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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When Sun Tzu wrote “The supreme act of war is to subdue the enemy without a fight” approximately 25 centuries ago, did he see the neutralisation or targeted killings of key enemy personnel as part of the subduing process?

Then again, I have always wondered why is it that when a politician or a prominent person (read “High-Value Target” or HVT) is the subject of a targeted killing, it is known as an “assassination”? Yet, when some lesser mortal meets his or her end, it is a murder. Unless of course, it happens on the battlefield – then he or she is simply “killed”.

The January 2010 targeted killing of a senior Hamas military commander in Dubai has certainly brought the debate on assassinations to the fore. This action to neutralise an enemy of a state is nothing new. In fact, governments through their intelligence agencies the world over have made use of - and still make use of - targeted killings as a method of eliminating enemies of supposed high-value. (Personally, I believe the intelligence agencies ought to be confined purely to the collection of the critical information and not the actual neutralisation if it involves a targeted killing).

Assassination of enemy leaders and commanders is not the only method of eliminating them. It is however the one method that causes the most media interest and speculation. If correctly planned and executed, it remains a highly effective action. When these targeted killings disrupt or impact in part on the enemy’s Centre of Gravity (CoG) they become even more effective.

But, ought these direct-action, covert or clandestine actions to be used purely for military and political purposes or do they also hold value in countering serious and violent organised crime? I believe they do. But as long as we attribute “rights” to these organised crime syndicates – who attribute no rights to their victims – this will probably never happen.

There are essentially two methods of neutralising a high-value target. These are:

1. Removing the target from society
2. Getting society to remove the target.

The first method includes actions such as assassinations, target-specific drone attacks, snatch operations with the aim of interrogating and imprisoning and so forth. This direct approach against the target requires a high level of intelligence gathering and planning. There are many instances where intelligence and planning has failed miserably but there are numerous other instances where it has succeeded. It is, however, the actions that fail that evoke the most interest and speculation. Those that are successful pass almost unnoticed.

The second method utilises an indirect approach and includes grey and black propaganda aimed at discrediting the target or arousing suspicions against him or her. These suspicions, managed correctly, can lead to society taking the desired action and thereby neutralising the target. Here too intelligence and planning play a critical role in order to allow society to be manipulated to take the desired action(s) against the target.

These actions should be conducted in support of national strategic and military operational objectives. By implication they are intelligence driven but are determined at political level and executed at operator level. It is at the level of policy that problems such as inter-service delineation and medium to long-term consequences are assessed and confirmed.

Failure can also be attributed to undue political pressure and the failure to anticipate the consequences when things go wrong, poor inter-service relations and poor operational execution. Compromise – the result of poor or non-existent security - which leads to failure, can have far-reaching political implications thus rendering the ultimate outcome a failure – despite the fact that operationally, the action may have succeeded. Likewise, unnecessary collateral damage can render an operationally successful operation a strategic failure.

Many questions arise when a targeted killing is conducted. There are those who question the morality of such actions and others who call on international legal matters to be instituted against the country perpetrating the deed. For some reason, these same voices never seem to be raised when the enemy conducts these actions.

Numerous considerations ought to be appreciated when planning a neutralisation of a specific target. Apart from the “who”, “by when”, “how” and “where”, the following are but some of the critical considerations:

1. Will he or she become a martyr and result in his/her memory being used as a rallying point?
2. Will the person who will take the target’s place be a moderate or a hard-liner?
3. What are the medium and long-term consequences of success/failure?
4. Will the resultant fall-out (political, economical, militarily, etc) be acceptable?
5. What level of collateral damage will be acceptable?
6. To what extent will a non-violent neutralisation allow the political and operational objectives to be met?

The fact of the matter is that neutralisation must take place at an early stage of the threat being identified. If the target is allowed to establish his/her authority and leadership to such an extent that they are seen as the “father” or rallying point of a movement or force, their neutralisation may increase the motivation of the movement or force. To prevent this, it is necessary for:

1. Sound intelligence at early stages of identification to answer the above considerations
2. Decisive government decision-making to respond rapidly and significantly to a developing threat
3. Rapid and decisive action to prevent future manpower, economical and political costs to escalate in order to neutralise or eliminate the target.

The neutralisation of HVTs has a definite place in the modern combat area, especially when it comes to combating insurgencies and organised crime syndicates/cartels. But a lack of decision making at the political level and inter-service bickering often result in no action. It is the lack of action, both direct and indirect, that allows the target to become a HVT, especially when the media manipulates the truth and gives media coverage thus adding to the supposed credibility of the target – and by then any action is often too little, too late.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


First off, my apologies for having taken so long to respond to the questions/comments posted to the blog by our many friends and visitors. Time has been somewhat lacking and I am now trying to catch up on a host of different things. As that is my only excuse, I shall not be posting all of the questions relating to my whereabouts or my apparent lack of responses. When I don’t respond to comments on the blog, it is simply because I cannot.

I also had several folks asking about war art from the so-called “bush war”. Whereas all wars breed their own fine war artists, I sadly do not have much from our bush war. One book I do however have (I got it as a birthday gift from my sister in 1983) was by Peter Badcock. The book is titled “Images of War” and it was published in 1981 by the Graham Publishing Company. All of Peter’s art was done in 2B and 4B pencil on Zanders board and each drawing had its own poem alongside it.

The above picture was titled “Triggered by the Siren” and is of a young SADF paratrooper readying himself before boarding the trusty old “Dak” before deployment to a contact area. Peter also did a book on the Rhodesian war titled “Shadows of War” – another excellent book if you can lay your hands on it.

Another cyber-liar has been brought to my attention: This is a character that claims to have served in EO and goes by the name and title of John Ben-Younes: Mercenary & Psychologist - personally, I suspect that he is in desperate need of a good psychologist as anyone who can think out that much rubbish must be mentally deranged. This clown obviously has a very wild imagination. But then again, he is not the first to lie about having been in EO. (Thanks for sending me the link Simon W). He also has another blog known as “diary of a mercenary” – I have not bothered to access his imagination on that one. But I am sure it will simply confirm my suspicions...

Work on my book has stalled as well. But, I am pleased to say that the editing is going well. This is all due to the hard work of a certain gentleman-lecturer at the US Naval Academy. There has however been some complaints about the fact that I am writing a book on ground operations in Africa...

Hopefully, I will be able to pick up where I left from shortly.

Thanks for your continued visits and comments and again my apologies for talking so long to get back to the blog.