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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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW BY SOFREP




In the aftermath of 9/11, the bread and butter of the defense industry shifted in many ways from focusing on big-ticket Cold War items like tanks and fighter jets to the world of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. With this new paradigm came waves and waves of self-appointed experts, clueless academics, and hucksters trying to sell crap to the Department of Defense. This trend continues to this day, although it has been shifting into the even more nebulous area of cybersecurity, which is even better for contractors given that the 60-year-old men who run the Pentagon don’t know anything about computers. The situation is so bad in the Department of Defense that when you come across an “expert” who dubs themselves a COINista, you should run, not walk, away. These folks are the reason why we are fighting the same war today that we were fighting in Afghanistan 16 years ago.

One person who I always appreciated for having an actual track record of success is Eeben Barlow. Having served in the South African Defense Forces as a sapper in the Infantry and Special Operations, Barlow went on to found a private military company called Executive Outcomes. EO beat back UNITA in Angola for the democratically elected government before driving the barbarous Revolutionary United Front to their knees in Sierra Leone. Today, Barlow serves as the chairman of STTEP, a PMC that took the fight directly to Boko Haram. Oddly, the United States government puts pressure on the host governments to remove Barlow’s people just as they begin experiencing success in defeating anti-government forces.

Using his background in counterinsurgency and irregular warfare, Barlow has recently written a book titled “Composite Warfare,” and it is the go-to manual for warfare in Africa, written by a man who has experienced it. Barlow emphasizes an Africa-centric approach that eschews the over-philosophizing of political scientists, doctrine writers, and alleged COIN experts. Barlow wrote the book to pertain specifically to war on the African continent, but in this reader’s opinion, Barlow’s stripped-down language and no-nonsense approach to what is a normally convoluted subject in military literature makes this book worthwhile for any student of military history.

As Barlow writes in his book, “Part of the dilemma African armies face is the continued creation of new words, terms, and phrases to describe the same action or phenomena. This has led to a large amount of confusion for commanders and leader in the field.” Using graphics, bullet points, and written explanations, the author leads the reader to an understanding about the boots-on-the-ground tactical approach, from movement techniques and types of operations to the big picture that supports the pillars of government. “Composite Warfare” ties them together and demonstrates how a military campaign has to function as a mutually supporting effort that supports the state rather than undermines it.

Comprehensive in nature, “Composite Warfare” examines appropriate force structures, air power, reconnaissance, maneuvers, mobility, air power, intelligence, retrograde operations, developing military strategies, and plenty more. Barlow treats warfare in Africa with a cultural appreciation, as opposed to a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach frequently employed by U.S. Special Forces, who simply mirror our own force structure in the host nation counterparts they train. This is why the United States often trains foreign troops with tactics straight out of the Ranger Handbook, tactics that don’t work for indigenous forces.

In a past SOFREP interview with Barlow, he said that “poor training, bad advice, a lack of strategy, vastly different tribal affiliations, ethnicity, religion, languages, cultures, not understanding the conflict and enemy,” were hallmarks of Western training provided to African armies. “Much of this training is focused on window-dressing, but when you look through the window, the room is empty,” he concluded.

“Composite Warfare” is recommended reading for students of military history and strategy, including active-duty Special Forces soldiers charged with conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID). Although the book will prove especially helpful to those serving in African militaries, “Composite Warfare” will no doubt became a seminal work on modern warfare in Africa, one practitioners and academics alike will reference well into the decades to come. Let us hope that Barlow’s lessons are learned and internalized, lest we repeat the same mistakes in Africa for another half-century.


11 comments:

Ashwell Glasson said...

A brilliant read and resource by Eben Barlow. I am utilising the trinity of gravity concept and items from MOOTW in my honours paper, which is focused on paramilitary capacity in conservation. All related to the poaching crisis in Rhino, Elephant and the illegal trade in Wildlife. This is a brilliant resource and not just a bible for Africa Warfare, but, also highly useful for paramilitary practitioners, conservation specialists and in the hybrid domain of law enforcement and conservation area integrity. Well done!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your support Ashwell. I am pleased to learn that you have found it of value, especially insofar as your honours paper is concerned - good luck!
Rgds,
Eeben

phann son said...


Is there a means of communication i can use to message you directly and privately? I am a serving military officer currently working my way through staff college. I am keen to pick your brains on an issue if possible.


goldenslot

Absalon L16 said...

Saw this posted on Janes today and thought you would appreciate,

New-model African armies

Following their independence, most Sub-Saharan and East African militaries tended to use second-hand military equipment donated by former colonial powers, as well as the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. Jeremy Binnie and Erwan de Cherisey report on how that trend is changing

http://www.janes.com/images/assets/520/71520/New-model_African_armies.pdf


Andrew Walker said...

Dear Mr Barlow
I’d like to get in touch with you, I have a book you might be interested in, I wondered if I could send you a copy?
Can you send me an email at Getwalker [@] gmail ? Best wishes
Andrew Walker

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting read Absalon L16. Thanks for sharing it.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your message Phann Son. This is the best way to contact me - or via Facebook. However, given a time constraint I live under, I might not always be able to respond quickly.
Rgds,
Eeben

Jennifer Upton said...

COMPOSITE WARFARE

This interesting book is ambitious in its scope as it represents a combination of a ‘how to’ military guide with a conceptual analysis of broader issues related to maintaining the stability and integrity of African states or elsewhere in 3rd world war torn strifes.

The ‘military’ part covers a very broad range of topics from useful tips for small patrols, through to guidance on the deployment and operational use of complete divisions. Some of the advice offered is broad brush and hypothetical: some is usefully specific, and I suspect often reflects the author’s personal military experience which I feel deserves much respect. Overall, nothing on the military side struck me as very surprising or clearly unsound.

The conceptual part of the book centres on likening the integrity and stability of a state to an ancient edifice supported by solid pillars. These ‘Seven Pillars of State’ are: Intelligence; Law Enforcement; Armed Forces; Governance (in ways which do not antagonise the populace); the Economy; the Populace (which must be accepting of government rule) and Perceptions (which is about ways to create positive perceptions of the government both internally and externally).

It explains that those who threaten the state may be internal seekers after power, or be based in adjacent states. They may also be international players acting for political or economic reasons, which are often related to gaining greater control of the target country’s natural resources. The attackers may use many approaches including: conventional warfare; guerrilla warfare; cyberwarfare; terrorism; assassination or pseudo gangs. Internal and external propaganda, which increasingly involves social media, can be used to undermine and discredit the target government internally and externally. Clever exploitation of tribal and religious differences as well as injections of ideology can be used to promote dissatisfaction and public unrest. Non Government Organisations with supposedly worthy objectives frequently provide a front for dark and devious activity.
Composite Warfare is very much about the contest between those seeking to protect the stability of the state and those seeking to undermine it. The arena in which this is played out is very different from that in long-established 'liberal' democracies. Values and social norms tend to be very different, and top level control is often exercised by a small group of mutually dependent people who gain massive financial and other rewards from their exercise of power. Such people have everything to lose from a breakdown of the integrity and stability of their state.

The book explains that the counter to any identified threat should start with a ruthless and systematic search for intelligence aimed at discovering who is trying to attack the state, and how they intend to go about it. Once the nature of the problem has been discerned a counter-strategy is required which involves reviewing each of the Pillars of State in order to come up with a coherent an coordinated plan which seeks to strengthen them all in a mutually beneficial way. Inept use of military force can be highly counterproductive, so the military plan must be driven by the overall strategy
A drawback of the book is that it is sometimes repetitive and not an easy read. This is a pity because if the ideas in the book were condensed and explained by someone with a ‘silver pen’ it would have the greater impact it deserves.

It offers potentially vital and important insights to those who see the world through the prism of their experience of liberal democracy whilst seeking to intervene in societies in Africa and elsewhere whose very different internal dynamics they little understand.

Richard Peregrine
(Former National Service Rifleman in the South African Infantry, and retired British Army Colonel 8 Feb 2018)

Jennifer Upton said...

I promised Cmdt BARLOW a review of his book, however I felt wholly inadequate to do so, not having enough experience, therefore I asked Col. Richard Peregrine (rtd) to do so. The Colonel was born, raised and educated in South Africa and also completed his National Service to RSA,



COMPOSITE WARFARE

This interesting book is ambitious in its scope as it represents a combination of a ‘how to’ military guide with a conceptual analysis of the broader issues related to maintaining the stability and integrity of African states.
The military guide covers a very broad range of topics from useful tips for small patrols through to guidance on the deployment and operational use of complete divisions. The advice offered reflects the very considerable practical military experience of the author, and although the coverage of some topics was limited, I came across nothing which made me raise eyebrows in disagreement.

The conceptual analysis looks at the broad problem of maintaining the stability and integrity of an African state under internal or external attack. It analyses the ‘Pillars of State’ (Intelligence, Law Enforcement, Armed Forces, Governance, the Economy, the Populace and Perceptions) which underpin this. It emphasises the importance of starting with ruthless and structured intelligence-gathering to identify those who intend to attack the state and find out how they intend to do so. This needs to be followed by counter-planning which reviews all the ‘Pillars of State’ and results in a coherent integrated plan to counter the threat. Military capability is often a key enabler, but its use should be tailored to fit the overall plan. Military force which is ineptly applied often proves strategically counterproductive in long run.

The book is not an easy read, which is a pity because it offers important insights into ways in which countries tend to function in Africa and elsewhere when they do not have a history of liberal democracy. The insights are potentially of great value to those who seek to intervene in countries whose internal dynamics they may easily misunderstand because they are so different from those they are familiar with in their own environments.

Richard Peregrine
(Former National Service Rifleman in the South African Infantry, and retired British Army Colonel 8 Feb 2018)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks for your comment as well as the review by Richard.
I shall pass this on to Piet Fourie (Bush War Books) to post it on his site where it feautres my book.
Thanks again for the trouble and effort you made to have someone look at it.
Rgds,
Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Apologies for missing your comment Andrew. I will be in touch.
Rgds,
Eeben