it, there is a growing anti-US sentiment in Africa and this is due to a foreign policy that many African countries are in total disagreement with. The backlash from any disaffected party could target US interests in South Africa.
Such actions would simply drag SA into the mess that has been created.
I think we will have to wait and see what happens but I hope our intelligence services are rethinking their targeting.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your offer Jimmy.
Should that need ever arise, we will contact you.
Rgds,
Eeben

Gatvol said...

Interesting topic. As one in the backround, I seem to see the only stabalizing item for a lot of those countries is that they are held together by them fearing their Government. From there to ruin only takes a little help from the good old Yankees creating a democracy. It does not work as we witness daily. These people have been going at it for thousands of years and nothing civilized?(I use that term loosely) people can do will change it.
Our (The U.S.) involvement has been a total shambles and the countries we have poured Gold and War dead into are worse for that today. Only my opinion of course and that seems to count as zero point shit in the scale of who cares.
If Europe does not get off their backside this recent influx will resonate from here on and God only knows where it will go.

Besfort said...

Hello sir Barlow,
Today I've read that there was a coup in Burkina Faso. Considering that there is a high muslim population, and that it's northern part borders with Mali, can there be any potential threat from the jihadists that operate in Mali (trying to spread their "cause").
Have a nice day
Besfort

ayman mm said...

hi how are u i am journalist form libya do u have sky pe or facebook i love toke with u my email ayman_libya2006@hotmail.com

Die Stoor said...

Eeben, would you care to share your thoughts on the recent "Student Revolts"? First the Rhodes must Fall and now the Fees Must Fall? It appears to me to be a bit more than simply a random uprising against statues and fees. I believe that there will be many more such uprisings and that finally there is a movement against the terrible policies of our own government which will continue using varying rallying cries.

I realise that you may not wish to comment on things that may be meant to destabilise a "legitimate" government buy many could argue that they have done this to themselves and that they have disregarded a new generation which is not bound by historical gratitude. It seems too that many of the classic portents are making themselves seen. Additionally I don't think that mere capitulation is going to permanently defuse the situation as it stands and when given an opportunity to show real leadership the government would rather cower away.

Abdulkareem Baba Aminu said...

Hello, Mr. Barlow.
I'm the Editor of a Nigerian national daily newspaper and I would love to e-mail you about the possibility of an interview.
Thanks!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

One cannot enforce a foreign political ideology onto those who do not desire or with to understand it - or bomb them into accepting it Gatvol.
Sadly, Libya is a failed state and no matter how hard the West wants to turn it into a model of their 'democratic meddling', it will never be so.
Europe is suffering the 'unintended consequences' of Libya, Syria, Iraq and others and it will only get worse. Sadly, for all the rhetoric about it 'will get better' it will not. It will only get worse but then again, when foreign powers are assisting ISIL and AQ, how can one expect it to get better?
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am sure that radicals from all over are supportive of the coup in Burkina Faso Besford. However, I suspect one needs to look at who recently trained the Burkina Faso army's Presidential Guard...That explains much of what has happened.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Given the twisted media reportage, I no longer correspond with journalists, aymann mm.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Unfortunately, election promises that cannot be met or sustained have a way of coming back to haunt one, Die Stoor. I also agree with your summation that it was not merely an uprising about statues and fees. NO uprising, protest or revolt is spontaneous and these actions are always planned well in advance and coordinated via social media platforms.
My question is: Where was the intelligence that indicated these things?
When governments govern not for the populace but for themselves, these things are prone to happen.
Sadly, a culture of entitlement has developed amongst the youth and this will not easily disappear. So, I foresee more such disruptions happening in future.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your message Abdulkareem Baba Aminu but I do not engage the media.
Rgds,
Eeben

Unknown said...

Mr Barlow,

I have no idea whether you have heard of Michael Scheuer - he was a CIA operative that was in charge of tracking Osama Bin Laden in the late 90's - but what he says regarding US incompetence in stifling radical Islam appears to resonate with your assertions.

His latest piece might just be of interest to you.

http://non-intervention.com/1873/u-s-general-officers-seem-clearly-unacquainted-with-truth-and-reality/

If possible, can you tell us whether witch-doctors had a lot of influence amongst the insurgent forces whom you fought against ?

If this is the case, is this prevalent across the whole continent of Africa ?

My thanks for your input.

Marellus.

Unknown said...

An article on the Border War from Foreign policy nogal ...

Care to comment on the article Mr Barlow ?

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/12/annals-of-wars-we-dont-know-about-the-south-african-border-war-of-1966-1989/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link Marellus.
I found the article very interesting indeed. I suspect that many generals are not interested in bringing about any semblance of stability as it impacts on their future business career. So why end a potential lucrative business career? Others remain tight-lipped as it may impact on their planned future political careers.
It is sad that generals like that are around as they degrade the military.
Yes, witch doctors have and had played a role with some insurgent forces, especially those with doctors who claimed they could make the bad guys invisible. Usually, this never worked.
I would not say it is prevalent across Africa as it depends a lot on the country where these rebels are based/operate from and on tribal tradition and culture.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link Unknown.
I found it an insightful article about a period in our history everyone seems keen to airbrush out. What the author did not mention was the fact that the SADF (and the SA government) were facing a threat that the West was very keen to support through their sanctions. For that reason, we had to fight with the little we had and often with very little or no support against Angolans, Namibians, Cubans, Russians, East Germans and of course SA's own anti-government forces of that time.
That it produced many valuable lessons is true. Those lessons range from strategy, operational planning and design, doctrine, tactics and so forth.
I know of many SADF soldiers who did not fight to uphold a specific political ideology but fought because they were soldiers who had a duty to uphold the constitution. Similarly, many current SANDF soldiers are not deployed because they support the government and its current constitution but because they are soldiers. After all, the armed forces are supposed to be non-partisan.
We were taught to regarded our enemies with respect, whether they were SWAPO or FAPLA or any other enemy.
Today, many armies regard their relative strengths and technology as superior to that of their enemy. Whereas this certainly provides an advantage on the battlefield, it does not automatically guarantee victory. It is - and always will remain - a folly to underestimate the enemy.
That all said, during the dying gasps of the so-called border war, the SA public (mainly white) were becoming war weary. Our economy was shrinking and despite massive efforts to contain the situation, the SA taxpayers were becoming 'gatvol'.
But I digress...
Thanks for the article. It was very interesting to take a look back into the past.
Rgds,
Eeben

Hqi777 said...

Hi Eeben,

I was curious about the status of your book. I ordered it from Amazon (in the US) back when you posted it during the summer. However, it has not yet been released during either the advertised September or October release dates; Amazon still has not received any copies. Is your publisher aware of this, and do you know when the book will be released.

Thank you

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your query Hqi777.
There was a technical issue that involved two different publishers and to the best of my knowledge, it has been resolved.
I apologise for the situation but I am hopeful that publication will happen soon.
Rgds,
Eeben

albo said...

Hello Eeben..Ive been a silent follower of you blog .I find your insights to be objective and free from sensationalism that is all to common on the interwebs. I would like to know your opinions on the situation in Somalia especially regarding practical steps to decisive victory over Al shabab.

Secondly id like your opinion regarding the best and most practical methods convoy protection in the above theatre of operations. Refer to this video

https://archive.org/details/Shareed_11

despite being in MRAPS these guys were hit with something stronger than an rpg...granted the AU guys stood there like sitting ducks waiting to get shot (perhaps disoriented?)

finally what books would you recommend that are on the market which offer good information for those interested in intelligence gathering?

Albo

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment re the blog Albo.
Gaining victory of any anti-government force is not impossible. However, in many of these conflicts, we see a lack of political and military will, inadequate intelligence and poorly formulated strategies that armed forces lacking in doctrine, training and equipment are expected to carry out.
Having never worked in Somalia, I cannot comment on convoy protection as that is dictated by the terrain and the threat.
There are several good books on intelligence. I know that quite recently some new boos saw the light of day. ‘The art of Intelligence’ by Henry Crumpton, and ‘On intelligence’ by John Hughes-Wilson are two I have recently read and found them very good.
Rgds,
Eeben