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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


It seems that the private military industry has become a prime target of negative media reporting and that many so-called “specialist journalists” have taken to writing (mainly negatively) about the PMCs that litter the industry.

Whereas one can certainly question the motives and agendas of these “specialists”, it is equally true that a lot of the negative reporting can be placed before the doors of the PMCs themselves. One reads of drunken parties, drug taking, wild shootings, ill discipline and more – can one then really blame the media for reporting on this type of hooliganism masquerading as professionals? I don’t think so.

Added to this is a complete inability of some of these PMCs to deliver the service they were contracted to deliver. However, when I refer to PMCs, I refer to professional, competent and experienced private military companies and not the host of “wannabes”, con-artists and clowns trying to masquerade as PMCs. But fortunately many of these “wannabes” are exposing themselves as nothing other than incompetent buffoons – and this includes some of the “big name” companies. Indeed, it seems as though many in the PowerPoint Brigade believe in the adage “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull...”.

PMCs that act professionally and are more than just “briefcase” or “PowerPoint” companies can play a very important role in assisting governments engaged in conflicts. Furthermore, these PMCs can provide much needed protection and support to real humanitarian groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). In both Angola and Sierra Leone, EO helped the WFP get much needed supplies through to the locals although they were not willing to admit to that. When such organisations the lack moral fibre to admit that they received assistance from a private company that is something they have to live with.

The local population are the true victims of all of the conflicts we are witnessing today. Whether they are victims of excessive criminal activity, rebel actions or government retaliation against the rebels, or even the impotence of so-called peacekeepers, the fact is that much desperately needed aid is denied to them.

The role of the private sector in armed conflict is nothing new. Private contractors have been engaged in numerous wars in a variety of roles. Indeed, if one looks at the human agent, he/she is nothing other than a private contractor working for a government intelligence agency.

It is a fact of life that PMCs are here to stay. Instead of the constant barrage of articles aimed at vilifying PMCs, thought should rather be given to how PMCs can and ought to be used and what positive role they can play in resolving conflicts and in support of humanitarian operations.

The following are just some examples of the roles PMCs can play:

• In some instances, they can end conflicts faster and cheaper than some standing armies
• Establish a foundation for peacekeeping operations
• Project influence of the host government
• Act as an advance party to other forces
• Assist with insider knowledge of a country
• Project and ensure stability
• Safeguard foreign investments/assets in a conflict zone
• Provide protection to humanitarian groups
• Provide protection to the locals caught up in the conflict
• Provide support to the armed forces on and off the battlefield
• Assist governments with strategy and doctrine development
• Provide training in specialist fields
• Advice on tactics and deployments
• Intelligence gathering operations in high-risk areas
• Deniable operations
• Counter Terrorist operations
• Counter Piracy operations
• Countering crime and narco-terrorism
• Reconnaissance of targets
• Communications
• Logistical support
• Medical support
• Protection of national key points and so forth.

I am not in any way advocating that PMCs even try to take over the role of the Armed Forces. But, given the loss of experienced manpower that leave the military, the armed forces can find a ready pool of trained soldiers to assist and support them without maintaining a large standing force at massive cost to the taxpayers. But then, the taxpayers will expect the PMCs to act in a disciplined and professional manner and in no way bring embarrassment to their government.

There have been numerous arguments for and against this approach but when governments find themselves under siege and their calls for assistance fall on deaf ears, a dedicated and professional PMC can make the different between the survival of the government or its collapse.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I would like to wish all followers and visitors to my blog a very blessed Christmas season. To those who do not celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, I wish you a peaceful festive period. To those serving in troubled areas, and to those who are trapped in the numerous conflicts around the world, I hope that you will know peace during these times and be kept safe.

My sincere thanks to everyone that contributed to this blog throughout the year. Your comments have been highly valued and have allowed me to broaden my own knowledge base. I have also been able to get to know some very good people through this blog, something I am very grateful for.

To all of those who have written letters of encouragement re this blog – my thanks to you. To those who write “private” mails to me, I hope that you will be able to get rid of the ghosts that haunt your lives.

Finally, I would also like to wish each and every one of you a great 2010. May the coming year be filled with good health, happiness and safety.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I was recently invited to partake in a discussion on the Privatisation of War at De Balie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This discussion was the culmination of a series of talks on the battlefield that had been held at De Balie.

Prior to my departure, I was warned by several people to be wary of such a discussion. I must admit that my own thoughts on the matter also warned me that I was about to walk into an “ambush”. But, having done my appreciation of the situation, I packed my bags and duly flew out of Johannesburg to Amsterdam.

The day I left South Africa, temperatures at my home were in the mid-30 degrees Celsius and it was raining. When I arrived in Amsterdam, it was 2 degrees C – and it was raining.

I had hardly checked into the hotel when Jacob Derkx of De Balie arrived and the rest of my day was taken with media interviews. I must admit that the end result of these interviews was pleasantly surprising. I was even more surprised to be met on the street by strangers who wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me on the work EO did.

Jake Allen who runs the very popular The Combat Operator (http://combatoperator.com) and Private Military Herald (www.privatemilitaryherald.com) arrived the following day to meet me and we had a good time together. Not only was it great to finally Jake in person, we also had time to cover some important ground of mutual interest. Sadly though, it was very limited time but I am extremely grateful to Jake for making the trip from Norway just to meet and talk to me.

The discussion at De Balie, chaired by a very professional and competent Wilbur Perlot (the entire series of talks was also his brainchild) was indeed refreshing and fun. Not only was there a genuine desire to learn about Executive Outcomes and its work as a PMC but it was, in my opinion, very objectively handled. The audience was equally interested in the role of the PMC in support of operations and many very good and relevant questions were put to me. This was followed by a panel discussion which included Prof Avril Mcdonald who lectures on International Humanitarian Law and Dutch journalist Arnold Karskens, a war reporter.

Prof Mcdonald gave some extremely valuable input into the role of PMCs and she is of the belief that PMCs are here to stay but that there needs to be accountability – something I fully agree with.

Later, mingling with the audience, I was struck at just how very interested everyone was in EO and the work the men of that company did. This was confirmed by Adrian Miskelly, the creative director of Plug Creative (www.plugcreative.co.uk) who had flown in from the UK to film the discussion.

Wilbur then took me to The Hague where I addressed an audience of the Dutch Foreign Ministry and members of the Defence Ministry. Also in attendance was a journalist who had written his fair share of misinformation on both me and EO. His question was aimed at determining the “secret shareholding link” EO apparently had with multi-nationals – it appears that no time and effort will be spared at proving a lie to be fact. But, Dr Roel van der Veen who chaired this discussion was likewise professional and objective and there was great interest from the real audience in EO’s work in Africa and some very relevant questions were put to me on EO, PMCs and Africa. (By the way, Roel has written a contemporary history book on Africa titled: “What went wrong with Africa” and he gave me a signed copy of his work).

I left The Netherlands with the realisation that De Balie is certainly on the cutting-edge when it comes to discussing PMCs and their role on the modern battlefield. I commend Wilbur and his team and thank them for the opportunity to give my views on this highly controversial subject. They were very professional in their actions and treated me incredibly well during my brief visit.

Whereas it will be impossible to thank everyone by name, I would like to make special mention of De Balie’s staff - Wilbur Perlot, Jacob Derkx, Jenneke den Bol and Dieuwertje Scheringa. Also to Prof Avril Mcdonald and Roel van der Veen (MFA), Jake Allen and Adrian Miskelly as well as the numerous people who attended my discussions and spoke to me afterwards. Please accept my sincerest thanks.

When I left The Netherlands, it was raining and the temperature was – cold. On arrival back home, it was also raining...

It is good to be back in Africa, even if I came back with a severe bout of flu.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I have had countless mails from numerous visitors asking for books I would recommend on military, intelligence and other related issues.

Whereas I do not want to simply write pages of book titles, I have decided to give some of my most valuable books on these issues. Obviously, there are many, many more good books on these subjects. Please note that these books are not listed in any order of preference or importance.


1. War and our world – John Keegan
2. On War – Carl von Clausewitz
3. On the German Art of War – Bruce Condell and David T. Zabecki
4. Understanding Modern Warfare – David Jordan et al
5. The Art of War – Sun Tsu
6. War of the Flea – Richard Taber
7. Mobiele Oorlogvoering (Mobile Warfare) – Col Roland de Vries
8. The Bear went over the Mountain – Lester W Grau
9. Men against fire – SLA Marshall
10. Seven Pillars of Wisdom - T.E. Lawrence
11. Battle tactics of Napoleon and his Enemies – Brent Nosworthy
12. European Armies and the Conduct of War – Hew Strachan
13. Terrorism – Barry Davies (BEM)
14. War in Peace – (Numerous contributors) Orbis Publishing
15. From the Danube to the Yalu – Gen Mark Clark


1. Aquarium – Victor Suvorov
2. By way of deception – Victor Ostrovsky
3. The Puppet Masters – John Hughes-Wilson
4. Veil – Bob Woodward
5. Memoirs of a Spy Master – Markus Wolf
6. The World of Espionage – Bruce Norman
7. Legacy of Ashes – Tim Weiner
8. Spy Master – Oleg Kalugin
9. Gideon’s Spies – Gordon Thomas
10. The Double Cross System – J C Masterman
11. Hit Team – David Tinnin
12. I was Stalin’s Agent – W G Krivitsky
13. Secrets of German Espionage – Bernard Newman
14. The Truth about Dirty Tricks – Chapman Pincher
15. The Intelligence War (Numerous contributors) Salamander Book


1. The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
2. The Art of the Samurai – Yamamoto Tsunetomo
3. The Coming Anarchy – Robert D Kaplan
4. The Seven Military Classics of ancient China – Ralph D Sawyer
5. Power: The 48 Laws – Robert Greene
6. The Quotable Soldier – Lamar Underwood
7. Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun – Wes Roberts, PhD
8. The Master Strategist – Ketan J Patel
9. Battle – R G Grant
10. The 36 Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts – Hiroshi Moriya
11. Oxford guide to Battles – Richard Holmes & Martin Marix Evans
12. The Chinese Martial Code – A L Sadler
13. Confessions of a Political Hitman – Stephen Marks
14. Military Power – Salamander Books
15. The Warrior’s Honor – Michael Ignatieff

African Military History:

1. Total Defence – Neil Orpen
2. Buffalo Soldiers - Col Jan Breytenbach
3. The Silent War – Reg Shay & Chris Vermaak
4. Commando – Deneys Reitz
5. To the bitter end – Emanoel Lee
6. South Africa’s Border War – Willem Steenkamp
7. Continent Ablaze – John W Turner
8. Trekking on – Deneys Reitz
9. Umkhunto We Sizwe - Thula Bopela and Daluxolo Luthuli
10. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, Pretoria - Piero Gleijeses
11. 32 Battalion – Piet Nortje
12. Warfare by Other Means – Peter Stiff
13. Africa’s Superpower – Paul Moorcraft
14. Images of War – Peter Badcock
15. Flying Cheetahs in Korea – Dermot Moore & Peter Bagshawe

I trust that these books may serve you as well as they have served me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


One of the key principles of strategy is to “select and maintain the aim or objective”. This principle is furthermore found in the principles of war and in the principles of the offense.

This principle follows closely on the heels of another fundamental truth – Strategy must adhere to the political guidelines as contained in the political strategy. This is due to the fact that military strategy is simply an extension of the political strategy or a manifestation of a country’s foreign policy.

This principle is aimed at ensuring that commanders do not lose focus on their primary and secondary objectives but instead focus their forces on either destroying or neutralising those objectives. Additionally, this principle ensures that commanders are not side-tracked from their mission and that all possible deviations from the primary and secondary objectives have been carefully appreciated and planned.

The final military strategy is tested against the numerous principles of strategy and war.

Each operational plan is also tested against the principles of that particular phase(s) of warfare that is to be executed during the operation.

During the appreciation and plan, the Intelligence Officer (IO) represents the enemy commander and, based on his knowledge of the enemy, presents the enemy’s most likely and most dangerous courses of action. This allows the commander to ensure that his plan is both flexible and workable, that he never loses sight of the allocated objectives and that he is able to cope with any unexpected enemy actions.

In order to fulfil his task effectively, the IO needs “intelligence” if he is to advise his commander correctly. Without “intelligence”, commanders are blind as all strategies and tactical actions are intelligence driven.

However, a new word has crept into the military’s ever-expanding terminology - “mission creep”. Along with this comes “exit strategy” – something I regard as a “defeat and withdrawal with honour” – if there can be such a thing.

But of late, a lot has been said and written about “mission creep” and how important it is to counter this phenomenon.

Many will disagree with me but I believe that mission creep exists because strategists and planners have failed to strategise and plan. Alternatively, their strategies and plans were never intelligence-driven but instead were based on arrogance, guesstimates and best-case scenarios. Coupled to the lack of strategy and planning comes interference at political level, usually contrary to the initial guidelines supplied, which breaks the military focus and alters the objectives. This, in turn, forces commanders to adapt or change their unit’s mission profile and posture and alter their initial military objectives.

A lack of focus on the objective allows the commanders to become side-tracked with issues that are often unrelated to the objective and in order to cope with this deviation, more troops are called for. This is one of the reasons why “troop surge strategies” are implemented. But, I have had my say on what I perceive to be a misguided approach – unless of course, a war of attrition is being fought. But it is highly unlikely that modern society will adopt and execute a long-term war of attrition, especially in terms of casualties and costs.

I am therefore somewhat surprised when “mission creep” is mentioned as something that is inevitable. I believe it is due to a total intelligence failure and subsequent poor strategies and plans.

But, perhaps I am wrong?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Exactly one year ago, I wrote and posted for the first time on this blog.

What started out – on a recommendation from my wife – as a forum to set the record straight on numerous issues that have bothered (and still bother) me has grown somewhat beyond my expectations.

I have had some excellent comments from those who follow the blog and also some (very valid) reprimands. As a whole, I am happy with the way things are going as I am still able to voice my opinions and concerns – and in the process learn from so many different visitors from across the globe.

However, over the past year I have, unfortunately, had to banish some from the blog who have not realised that this is a serious look at military and security affairs.

My concerns lie primarily with the soldiers and security officers who I believe are often neglected by their political masters and when things turn bad, have to take the blame for poorly formulated strategies and sometimes inexcusable and inexplicably poor political decisions. Sometimes senior officers also need to take responsibility for poor decisions and for not having the backbone to stand up for their troops and ensure that they get the correct equipment at the correct place and time.When this support is lacking and casualties rise, morale will be affected.

The lot of the soldier – be it in an armed force or as a contractor in a PMC – is not an easy one. But, we never put ourselves out there because we thought it would be easy. We know the role of the politicians and the senior officers and we know our role – and we accept it with stoicism. However, if I, in a small way, can contribute to saving the lives of soldiers with some small bit of advice, irrespective of where they are deployed, I will feel that the blog has not been in vain.

The blog has allowed me to re-establish contact with some fellow-soldiers I last saw many years ago and also to make new friends and contacts throughout the world. With followers and daily visitors from 98 countries, I feel honoured to be able to “speak” to so many about things I believe in – even though not everyone agrees with me – and, as far as I am concerned, that is healthy.

I have, over the course of the year, received several suggestions from those who follow this blog on what they would like me to write about. Some of these issues I have tried to cover and some I will still get to. Some, especially where purely political in nature, I shall not debate as I am not a politician – and have no intention of becoming one.

To those who visit the blog simply to read it or to make comments - you have all contributed to making this a good year.

My sincerest thanks to each and every one of you.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I often read essays on the “modern” conflict and find myself totally confused. New words and phrases abound to the point where I am not actually sure of what the author is writing about.

As a young soldier, I learnt about conventional warfare and unconventional warfare. Counter Insurgency (COIN) was viewed as a part of warfare utilising unconventional methods and tactics. Today I read about “asymmetrical warfare”, “hybrid warfare” and “kinetic” and “non-kinetic” actions. Even soldiers are no longer soldiers – they are now warfighters. The soldier’s rifle has become a Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) or an Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW).

Where will all of this end? – or is the aim to confuse ourselves more than we are able to confuse the enemy?

In my mind, “war” has always been war – and it has always been fought by “soldiers”. Whereas the weapons have evolved, the aim has always been the same: annihilate the enemy or exhaust the enemy to a point where he no longer desires to continue with the conflict. Today, I find myself exhausted just trying to understand the new terms, phrases and acronyms that abound and confuse me.

I was about to give up on the subject of war until I stumbled across William F Owen’s excellent article about the new language that has become part of the military make-up. (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2009/11/4114043)

Somehow, this all reminds me of organisations that when faced with a task they cannot accomplish, create a new impressively-sounding term or phrase along with a new department and then simply continue with their incompetence. This gives them an excuse to waste time and money whilst trying to discover adaptive and complex solutions to the overcome the hybrid actions against them.

Military commanders - or perhaps one should call them “warfighter managers” - no longer command men – instead they “manage” them. Surely, there is a very distinct difference between an army and a commercial enterprise?

If I were still a serving soldier, I would much rather have a commander than a manager.

The discipline in a commercial enterprise cannot match that of a military unit where instructions and orders are to be obeyed the instant they are issued. Is the military not shooting itself in the foot by trying to turn commanders into managers, despite the fact that this softly-softly style of command can never succeed? Although the armed forces may serve a democracy, they cannot be run along democratic or commercial enterprise lines.

Bad military strategies cannot be rectified by Fortune-500 management styles.

Despite enormous developments in weapons and battlefield technology, the nature of war hasn’t changed that much. Why try to develop a new language to cope with age-old military problems that have been faced before by soldiers – or are these words and terms simply there to make excuses as to why strategies are failing?

Throwing around new words, phrases and acronyms does not make one competent or efficient. It is practicing the basics in a disciplined, planned and controlled manner that leads to success.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I have noticed a disturbing trend in today’s counter insurgency (COIN) orientated conflicts – IFV’s are being deployed as MPVs/MRAPs and visa versa. Whereas this is not only a serious deployment error, it poses a grave danger to the lives of the occupants of the IFVs and MPVs/MRAPs.

Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) were developed to allow infantrymen to accompany armour formations in relative safety, debus close to or on the objective and provide some protection to the Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) accompanying them. IFVs are also referred to as Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicles (MICVs). The infantrymen associated with these vehicles are referred to as “mechanised infantrymen” and they accompany armoured formations into battle.

IFVs provide better armour protection to the occupants than normal Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), are equipped with heavy weapons such as 20mm or 30mm cannons and some IFVs allow the infantrymen to engage targets with their assault rifles by means of firing ports. The heavy armament allows the vehicle to act as a direct fire-support base for the infantrymen once they have debussed from their IFVs and are fighting through the objective or holding ground of tactical importance.

Despite the improved armour IFVs have, they are not built to withstand blasts from landmines, off-route mines and IEDs. They are designed and built to accompany conventional mechanised forces and add to the shock-effect of the armoured attack and not operate against unconventional forces in a piece-meal manner.

In contrast, the Mine Protected Vehicle/Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MPV/MRAP) is designed to transport troops in areas that have a high probability of small-arms ambushes, landmines, off-route mines and roadside IEDs. However, there are design parameters that need to be considered when developing MPVs/MRAPs. These include size, weight, blast- and ballistic protection and so forth.

The MPV/MRAP is not an IFV, but infantrymen can engage the enemy with their weapons from these vehicles. Additionally, these vehicles often make use of a turret-mounted weapon such as a 12,7mm or a 20mm machine gun. The function of the MPV/MRAP is to transport troops to a debussing point from where the troops will locate and engage the enemy on foot. As such, these vehicles remain within the realm of motorised infantry and are vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns.

Both IFVs and MPVs/MRAPs - be they tracked or wheeled - have good cross-country mobility. This in itself ought to be exploited by the forces using these vehicles and they should remain off the existing roads, making use of the off-road capabilities of the vehicles. (We referred to this as “bundu-bashing”).

These vehicles, despite their protection, have very specific deployment tactics and when road-bound, should be accompanied by combat engineers who sweep the road for mines and IEDs, the sappers in turn being protected by infantrymen who follow a definite formation. There is a specific drill and tactic the sappers follow in order to ensure the road is clear of all threats. Counter-ambush drills are applied as soon as a threat appears imminent.

Obstacles such as urban areas, defiles, mountainous terrain and so forth also require the adjustment of tactics in order to minimise ambushes, mines, IEDs and anti-tank weapon threats. It also requires an understanding and “reading” of the terrain itself and how the enemy may exploit it to achieve his aims.

In the South African border war context, MPVs/MRAPs were developed after taking note of lessons learnt in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe conflict. It was realised that soft-skinned vehicles cannot be effectively up-armoured using sandbags and metal plates. It was due to these lessons learnt that true MPVs/MRAPs such as the Casspir, Buffel, Kwevoel and others were born. In turn, the South African Police’s counter-insurgency unit known as “Koevoet” pioneered the use of the MPV/MRAP as an offensive vehicle, but they remained off roads whenever possible and didn’t use the vehicle as a traditional IFV. Indeed, the latest generation MPV/MRAP known as the Puma M26 is a classic example of this type of vehicle.

The SADF used its MPVs/MRAPs extensively to keep pressure on the enemy, conduct follow-up operations, transport troops to new deployment areas, escort convoys and such like. They were not used in a traditional mechanised infantry role.

IFVs, in turn, were deployed as elements of combat teams and battle groups and were not used piece-meal for COIN operations.

The trend of using IFVs as MPVs/MRAPs and visa versa is irresponsible and will simply present the enemy with easier targets, increase own forces casualties and thus boost enemy morale while reducing own morale.

The IFV is not an MPV/MRAP; the two vehicle-types are vastly different and should not be used interchangeably.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Just a brief note to let you all know that I am back home again. Thank you for all the comments wishing me well on my small travel. I did not feel it warranted every good wish being posted but I sincerely thank those who sent them.

I seem to somehow have “lost” 2 comments to the previous posting. I am not sure why this has happened and I would be most grateful if you would repost your comments if you find that your comment has not been posted.

I know that there was one comment on “visual tracking” and senior officers reading the blog as well as one by Alex. They seem to have disappeared. It may be due to a fault of mine but it may also be that they were swallowed up by the ether.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


As I’ll be going away again for a few days, I leave you with my final thoughts on the COIN conflict:

1. All wars are fought to be won. The COIN conflict, whether we chose to call it an unconventional war, a small war, an asymmetrical war or whatever – remains a war. At its conclusion, there will be only one victor. The victor will be the force that has the support of the local population.
2. The fight must be taken to the insurgent. This means hunting him down and attacking him in areas where he believes he is safe. This also includes conducting pre-emptive strikes across international borders if necessary.
3. To conduct effective hearts-and-minds campaigns, the area needs to be stabilised. That means it must be free of insurgents – and kept that way. Without security there can be no stability. Without stability, there can be no effective hearts-and-minds or development.
4. COIN forces are engaged in fighting an ideology – an ideology that is aimed at turning the local population to support their cause. This will be done by propaganda, fear, coercion and terror. Security forces need to realise that their actions, especially when construed as negative towards the local population, will be exploited by the insurgents to strengthen their ideology.
5. The night belongs to the one who chooses to use it. Use it and deny the insurgent sleep, freedom of movement and the ability to function.
6. Attack the insurgent’s source of income. Without income, the insurgent loses his power to purchase, recruit and ultimately wage war.
7. Human intelligence in the form of agents and turned insurgents is crucial as they will be more successful at gathering vital intelligence than “outside” agents that have been inserted into an area.
8. Ground coverage in the form of men who understand the locals, their customs, beliefs, traditions, can communicate with them and so forth is crucial to developing an understanding of – and winning the confidence of – the human terrain the security forces will be operating in. This is an aspect that needs to be addressed as soon as possible once security forces enter an area.
9. The locals need an undertaking that they will be supported – and very importantly protected - if they turn against the insurgents.
10. Different sections of the population will support either the insurgents or the security forces but this choice is usually decided on by political reasons, fear and resentment or by promises of help and improvement of their lot.
11. Promises made to the local population must never be broken. This will merely turn them against the security forces.
12. Good intelligence is not gained by using physical force against the locals. The resultant fallout will lead to resentment and aid in the recruitment drive of the insurgents.
13. Security forces must never treat the locals as though they have been conquered. This will lead to resentment and additionally, assist insurgent recruitment. Viewing locals as “lesser beings” will add to the insurgent propaganda and recruitment drive.
14. When the security forces lose the support of the local population, the insurgency will gain strength and escalate.
15. Security forces must hold territory and deny entry into that territory by the insurgents.
16. COIN conflicts are not purely military in nature. They include a large political- and social involvement and as such the military plans and the socio-political plans should work towards a common goal.
17. Mission diversion should be avoided at all costs as it will weaken the focus of the security forces and strengthen the focus of the insurgents.
18. Routine movement of vehicles and men must be avoided at all times.
19. Roads must be swept for landmines by sappers before being used and the security force vehicles using those roads must be MPVs/MRAPs being used within their design parameters.
20. The government and security forces must give autonomy to the local chiefs. By removing their autonomy, their status is removed, resentment is bred and control is lost.
21. Infrastructure development must be in line with what the local population want and not what the government/security forces think they want.
22. Security forces must be able to out-gun the insurgent and strike hard and ruthlessly when targets are located. This does not, however, imply that locals must suffer the cross-fire or collateral damage.
23. Junior leaders must be encouraged to think. The COIN conflict remains a small unit war and as such the small unit leaders must be given the freedom to use their initiative.
24. The Principles of War remain applicable to COIN conflicts and must not be discarded or denigrated.
25. The use of the air weapon/air support must be coordinated and planned to work in conjunction with ground forces.
26. The locals will not support – or understand why the security forces are supporting – corrupt government officials.
27. Local forces need to be integrated into the security forces, trained and equipped and be treated as “equals”.

Ultimately, the COIN conflict is a battle between ideologies. Whoever can convince the local population that their cause is the better route to follow, will ultimately win the conflict.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Developing the strategy to fight an insurgency in a third country should be based primarily on the assessment whether that conflict is in the national interests of the state considering such an action. However, if the State itself is engaged in such a conflict within its borders, it would naturally be in its interests to end the conflict as soon as possible. In both instances, this will require a significant shift in terms of strategy, doctrine and tactics.

Whereas COIN operations can buy time, prevent the whole-sale slaughter of civilians, allow the insurgents to be hunted down and destroyed, success is ultimately dependent on political reform and the establishment of a system of effective service delivery. If the government attempting these reforms is deemed incompetent or corrupt, the locals will be lost to the insurgents.

COIN campaigns tend to be protracted campaigns with the local population as the main target for insurgent propaganda and recruitment. Whereas the COIN forces should focus on clearing, securing, influencing and retaining/holding areas under the influence of the insurgents, the insurgents will attempt to reduce the operational footprint of the security forces whilst creating the perception that they have the larger operational footprint. In turn, the insurgents and their supporters will attempt to use the media to create the perception that the insurgents are “everywhere”. To build on this perceived footprint, insurgents will conduct bold raids/strikes into so-called safe areas such as bases, convoys and so forth.

By creating a safe area in which civil-military actions can successfully take place will provide a firm base for security forces to operate from into the adjacent area. This will, furthermore, allow the security forces to keep “one foot on the ground”, maintain initiative and momentum and not be caught off balance. If the traditional ink-spot strategy is followed, similar actions ought to take place before moving on the next area or “spot”. But, civil-military actions are doomed to failure if the local population does not accept and “buy-in” to the concept. Getting locals to buy-in to any concept is problematic if they are not homogenous in terms of ethnic and racial make-up.

It is vitally important that the local population feel that they are secure, not “the enemy” and not “conquered” by the security forces. This requires that security forces are well-versed in the customs and traditions of the locals in the area they are operating in in order not to offend or alienate the locals. Failure to abide by this very basic requirement will result in resentment from the locals and a desire to see the security forces leave their area. In turn, this may result in the locals siding with the insurgents. The insurgency may then become an insurrection.

Actions against the insurgents must be decisive, swift and ruthless. This requires both good intelligence and the deployment of small reconnaissance teams that are able to locate and call air support or fire force-type units to swiftly engage the insurgents. This will provide the security forces with the basic principles of flexibility, mobility, momentum, initiative and decisive actions. But, force levels need to remain high in secure areas to prevent the insurgents from enlarging their footprint into safe areas. To achieve this, security forces require the correct training, discipline and leadership.

Strategic communication lies at the core of successful command. Commanders ought to recognise the fact that every action, however small, will generate an effect on the operation and this effect will impact on the local population. This effect will alter perceptions and to many locals, perception equals the reality of the world they live in. When the locals realise that there is a desire to improve their lot, they will often start providing the security forces with intelligence on the insurgents. Others, who may have actively supported the insurgents, may also change their perception of the government and the security forces.

Counter insurgency campaigns are primarily foot-soldier campaigns. Whereas vehicles play a major role in the campaign, they should never be used as “mechanised forces” unless absolutely necessary. Vehicles create targets for IEDs and landmines and where possible, trooping and deployments should be achieved by the use of helicopters. The tendency of the modern soldier to want to remain on or close to a vehicle also reduces the footprint of the security forces in terms of area domination and restricts them to certain areas or channels. But there is a danger that this tendency or laziness may permeate through to base protection, guard duties and other essential protection services. In turn, this will embolden the insurgent to conduct strikes at security force bases and outposts.

Night operations are equally important in COIN ops. Again, these operations should not be conducted by vehicle-borne troops as vehicle noise and lights can be seen over great distances and alert the insurgents who can either prepare ambushes, lay IEDs/landmines or simply exfiltrate out of the area. Security forces need to remember that the night is neutral and can be exploited by either party.

The importance of the elders/chieftains who exercise control over the local population should never be negated or ignored. If these traditional leaders are not integrated into the civil-military plans, these programmes will fail and give initiative to the insurgents. When these programmes are underfunded, undermanned, lack control and focus, they are doomed to failure. Penny-pinching does not win a COIN conflict.

Incentive programmes towards the local population such as rewards for actionable intelligence as well as protection and support for insurgents who lay down their arms need to be considered.

Poor strategies, a lack of leadership and focus as well as the incorrect deployment of security forces will fail to isolate the insurgents from the local population. This is due to the fact that insurgents remain unidentifiable until the population turns against them. This is the crux of any successful COIN campaign.

Without a definite national interest, a coherent strategy and poorly led, trained and equipped troops, the COIN conflict will become a graveyard for those engaging in it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Having finally arrived back home, I was somewhat surprised (pleasantly though) to switch on my computer and find so many messages from around the world wishing me good luck and a safe journey and return.

Additionally, my email inbox was – and still is – groaning under the load of mail that came in during my absence. This is one battle I am winning albeit somewhat slowly.

Whereas I truly appreciate everyone’s good wishes, I will not be posting all of the messages I received - not because they are of no value but because I view them as “private”.

My sincerest thanks to all of you who sent messages.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I wish to advise all followers and visitors to my blog that I shall not be posting for at least two weeks. This is due to business commitments I need to fulfil which will prohibit me from any writing and posting.

As I shall be unavailable over the period 18 September 2009 to 1 October 2009, it will not be possible for me to respond to your comments, which I appreciate and value.

I also wish to ask if anyone has a specific subject/area of interest that they want my two-cents worth on, please let me know.

Upon my return, I shall post all comments that may have been received.

However, please do not stop visiting the blog and commenting.

Till then, everything of the best to you all.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


When I recently got the opportunity to revisit the Puma and go on a test drive, I gladly accepted it. Apart from being very impressed with what I experienced, I also got a lot of new information on this very versatile vehicle.

The Puma offers a very viable and cost-effective alternative to the ageing Casspir and Mamba APC’s. Not only does the Puma offer mine/blast protection equal to that of the Mamba, it offers superior ballistic protection over both the Casspir and the Mamba.

The Puma M26 MPV is an evolutionary development of the Puma 4x2 MPV that is in service in Iraq where it proved its crew survivability during Improvised Explosive Device (IED) incidents.

As an MPV/MRAP, Puma is designed to carry a section of 8 plus a driver and vehicle commander (total of 10 occupants). The modular interior layout can, at additional costs, be changed to re-configure the vehicle for any one of the following roles:

1. Command and control vehicle
2. Tactical ambulance with one stretcher or four sitting patients plus first line/tactical medical equipment
3. A 6-seater tactical patrol vehicle
4. A tactical fire-support vehicle with 60mm mortar and 40mm AGL/heavy machinegun.

Some basic technical specifications on the Puma are as follows:

1. Crew: 10 (2+8)
2. Maximum Gross Vehicle Mass: 8 000 kg
3. Drive: Selectable 4x4
4. Steering wheel orientation: Right hand drive. Left Hand drive is available at no additional cost
5. Ballistic protection: 7,62 x 51mm NATO Ball and 5,56 x 45mm NATO Ball (B6+/ STANAG Level 1)
6. Mine protection: 8kg TNT anywhere under the vehicle and 10kg TNT under any wheel
7. Entrance doors: One rear plus two side doors in driver’s compartment
8. Roof hatches: 2 on the rear part of the roof. The hatch doors open to the outside of the roof and can be locked in the closed, vertical or horizontal positions
9. Gunner’s hatch: A round gunner’s hatch with optional 3600 cupola ring with (optional) NATO type fitting for a pintle mounted light (or medium) machine gun is fitted on the roof
10. Firing ports. A total of 11 firing ports are fitted in the hull
11. Radio fitments. Universal racks and fitments for two radios are fitted
12. Rifle brackets. Two OTT designed universal rifle brackets are fitted in the driver’s compartment
13. Wheels: Total of 5 (4 plus 1 spare)
14. Air conditioner. High capacity air conditioner is fitted as standard.

Armies who face the threat of IEDs and landmines on a daily basis or who find their vehicle movement under constant ambush will do well to consider the Puma.

Personally, I believe that this vehicle will make a massive impact on the battlefield and aid in troop-survivability.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


An insurgency is the result of an ideology that violently opposes a government’s policies with a vastly different politico-ideology set. That ideology will only grow stronger if the security forces act in a manner that alienates – or has the potential to alienate - the local population. This includes acting as “conquerors” towards the local population and/or offending their traditions and customs.

However, there is a fine balance between acting decisively in terms of military action and winning the “hearts and minds” of the local population. Too much focus on one action will simply weaken the other, especially when this focus is haphazard and uncoordinated. But, the adage that a COIN conflict requires a mere 20% input as opposed to an 80% political input can be misleading as the military operations are 100% operations aimed at locating and destroying the insurgents wherever they may be.

To succeed, COIN forces require an exceptionally high standard of leadership and combat discipline. Good intelligence leads to good planning. Gathering intelligence requires the maximum use of all intelligence sources including the deployment of aggressive reconnaissance teams who can call for the rapid deployment of assault troops/fire force elements. Leadership and purpose will provide the COIN forces with flexibility and also allow the application of deception measures. Good fire discipline will prevent unnecessary collateral damage amongst the local population. However, once the locals regard the security forces as part of the problem, the tipping point has been reached.

There are various scenarios at play during any counter insurgency campaign, but those scenarios are dependent on whether the insurgency is being fought in one’s own country or beyond one’s own borders. Also to consider is whether an outside force is used to assist an under-siege government in its fight against an insurgency. Additionally, the waters become more muddied when the insurgent is supported from a third- or even fourth-country than the one he is operating in. In the latter, cross-border pre-emptive strikes will be called for – but this requires accurate intelligence in order to conduct pin-point strikes.

The situation becomes even more complex when deploying into a country that contains several diverse ethnic or population groups, speaking different languages, with different customs and beliefs and who live by their own rules. The end result is that such fragmented societies are seldom, if ever, able to act as a unified nation. This can present the COIN force with the challenge of deciding which group it will support and how will it control the country once the insurgents have been defeated. Simply having “boots on the ground” will not necessarily lead to acceptance of the COIN force and legitimacy in the eyes of the different factions or groups.

Whereas the COIN forces may claim a “just cause” and legitimacy, it is the local population who will ultimately give that legitimacy and legitimacy is an essential requirement for success. But, it is the regional and international populations/communities that will restrict the COIN forces from often responding with the appropriate ruthlessness against the insurgent, subsequently bringing the legitimacy into question. In turn, a lack of ruthlessness will present the COIN forces as “weak” in the eyes of the local population. But, appropriate ruthlessness against anyone but the insurgent will be sure to intensify both operational and legitimacy problems as well as breed resentment from the locals. The end result is that both the security forces and the government will lose credibility with the local population. This in itself implies a doomed strategy.

Inappropriately equipped and poorly supported COIN forces will find themselves restricted to predictable and routine road-bound actions that will make them easy targets for insurgent fire and IEDs/landmines. Likewise, inadequately planned and prepared Civic Action Groups that are under-equipped, understaffed and under-financed will not be able to play the role they are supposed to play thus given the insurgent an additional advantage.

All civic action plans need to be coordinated with the operational plan to ensure focus of effort under a unified command. This can only be achieved by militarily driving insurgents out of an area and then developing/rebuilding the community in that area. Failure to do this will lead to failed development programmes and, additionally, create numerous power vacuums which the insurgent can and will exploit to his advantage. This advantage will give the insurgent continued initiative and prevent the COIN forces from gaining any momentum in their operations.

When politicians ignore the realities of the conflict they have committed troops to, a disaster is imminent. This lack of understanding will not only demoralise and weaken the COIN forces but will, additionally, give the insurgents a sense of victory.

Countries that want to get involved in a COIN conflict beyond their borders, regardless of how noble this may seem at the time, need to question whether such involvement will serve the interests of their National and Foreign Policy. They also need to carefully consider the political, economical, human and material fall-out that may result from such involvement. These considerations need to be juxtaposed with their strategic abilities and capabilities and carefully assessed. Failure to do so will seriously hamper the entire COIN effort and progress and make a believable and credible exit strategy even more problematic and difficult.

When COIN forces are committed, they need to be correctly equipped, provided with the necessary resources and the political and military will to see the conflict through to the end. As insurgencies tend to be protracted campaigns, there are no short-cuts to victory. Such misguided beliefs will lead to ultimate resistance to the campaign by the citizenry, whilst stimulating the drive of the insurgents.

From a military point-of, winning the insurgency may prove an easy task but ultimately, poor strategies, a lack of planning, poor coordination of effort, inadequate equipment, a shortage of resources, misguided political interference, poor leadership, a lack of flexibility, ineffective tactics and a misunderstanding of the insurgent and his ideology will give victory to the insurgent.

Coupled to a lack of credibility and resentment from the local population, the COIN forces may just as well pack their bags and head home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I read a recent posting on Jake’s very informative blog (www.privatemilitaryherald.com) that was titled “Misconduct by US embassy guards in Kabul alleged”. The article was written by David Alexander. To put it mildly, the allegations in the article were shocking and if I were the owners/directors of the said company, I would hang my head in shame.

Then I recalled reading on the same blog the alleged unfair treatment of security guards in Uganda – you guessed it, the same company that are acting out their Ramboesque dreams whilst getting paid for it in Afghanistan are treating their staff in Uganda as though they own Africa. Allegedly, they have now been taken over by another company.

Even more concerning is that it appears that the US State Department was aware of the despicable behaviour of these so-called “contractors” yet chose to continue giving them multi-million dollar contracts. Apart from making me want to ask some searching questions on how these clowns are awarded their contracts – and who has benefitted from the contracts, I have to wonder if this despicable behaviour is in line with US foreign policy. And is this the type of “contractor” that the US Department of Defence wants to protect its secure zones from enemy activity?

If PMCs are concerned at their image, they need to look no further than articles such as these. Not only does reporting such as this deepen the hole PMCs are digging for themselves, it also smacks of a multitude of problems in the industry.

Not only that, it points to massive problems within the said company. Starting with no direction and control, poor leadership, no code of conduct, a lack of discipline and inexcusable vetting practises – to name but a few.

When awarding contracts, does no one really care if the company that wins the contract is professional and able to comply with the given mission? Are there no guidelines to these companies? Are they allowed to do whatever they want? Is this type of behaviour condoned?

If it is accepted that men under pressure need to be allowed to let off steam, they should be taken away from the area they are deployed in. If they want to show their hooliganism, they should do it away from prying eyes. The type of behaviour this company has allowed to take place has given the locals in the area a very good reason to view them with distaste.

I am aware of similar practices by some companies working in East Africa and the locals are viewing them with increasing contempt. Maybe they are unaware of just how offending their behaviour has become, but it has not gone unnoticed. It is very possibly also proving to be a great recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

If PMCs want to ensure that they get decent and fair media coverage, they had better clean up their act. But, I believe that companies such as this (I do not believe they are worthy of the term “PMC”) have no place in the industry and even less place on the African continent.

But then again, maybe it is only me that feels this way.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Insurgencies are nothing new. History is littered with examples of insurgencies and counter insurgency operations - some successful, some not. But have we learnt anything from this history?

A counter insurgency operation (COIN Op) differs vastly from a conventional or semi-conventional operation in that the enemy (insurgent) is usually not recognisable as he/she moves, as Mao Zedong put it, “like a fish in the water”.

Without a distinctive uniform to aid identification, security force troops are confused and unsure of whom exactly they are fighting. In turn, this can manifest itself as frustration, leading to the excessive use of force and firepower, thus simply strengthening the insurgents’ cause and turning the local population against the soldiers as they become the indiscriminate casualties of the conflict. This, along with the poor treatment and abuse of the local population, will result in a situation where anger and numbers will eventually count against the security forces.

An insurgency is not a stand-off between two armies opposing one another. It is an ideology opposing an army. It does not adhere to the classical principles of the advance, attack and so forth. Instead, it will resort to anything that will further its aims, including terrorism, crime, fear and violence. Inevitably, this leads to the belief that the insurgent has the initiative as he is able to choose the time and place and strike at will, and then blend into the population. Whereas this holds some truth, especially in the early stages of the insurgency, it does not imply that the security forces have to surrender the initiative and become reactive.

But there are several reasons why an insurgency may be viewed as “lost”. These reasons can trace their origins back to the failure of strategists and planners to recognise the potential for an insurgency and to consider or appreciate the worst or most dangerous case scenario that can result due to their strategy or plan. The end result is that the flawed operational concept or plan becomes a constantly changing plan without a clear focus. It is this lack of focus that throws the security forces off balance, leads to casualties and intoxicates the insurgent with success. In turn, this creates the perception amongst the local population that the insurgent is indeed the stronger power.

Security forces need to understand the importance of isolating the insurgent from the local population. Whereas this requires a dedicated and realistic “hearts-and-minds” policy, this policy is doomed to failure if the security forces do not understand the culture, traditions, values and beliefs of the local population. This requires that all members of the security forces are educated about the local population. Without this knowledge, the security forces will misread the insurgents’ political and military strategy and subsequently its aims and objectives.

Furthermore, if this education and understanding is lacking, it will be nigh impossible to recruit and train loyal local population members into a force that will willingly do battle with the insurgents. Instead, the security forces will simply be training and arming the future insurgents.

The operational concept needs to make provision for numerous factors that will most definitely influence its execution. But, in my opinion, the following factors ought to be near the top of the strategist’s list of factors for consideration:

1. Intelligence (historic and current and how this will influence the operational concept)
2. Understanding the local population’s beliefs, values, traditions and so forth
3. Educating the security forces prior to insertion or deployment.

The use of landmines and IEDs by insurgents is nothing new, either. The South African Defence Force, along with the Rhodesian Army, learnt how to counter and negate these insurgent weapons decades ago. These lessons, along with the adaption of tactics, seem to have been lost in the modern COIN ops arenas. Likewise, concepts such as “ink spot strategies”, “area domination”, “small team operations” and so on seem to have been grossly neglected.

Of great importance is also the political will of the government fighting the insurgency and how this political will manifests itself by equipping the security forces. Inadequately equipped forces or a lack of essential equipment will inevitably lead to a drop in security force morale and their will to counter the insurgents. Additionally, casualties will escalate and have a negative influence on the national will to fight or oppose the insurgency. Subsequently, this simply enhances insurgent intoxication.

Numerous windows of opportunity present themselves when fighting an insurgent force. Failure to identify these windows and exploit them can be detrimental to the overall strategy. Whereas the insurgent lacks the discipline, weapon systems and military strength to engage the security forces directly, an indirect approach to defeating the security forces becomes the order of the day. Part of this indirect approach involves the engagement of the media to help influence the political environment they are operating in.

As long as we continue to misdiagnose the environment and ignore or subject the local population to abuse humiliation, the insurgent will retain the initiative. The end result will be a constantly changing strategy with a lack of focus where the security forces are kept off balance by their own flawed strategy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) have progressed significantly since their first deployment during the Rhodesian bush war. Despite at that time being very primitive, they were nevertheless highly effective and saved countless lives.

It was the South Africans who took these developments further and developed vehicles such as the “Buffel” (Buffalo), Casspir, “Kwevoel” and so on. In simple terms, the vehicles were built with V-shaped hulls as it is known that an explosive shock wave travels the path of least resistance and the V-shaped hull allows the shockwave to disperse up the sides of the hull, thus deflecting the blast away from the hull. In turn, this minimises injury and even death.

I know how effective this technique of blast-deflection is as I survived in a Buffel that hit a British Mk7 anti-tank mine. That made my name the first entry into the war diary of 1 January, 1980. That was 29 years ago – and at that period, the Buffel had already seen active service for some time. The Casspir, along with the Buffel, were arguably the first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to enter the combat zone anywhere in the world. Ironically, old South African MPVs/MRAPs are still, today, making their mark in combat zones in Africa and the Middle East.

What I cannot understand – or even believe – is why the British army is still using Land Rovers as combat vehicles. Similarly, the US is using the Humvee. Whereas these vehicles may have a distinctive role to play, it is not something any soldier should be sent into a mine-threat zone or enemy strong-area in. The armour these vehicles have on their sides gives no protection to landmines and IEDs.

But the question that needs to be answered is “what constitutes an ‘ambush protected’ vehicle”? Is it protection against small arms fire or does that include protection against anti-tank weapons? If the latter, then we are a long way from finding a true “ambush protected” vehicle as even the M1 tank is not resistant to certain anti-tank missiles.

However, the typical MPV/MRAP is a very expensive vehicle. That is, until OTT Technologies came along…

With the Puma M26-15, OTT Armoured vehicles (a unit of OTT Technologies), has developed a cost-effective medium MPV/MRAP without compromising the safety of the crew. The M26-15 is a continuation of the Puma 4 x 2 MPV that has been successfully deployed in Iraq.

The Puma M26-15 recently passed its dynamic automotive tests with flying colours.

The main design parameter was to develop a lower cost and robust mine protected vehicle that can be deployed effectively and safely in the harsh environments of Africa and other developing regions whilst offering excellent protection against small arms fire. The M26-15 has a crew complement of 10 (driver and commander plus 8). The vehicle is robust and easy to maintain in the field making it an MPV/MRAP with a low life-cycle cost.

The 8 ton Puma M26-15 has a sustained road speed of 80 km/h, a gradient of 60% and a side slope capability of more than 25⁰. Wide windows ensure a exceptional situational awareness while 12 firing ports plus two roof hatches and a 360⁰ cupola with a pintle mount for a light machine gun ensures quick and furious retaliation from the crew in case of an ambush.

I am very fortunate to have been one of the very few who have to date seen this vehicle – and I am very impressed.

As with any new vehicle, the actual tactical deployment of the vehicle needs to be confirmed.

Something that bothers me is that modern-day soldiers believe they ought to drive into battle. This is the role of mechanised infantry as these soldiers need to dismount prior to or on top of the objective – if all anti-tank weapons have been silenced. If not, they debus before the objective and fight their way through it with the vehicle giving fire support.

MPVs and MRAPs do not constitute mechanised infantry. The deployment of these vehicles therefore calls for an in-depth look at how they should be deployed to give the protection they ought to give. Whereas they can carry weapon systems able to give very good suppressive and supporting fire, they still need to be deployed correctly.

OTT’s new generation Puma will give the infantry the protection they need – as long as the vehicle is not deployed as a mechanised infantry vehicle. If used correctly, it will give the soldier an advantage, allowing him to arrive close to the combat zone, fresh to fight and still allow for effective fire-and-manoeuvre.

I hope that governments will take a look at this vehicle as it gives an excellent level of protection to the soldiers they are keen to commit to battle. At least now their fighting men will stand a chance. If fitted with the Bloodhound Mk1 (see my previous post dd April 2009) they will be able to track each vehicle’s movements and position.

Anyone interested in more information can visit OTT at www.ott.co.za and see the full range of vehicles they manufacture.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I have spoken a lot about the importance of intelligence and how we seem to be constantly getting it all wrong. As proof of this, we need only look at how current conflicts are going awry.

The focussed collection of information, the transformation of that information into intelligence, the interpretation of the intelligence and the dissemination thereof to the correct people at the correct time is an art we seem to have somehow lost.

It is, however, the lack of intelligence that leads to poorly formulated strategies based on guess work. This is something strategists cannot ignore, regardless of the dimension of war they are expecting or fighting. An inability to identify threats in the medium to long term compounds the inability to acquire and position the necessary sources beforehand, thus paving the way for intelligence failures.

As previously discussed, there ought to be a continuous flow of collected information from various overt, covert and clandestine sources into the intelligence system, a system that can be likened to a large machine; the information being the fuel that drives the machine. However, for the machine to use this “fuel” correctly and effectively, the information needs to be collected.

In order for the collection effort to be channelled, focussed and managed in a correct manner, certain principles must be applied. These principles are tried and tested truths and to ignore them will certainly lead to a sub-standard collection effort. A sub-standard collection effort will most surely impact very negatively on any political or military strategy.

The principles of collection (not in order of priority) can be briefly listed as follows:

1. Planning: Correct planning will ensure that the correct information is received at the correct time and place. Planning will also ensure that the intelligence requirements are met. This assumes the 5 Ps of planning – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Planning is an action which needs to be considered well before any deliberate action is planned. Planning will furthermore assist the collection effort in identifying strong and weak points as well as opportunities and strengths.

2. Exploitation of all Sources: All overt, covert and clandestine sources available must be exploited. These sources need to be carefully considered in order to prevent one source compromising another. Additionally, it will allow collection planners to confirm if they have sources that can provide the necessary information or if sources need to be identified and recruited. This includes all forms of liaison with outside bodies and agencies. TECHINT and SATINT are sources that require consideration but should never be viewed as the primary sources as they can effectively be used to feed disinformation into the intelligence process.

3. Time: The adage “Time spent on planning is never wasted” holds true. In essence, this requires planners and analysts to be “forward looking” and pro-active and not wait for a negative situation to manifest itself before any effort is launched. Time is required to ensure the following actions can realistically be achieved:

• Planning
• Identify, recruit and train covert sources (agents)
• Tasking of covert and overt sources
• Deployment and/or positioning of TECHINT and SATINT sources
• The collection of information
• The feedback/reporting process
• The interpretation of information
• The dissemination of the intelligence product

4. Relevancy: The collection effort must be relevant to the intelligence requirement. This will ensure that time, effort and resources are not wasted. When relevancy becomes discarded, collection for the sake of collection can lead to a wastage of assets and funds. Furthermore, irrelevant information and intelligence can mislead strategists and planners.

5. Control: The collection effort must be carefully controlled to ensure economy of effort, prevent unnecessary duplication of effort and minimise compromise. Control is a prerequisite for directing sources correctly and efficiently.

6. Access: Without access, there can be no collection. Access needs to be well-planned in advance with back-up access points positioned in case of source compromise.

7. Flexibility: Flexibility will allow the collection effort to rapidly switch from one target to the next. However, without planning and access, there can be no flexibility – or at best, only limited flexibility.

Intelligence planners need to be very familiar with the grand strategy of the nation as well as the subsequent military strategy. Only then, will they be able to apply their craft efficiently and with accuracy.

To ensure this, the principles of intelligence need to be applied.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Another bit of blatant advertising – an abridged extract from my in-process book Techniques of War (a working title).

If we arrive, as our forefathers did, at the scene of battle inadequately equipped, incorrectly trained and mentally unprepared, then this failure will be a criminal one because there has been ample warning — Michael Elliot-Bateman

In the modern, conflict-ridden world, Elliot-Bateman’s comment remains as relevant as ever. After all, part of battle orders are to ensure that the correct men (unit), arrive at the correct time and place, adequately prepared and equipped to do battle with the opposing forces – and win. But these orders are derived from the battle appreciation. This appreciation is a thorough assessment of all the factors that can impact on the plan and include factors such as the enemy, terrain, climate, weapons, deployments and so forth. The appreciation, in turn, leads to the formulation of the commander’s tactical plan. This plan encompasses the deployment of forces under his command and is taken right down to section and sub-section level.

Getting to the tactical plan requires careful thought and an in-depth appreciation of the situation – all based on good, sound and credible intelligence. But the tactical plan is rooted in the military strategy, a process that is on-going and constantly adjusted.

The development of the military strategy is descendent from the grand strategy of the state. It is the grand strategy that defines how the state would like to position itself in the world and how it will want to be perceived. Additionally, the grand strategy comprises the government’s action and/or reaction to real or perceived threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths.

From the grand strategy is born the National Security Strategy (NSS) – considered by many strategists to be part of the grand strategy and by others as a strategy developed with the aim of supporting the grand strategy with all of the security components at the state’s disposal. It is the NSS that ultimately defines “who” and “what” the enemy is.

If viewed as a separate strategy instead of a continuum of the grand strategy, the NSS entails the art and science of assessing, developing, applying, coordinating and monitoring all instruments of national power to achieve objectives that will enhance and ensure the national security of the nation. Additionally, it gives rise to the creation of an ability to deter an enemy threat and when necessary, to project force (usually military force) in order to secure the state’s national security interests and goals. The projection of force can be overt, clandestine or covert in nature.

The NSS (or alternatively the grand strategy) provides the guidelines for the development of the military strategy. This strategy consists of the planning, preparation, implementation, execution and coordination of the military forces at the disposal of the state to pursue its desired strategic goals. The formulated strategic goals may be offensive, defensive or containment in nature and will involve the military, intelligence, law-enforcement, diplomatic and economic resources at the disposal of the state.

The aim of the military strategy is, ultimately, to gain supremacy over the opposing forces/state(s) and reduce or destroy their will to fight. It is therefore the application of military resources aimed at achieving grand or national strategic objectives. As a strategy, it culminates in a violent act and should, in the main, be tested against the principles of strategy. These principles are often viewed as similar to the principles of war.

Constant changes in the operational environment will shape the military strategy and, therefore, such changes need to be constantly monitored and the military strategy adapted to these changes. These changes may, additionally, impact on any broad, pre-set tactical plans.

In Africa, many governments have neglected the formulation of, and adherence to, a grand strategy. In such a scenario, the development of the military strategy needs to be carefully coordinated with the government’s general policy. These policies, in turn, tend to be very party political in nature and it is, therefore, necessary to confirm the strategy at the highest level, pointing out all realistic advantages and disadvantages – as well as the potential political impact, both nationally and internationally. It needs to be pointed out that the political impact of a military strategy in Africa will differ from that of a Western nation.

Given the complexities regarding ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, beliefs and so forth, African military strategies tend to be very theatre-bound and usually re-active in nature inst4ead of pre-emptive. Many of these complexities are part of the historic legacy of drawing country borders during times of colonisation and splitting tribes into different countries.

Considering the battle for resources that is currently being waged in Africa, another part of the problem lies with the physical location of the natural resources, especially where a particular resource straddles international borders or is located within the domain of a specific grouping of people or tribe.

Adding fuel to this volatile mix is the funding of a specific group of armed guerrillas/rebels or terrorists who use the natural resources to fund their actions. It is especially in this area of interest that the military strategy should focus – deprive the opposing forces from their source of funding but in such a manner that the NSS or grand strategy remains intact.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I continue to be amazed at the amount of time, energy and money expended on the theory and practice of “peacekeeping” in conflict zones on the African continent. Conferences are held to debate the value and role of peacekeeping operations. Academic papers are penned extolling the virtues and successes of peacekeeping operations - truth be told there aren’t any to boast about. Committees are formed to monitor the players in the peacekeeping process. New NGOs spring up to play their new-found role in this on-going, lucrative farce.

Whereas keeping the peace is a very noble idea, does it really work in practise? Do those innocent people who are caught up in the conflict gain anything from the peacekeeping operations? Does fleeing their homes in terror in the middle of the night and becoming refugees something they must supposedly look forward to? Does having their hands and ears hacked off, their wives and daughters raped, their families murdered and so on give them hope? Does watching their crops and meagre possessions being destroyed while the peacekeeping forces look on helplessly, continually switch sides or turn away something they should be happy about? I doubt it.

It appears that the true winners are those who partake in these so-called peacekeeping operations and judging by their results, they really couldn’t care less about “peace” and the civilians they are supposedly there to protect. Poorly-trained and inadequately-led peacekeeping troops lead to more instability. Continued instability and conflict equates to continued income for the peacekeepers and those followers of peacekeeping missions that exploit the conflict situation.

Africa is a dangerous place and it is kept that way by wars, coups, crime and violence – often purposely – and often by very powerful behind-the-scenes players. Some of the players are foreign governments and others are multi-national corporations. But conflicts fuel the arms trade and make resources cheaper to buy. Other avenues for business are also opened up. But, the roles of these behind-the-scenes players are seldom if ever investigated. Instead, their political influence and profit margins continue to grow – as does their influence.

I have made my thoughts known on the utter and dismal failures of the UN’s so-called “peacekeeping” missions in Africa and the misery these missions have brought – and still bring - with them. Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Somalia are but some of the missions that have simply prolonged the state of conflict. True, at times a stalemate is achieved – but what then? However, more often than not, the rebels or terrorists (as that is what they usually are) continue to maintain the initiative.

But a question no one has ever answered is “how can you keep peace when there is no peace?”

Surely, that is a pretty simple question to answer?

When an internationally recognised government comes under the attack of so-called rebels, guerrillas or a dissatisfied political opponent and the antagonists resort to murder, terrorism, destruction, crime and chaos, what purpose do those who rush to “keep the peace” really serve? Would their noble mission not be better served if they hunted down those who committed the atrocities and brought them to book? If the peacekeeping forces are too useless to do their jobs, then perhaps the UN and those who claim to wish for peace should rather contract PMCs that have a desire – and a track record - to end the conflicts. Besides, elections, democracy and peace remain a pipe-dream as long as there is instability.

All conflicts involve players with their own aims and objectives. If an under-siege government asks for foreign forces to assist it in ending the conflict, isn’t that exactly what should be done? If foreign forces are despatched to help a government achieve some stability, isn’t the logical step to first end the conflict and then to maintain the peace?

Shouldn’t the peacekeeping forces only arrive once there has been a cessation of hostilities and a declaration of peace? Trying to do this about-face is somewhat senseless as one cannot enter a conflict zone and simply claim to be “keeping peace” thinking that it will suddenly end the conflict.

Peacekeeping missions seem to be driven by achieving a “ceasefire”, a method for rebels to simply gain time, re-arm and continue with the conflict. There is nothing noble or humanitarian about this apart from allowing the civilians caught up in the conflict a few days or months respite – and often in total misery.

If the UN is so concerned at keeping peace, why doesn’t it dispatch its “peacekeeping forces” to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the countless other conflicts and bring with them the peace they boast about? I never saw them rush off to Georgia to “keep peace” during the brief conflict that took place there. Or are these conflicts too dangerous for them?

Unless drastic action is taken to end conflicts, they will simply continue - and “peacekeeping” will continue to remain the profitable farce it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I wish to advise all followers and visitors to my blog that I shall not be posting for at least two weeks.

As I shall be unavailable over the period 26 June 2009 to 15 July 2009, it will not be possible for me to respond to your comments, which I appreciate and value.

Upon my return, I shall post all comments that may have been received.

However, please do not stop visiting the blog…

By the way, my first posting upon my return will discuss the myth of “peacekeeping”.

Till then, everything of the best to you all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In war, there are no second prizes. Commanders at all levels ought to recognise this. Wars are either won or lost. Winning is dependent on good training, good equipment, good strategies, good tactics, good battle drills, good command and control and above all, good planning.

But a good plan cannot be executed with poorly trained troops, regardless the type and quality of gadgets they are issued with. Nor can a bad plan be “fixed” with firepower.

Many armies seem to train and prepare exclusively for so-called peacetime missions. There are many reasons for this but the single most important reason is that those giving the instruction have no combat experience. With no real experience, troops are often not given the vital information they need to conduct their missions and more importantly, survive on the battlefield. To compensate for their lack of real situations, they mechanically follow a text book approach. That coupled to an inability to view training as the single most important preparation prior to combat, has led to a dramatic rise in casualties.

The problem with this approach to training is that when faced with real combat situations, many things begin to fall apart. Troops do not have the self-belief to cope with these difficult – and often terrifying – situations. They are not mentally prepared for what they are facing. They do not have the self-discipline to remain calm under fire. They are not sure if they can trust the soldier next to, or behind them to do what he should be doing. They have not been taught to adapt to rapidly changing situations.

Soldiers are not prepared for combat by mindless classroom work. Whereas the foundation of the soldier is discipline, his survival on the battlefield depends on good training, an ability to follow orders and to be flexible in his execution of orders. Good training allows soldiers to think…along the lines of the planned action.

Discipline is, regardless of what the detractors may say and think, vital for the survival of soldiers on the battlefield. It is this discipline that leads to unit pride, self-discipline and the strength of mind to cope with life-threatening situations. Good discipline also contributes enormously to unit cohesion. But discipline does not revolve around self-discipline alone. It includes fire discipline, equipment maintenance – without being told to do so, cleanliness and respect.

Parade ground work lays the foundation of military discipline. It teaches soldiers to react instinctively to orders. Likewise, physical training (PT) aids in the development of fitness and endurance. Both of these activities build character and push men to their limits. Men who have discovered that their limits are way beyond what they thought, suddenly develop a new-found pride in themselves. But when these activities are used solely for punishment and mindless time fillers, they lose their value and instead, breed resentment.

Cross-training of soldiers is equally important, not only to increase confidence but to allow men to operate and use different weapons and equipment. Cross-training adds to the flexibility of units and added flexibility creates new opportunities on the battlefield. We cannot expect every soldier to be a specialist diver, pilot, tank commander and so forth, but we can expect him to be the best prepared he can be for his role within the unit – and most importantly to be able to carry out his orders efficiently. Cross-training aids in this.

Are soldiers taught to use a map and compass when the GPS goes down? Can they replace a broken firing pin of an enemy assault rifle? Can they treat a serious wound? Can they improvise a diversion? Can they use most weapon systems within their own unit? Can they call in an airstrike or guide a helicopter into an LZ? Can they lay a hasty ambush at night? Can they…?

Commanders are keen to prepare “Lessons Learnt” after an operation but are those lessons learnt passed all the way down the hierarchy? Are they given to trainers who understand the importance and implication of those lessons? Can the trainers apply those lessons learnt to the advantage of their recruits?

Those who are tasked with training and preparing soldiers for combat often forget the great responsibility they have. When the trainers have no real experience, their training will be mediocre at best – especially when the instructor cannot answer the questions of recruits sensibly, instead claiming that it is “because we have always done it like that” or “because I say so”.

“Train hard, fight easy” is an old adage but without the correct instructors, discipline, confidence, tactical plans and mission predictions, it will never become a reality.

We only have one chance to do it right because there are no prizes for losers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Mission planning requires more than just throwing the dice and hoping for good luck. It is an art that requires an in-depth understanding of numerous critical elements or factors that may impact on the mission – both positively and negatively - and an assessment/analysis of how those elements or factors can be either negated, overcome or exploited to give the PMC the advantage it requires in the execution of the mission.

Any mission can be broken down into:

1. Strategic objectives: These objectives are usually derived from the client’s strategic objectives but are further analysed and fine-tuned to the PMC management level
2. Tactical objectives: These objectives stem from the PMC management’s strategic objectives and are an indication of the priority objectives (or targets) and the secondary objectives (or targets) that the PMC needs to achieve in order to successfully accomplish the mission.

From these objectives are derived the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept. These concepts are NOT the final plans but merely serve as direction-pointers to ensure that the mission remains the prime focus of the PMC.

Only once the Strategic Operation Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept are fully understood can the mission planning proper begin.

The role of on-going real-time intelligence plays a crucial role in the development of both the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept and allows adjustments to be made to the concepts. It is also this intelligence that will ultimately determine the mission-profile of the PMC. The mission-profile, in turn, will determine the amount of manpower, weapons, ammunition (first-line and first-line reserve), the phase(s) of war, tactics and so forth that will be followed.

In order to enhance the development of the tactical plan, it is imperative that intelligence- and reconnaissance - teams are deployed as early as possible in order to ensure a real-time intelligence feed on the targets. This allows further adjustments to be made to the tactical plan and, in turn, the mission profile to be adjusted if necessary.

Planning is a vital component for success and although luck can play a role, it is the ultimate plan, carried across to everyone partaking in the operation with clarity that determines the success of any mission. Team leaders must be allowed to display flexibility within the overall plan and, in turn, must develop their own plans at their level.

Once the tactical concept has been developed, it must, along with the operational plans - at all levels - be tested against the principles of the relevant operation. The ultimate aim is to ensure the correct men, correctly equipped, are at the right time and place to achieve the mission. This requires constant coordination between the various elements that will partake in the execution of the plan. In turn, casualties will be reduced.

Mission planning can be a tedious process but it requires continued focus on the outcome of the operation.

It will do planners good to remember that there are no second prizes in an operation and that no amount of firepower can rectify a poor plan.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


In my previous posting I had a brief look at the Intelligence Cycle, a process many speak of but often neglect. This process can be likened to a huge machine that uses information as its fuel. But, this process can either be a highly valuable asset – or a lame duck.

But apart from knowing this process exists, what sources of information are available to feed this process and how are they determined and guided?

It is important to know that there is a vast difference between “information” and “intelligence” - the former being raw, unprocessed data and the latter collated and evaluated information from the different available sources.

The information-feed from sources can be likened to the fuel that drives the intelligence machine. Without sound and credible information – there can be no intelligence process. It then simply becomes a matter of “garbage in, garbage out”. In order to prevent a garbage-like scenario, the identification, selection and exploitation of sources is paramount.

Whereas the PMC operating in a hostile environment will not be able to access the same type of sources as a sophisticated armed force, it can, nevertheless, access a large amount of different sources to provide the information-feed into the intelligence machine. The methods of collection are categorised as either overt or covert. Sources on the other hand can be directed, non-directed or casual.

These information sources can be briefly listed as follows:

1. Space – ie satellites,
2. Aerial – ie aerial observation platforms
3. Ground – ie reconnaissance, GSR, FCR and so forth
4. Maritime – ie ships, boats, etc
5. Underwater sensors, especially at choke points
6. Agents – both penetration and infiltration
7. Electronic warfare – ie radio, telephone, facsimile and email intercepts
8. Open literature – open sources in the public domain
9. Allied forces operating in close proximity
10. Prisoners-of-war, especially those recently captured
11. Defectors from the enemy’s intelligence services
12. Established data base that has been built-up over time
13. Local population who are resident in the area of operations and so forth.

It is of great importance to the intelligence staff of the PMC to focus their efforts on the available sources and to correctly task and guide these sources where possible. Without correct guidance, tasking and leading, the sources will fail to provide the required information and ultimately, this will lead to an intelligence failure.

Intelligence failures are not necessarily only due to the poor identification and exploitation of sources but also due to a lack of knowledge on the target area and the peoples who reside there. Intelligence failures can also be the result of arrogance and a belief that the opposing forces are unsophisticated, untrained and therefore unable to wage war effectively.

It is this arrogance of superiority that has led to many forces being unable to correctly assess their opponents on the field of battle – and has, in turn, led to higher than expected casualties and ultimately defeat.

Identifying and exploiting the available sources prior to entry into a hostile area is the key to any successful military campaign. Failure to do so is the key to defeat.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


The term “intelligence” is both misunderstood - and abused - by many. Essentially, in the military sense, it is an in-depth knowledge of the enemy that allows the prediction of the future based on current, sound and credible source-information. It is this foreknowledge that allows the prediction of the enemy’s intentions that will enable a force to adopt the correct mission profile and posture, manoeuvre its forces correctly and be at the correct place and time to overwhelm the enemy with fire.

Of course, the silly old joke that military intelligence is a misnomer is due to the fact that many who work in the field of military intelligence have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and no clue how to achieve it. Instead, they conjure up incredible source-information and make predictions from this nonsense and thus arrive at incorrect conclusions and the resultant incorrect predictions.

This leads to mission failure and a loss of credibility to the fighting forces, something we seem to be witnessing on an almost daily basis in conflicts around the world.

The ability to gather credible information is based on the ability to “see into the heart of the enemy”, know where to find the information required and to identify and utilise every available source that can gain access to the information required. The value of human sources is often sacrificed in this regard, instead making maximum use of technical or electronic collection, despite it being easily misled.

An inability to analyse where the required information can be found leads to the collection of “history” and not “intelligence”.

In order to ensure the correct process is followed in this attempt at gaining access to classified enemy material, a simple cycle, known as the “Intelligence Cycle” is followed. This cycle consists of the following basic actions:

1. Determining WHAT information is required ie defining the Intelligence Problem
2. Determining WHERE to find the information, ie what access is required and how to exploit that access. This is known as the Intelligence Appreciation
3. Collecting the information by means of sources and agents
4. Processing the gathered information by means of the Intelligence Process. This is where the information gathered is evaluated, collated and interpreted. It is at this stage that the information is transformed into intelligence
5. Disseminating the intelligence, ie giving it to those people/units that need to know the available intelligence in order to plan their operations.
6. The situation is again subject to the Intelligence Appreciation in order to locate WHERE additional information may be found and the cycle begins anew.

This process remains an on-going cycle in order to continually update the information on the enemy. It is this information and ultimately the subsequent intelligence derived from there that allows commanders to apply flexibility in their planning and adapt to changing battlefield scenarios. Intelligence is also a vitally important component to ensure that forces will not be surprised and overwhelmed by the enemy.

The main problem with many intelligence operations (apart from incompetence) is that mistakes are made during the initial phases of the Intelligence Cycle, thus resulting in the wrong intelligence targets being identified. The problem is further compounded when intelligence officers taint the collected information with their own bias instead of cold-and-clinical reporting of information. Additionally, many analysts “bend” the collected information in order to suit their beliefs and previous assessments.

By knowing and understanding the forces that oppose them, the analysts, commanders and planners will be able to make accurate Intelligence Predictions.

Poorly selected sources, the lack of human agents, agents with limited access, incorrect exploitation of sources, over-reliance on electronic or technical sources and so forth simply continue to compound the problem, leading to the incorrect evaluation and interpretation of the information. It is this flawed process that leads to poor battle plans, the loss of life and ultimately victory to the enemy. When these poorly conceived plans are implemented, no amount of battlefield bravery can rectify the damage done due to a lack of intelligence – or poor intelligence.

Intelligence ought to be one of the prime sub-actions a PMC carries out once it enters a hostile or conflict area. Without intelligence, it will not know what to expect in the area, which locals are hostile, what the language/religious distribution of the population is and so forth. Nor will it know the local customs and traditions of the peoples in the area – something that can cost it dearly.

The PMC that uses intelligence wisely will be successful in its mission but it needs to first understand the process – and application - of Intelligence in all of its facets.