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.


John said...

Good Morning Eeben,

Very thought provoking piece. I'll see if I can add anything to the debate but on first pass it all fits - yourself seeming to be a target of successful grey propaganda when EO was operational.


Snouck said...

What I am missing is the recruitment of the group that has to do the killing. What kind of people want to do it and are capable of pulling it off.

I suppose that it takes a different kind of person, than the front-line fighter.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are correct, John. I was the target of a massive (and successful) grey propaganda operation whilst EO was still alive. It was only quite recently that the media admitted that they had been duped by MI, Foreign Affairs and Mr Cleary – he of Erinys and their multitude of friends.

Luckily for me, the two direct approaches to whack me failed.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I purposely didn’t cover the recruitment and profile of the people who would be involved, Snouck. There are however people who want to do this, either through belief or due to orders – and are capable of doing it efficiently.

Yes, it is not for everyone as it can become very personal.



matt said...

One of the areas I have been looking into lately is pseudo operations, and one of the tangents I went off on is Al Qaeda and their efforts to recruit human weapons. Especially online.

To be able to connect with someone online, transform them into an assassin, and have them kill people or even HVTs is pretty powerful. To be able to duplicate this, or pin down the method, would be a very interesting capability.

The Ft. Hood shootings or the Underwear bomber come to mind when it comes to this kind of operation, and Anwar al-Awlaki comes to mind as one of those guys who actually pulled off an operation like that. He is also now on the US hit list. I am sure there are other examples of this.

The internet and this world wide connection is the scary one here. al-Awlaki and company are purposely looking for humans to convert into weapons. Good topic Eeben.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Pseudo ops are so valuable Matt, that I cannot believe that no one is actually carrying them out. They not only give outstanding results, they also confuse the enemy – and confusion is linked to deception – a principle that ought to always carry a lot of weight.

The internet is being used so much to groom all sorts of people and it is not surprising that the net is being used to recruit human weapons. But this too presents an opportunity for exploitation. Besides, blocking or jamming an internet ID is not that difficult to do. Nor is tracing it. Duplicating it is fairly simply (so I am told by my computer geniuses) and again, present a host of different opportunities.

Sadly, many mistake kindness for weakness – and given the amount of “soft speak” we get regarding terrorists and how they are actually the good guys, it is no wonder that people like that can slip through the net. Any confrontation with people such as that is usually twisted into a racial or religious incident – and we always back down. Then it is really weakness on our part.



Unknown said...

A very thoughtful and informed perspective Mr. Barlow.

After finishing the read, I came to think of Muqtada al-Sadr, and that period of the Iraqi insurgency around 2005 or so when there was so much talk as to whether the U.S. forces would kill him. I imagine that your points 1 and 2 influenced their thinking. As a martyr, he may have been more popular than as a leader. Also, his inevitable replacement may have been more eager to fight than he was. After all, the goal of a targeted killing is to harm an organization or movement, not simply take one person off the street.

I think I will have to go back and read Thomas Ricks' account of that period, because it seems to have been a surprisingly intelligent move in hindsight.



simon said...

Regarding our GWOT, it seems that we are making mistakes and missing opportunites over borders. I know that we are striking with drone's in to Pakistan and elsewhere.

How do you feel about where a person should be taken out. Like in Dubai, it appears that he got whacked outside his 'battlespace'. Do you think that less care should be taken especially by America right now to seek to eliminate HVT's whereever they find them or keep it in the battle space ?

Also , do you think that America's reluctance to use targeted assasinations of HVT's in neutral countries is exploited by the enemy.

I know that the CIA and Blackwater were setting up a very sophisticated intell network, presumably to initiate an operation of killing those who need it but was blown apart by a journalist, who in my mind is a traitor. Yet it brings up questions, of why are we in pakistan possibly without their consent.

Gatvol said...

Great Topic and one thats in the news daily. With Public Opinion as it is today, eliminating a target is not always the most popular one to choose to remedy a problem. I think you covered it well but to compromise a Standout Politician, Leader, Public Figure, whatever, is the method of choice when violence may not be justified. Once smeared or exposed, whether true or not most of society will leave that person like a sinking ship. Who wants to tarnish their own impeccable reputation in standing up for their "former" comrade.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am sure there was a good reason for not neutralising him at that time, Christopher. Martyrs, no matter how misguided the thought may be, are usually more trouble than they are worth. Often an indirect approach serves more purpose than a direct one but of course, only a thorough appreciation will determine which option to go for.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

We all make mistakes, Simon, but if we don’t learn from them, they are to our detriment.

If someone has made it his/her mission to destroy us, ie become an enemy, it was a choice he/she made. I don’t see why his/her neutralisation – direct or indirect – should be confined to a specific geographical area. HVTs remain of high value and they should be hunted down wherever they are and their value nullified. It is after all a situation of war and there are no prizes for second place.

Yes, I believe that when countries are reluctant to utilise direct methods in neutral countries, such decisions are most certainly exploited by the enemy. They know that they are safe in so-called neutral countries and simply continue with their activities whilst hiding in the open. This safety given to them by neutral countries makes me question the neutrality of the “neutral” country. Is harbouring an enemy being neutral or is it giving passive support to the enemy?

I have noted how national policies seem to be shaped in the media and how national security is often compromised in the media. I am sure the enemy has a good laugh at that. But, as far as national strategy is concerned, I would rather launch a distant strategic offensive, albeit covert in nature, than have to fight an enemy on my territory.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Direct elimination only becomes unpopular when it fails, Gatvol. If correctly planned and executed, it passes almost unnoticed. However, your point re compromise is well noted. Having been the subject of exactly such an operation, I know how damaging it can be and how there is a point of no return.

But, a sloppy compromise can also strengthen the image of an HVT and do him more good than harm.



Robby said...

Can I open up a can of worms here?....

Which country has the moral/legal authority to sanction "neutralization of a high value target's".

Not a trick question...I return to "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".If America has the legal/moral authority to do it... than so to does the ANC.No?

Happy to see you are back brother :-)

John said...


I truly wonder if we start off eliminating this radical terrorist threat by starting off with grey propaganda.

We eliminate "leaders" (like Mookie), kill them instead of assassinate them, to diminish their value as martyrs.

Don't announce the jobs, they just disappear. We would also meet your criteria of knocking major nodes out of their triad of power.

Ideally we would have our intelligence assets warmed up and ready to collect info as various nodes of power are sent to room temperature. The greater the chatter - the better chance we have of tracking down evil and drowning it. Our cultural weapons of mass destruction can then really affect the ocean they swim in.

Hope your business ventures are successful. I imagine your talents have to be of use with the soccer world cup coming to SA.



BTW - why is the world so worried about PMC personnel getting paid well? Don't we want our funds to go to the important players - soldiers - instead of bureaucrats?

Tango said...

When Sun Tzu wrote “The supreme act of war is to subdue the enemy without a fight”

Is this maybe what is happenning right now in 2010?
Modern Cyber Warfare or is it just plain Star Wars......"To subdue the enemy without a fight "

These are extracts taken from a news report today ......

"The skyrocketing severity and frequency of cyberattacks against businesses, governments and other institutions globally pose an ominous threat to the stability of the international economy and peace itself,"

Leaders express fear

Sixty-seven percent of the government officials said that if current cybersecurity policies prove ineffective, "deteriorating relations, angry recriminations and growing distrust" could result among countries such as China, India, Russia and the United States.

Fifty-one percent of the business leaders and experts expressed the same fear.

"This survey demonstrates how much more we need to do to implement policies that keep pace with the breakneck speed of technological advances," said EWI president and chief executive John Edwin Mroz.

EastWest Institute (EWI), opens in Dallas on Monday and will feature three days of discussions on ways to protect the world's digital infrastructure from electronic threats.

Among those scheduled to address the gathering, being held in the wake of sophisticated cyberattacks on Google which the Internet giant said originated in China, are President Barack Obama's National Security Advisor James Jones and White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt.

The EWI, a non-partisan think tank, is bringing together 400 government officials, business leaders and cybersecurity experts from China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the United States and nearly three dozen other countries to "map the dangers and areas of cooperation" in cyberspace.


Diamond Dallas Rage said...


so based on your own thoughts of assessment and having the knowledge of the aftermath - do you still think the January 2010 targeted killing of a senior Hamas military commander in Dubai was the right move from the suspected intelligence?
Is his martyrhood worth it?

Personally I believe that the mission as a whole was a failure because of the massive media-attention.

I don't want to start any debate here - just get more insight of what you would classify as a successful mission.

Tango said...

"The neutralisation of high value Targets"

The Hit Parade
( Shown last Night -Video on MNET)
Date: 02 May 2010 07:00

Local TV Show: Carte Blanche

Bormann: 'In an Arab city full of western faces, they didn't look out of place for a moment. Dubai's airport is a nexus for world travellers and on January the 19th this year, an unremarkable group of foreigners arrived bearing fake travel documents.'

The man in the blue tennis gear is masquerading as Australian Joshua Bruce. He arrived hours earlier on this passport.

Soon he and the rest of his group will be exposed as assassins and Israel's feared spy agency Mossad, will be in the sights of investigators.

Rami Igra (Former Mossad agent): 'Dubai being a very small place, filmed on each and every corner, they got a movie.'

Robert Baer (Former CIA agent): 'The Arabs have caught up with technology. You just can't do this stuff anymore.'

Harry Ferguson (Former MI6 agent): 'You can't risk them on this sort of operation where they get blown for taking out one terrorist.'

For Hamas arms dealer Mahmoud Mabhouh, it was meant to be a one night stopover in the cosmopolitan gulf city of Dubai.

The Palestinian resistance fighter was known to Mossad for buying weapons from Iran and notorious also for kidnapping and killing two Israeli soldiers in 1989.

This is the Dubai police version of what happened, recorded on CCTV.

Mabhouh arrives from Damascus mid afternoon and is watched by several operatives.
The man in the baseball cap goes by the name of Australian Adam Korman.

As Mahmoud Mabhouh arrives at the hotel, another man travelling on a fake Australian passport is waiting.

Dressed in a blue shirt, he and a pretend tennis friend follow their target to his hotel room and report his room number to fellow agents.

The operatives book a room opposite and still more agents move in. And when the Hamas man leaves to go shopping, he's followed every step.

Back at the hotel, two pairs of executioners arrive and out of camera range they manipulate the electronic lock of the room to lie in wait for Mahmoud Mabhouh.

In the final minutes of his life, the Hamas official arrives back from his shopping trip and into the ambush of four assassins.

Police think Mahmoud was disabled by an anaesthetic and then smothered.

But in the absence of signs of a struggle, for days police thought he'd died of natural causes and with agents safely out of the country, it seemed the perfect hit.

......The full story on shown Video on MNET South Africa last night.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No can of worms, with that question, Robbie.

Whereas most countries deny (or obvious reasons) that they sanction these neutralisations, they do them anyway when it can serve their national (or other) interests. It is in a sense following the adage: “the best defence is attack” and a neutralisation is an attack, albeit a covet one.

If we look back at the South African situation as it was prior to 1994, the ANC followed a campaign of bombing and sabotage to achieve their political aims. In return, the South African forces were tasked to take the war to the ANC. As the ANC were given safe harbour in UK, Europe and the USA, it increased the difficulty of the SA forces as those countries maintained that “one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

To answer your question: Yes, it country A has the legal/moral authority to do it, so too does country B. However, when country A attacks HVTs beyond its borders, I regard it as pre-emptive action. When those HVTs are not part of a legal government structure – and is aimed at causing death and destruction - I accept that the target is even more valid.

When governments dither about taking action, and the targets gain more power and influence, it makes the act of direct action less likely to achieve its overall aim.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Grey and black propaganda are often neglected, despite their value in neutralising targets, John. When the media cooperate, wittingly or unwittingly, to spread the propaganda, the neutralisation has every chance of success. EO was a case in point – the media played along and never questioned their “sources” – despite the fact that some of the propaganda was obviously fabricated and very farfetched.

Such operations, and their results, are never advertised. However, each piece of propaganda leads to renewed speculation – and the speculations can indeed be equally damaging. As you mention – the greater the chatter, the better the chance.

I wish soccer world cup would open doors for us, but sadly, those jobs only go to the select few.

I suspect that the griping about PMC salaries has a lot to do with jealousy...



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A valuable comment, Tango.

Cyber attacks can cause a havoc of their own, especially when hackers break into sites and alter the content to suit their purposes. This form of “propaganda by stealth” (my term as I cannot think of a suitable term!) can alter perceptions greatly. However, I see this more in the domain of pure propaganda and not necessarily neutralisation. But, I am sure that if effectively done, it can be used to neutralise - or at least diminish - the standing of a HVT in his/her society.

The hoax emails that do the rounds to discredit government policies or targeted at specific persons in government certainly give credence to the role of cyber activities in the overall efforts of neutralisation but when they are exposed, the invariably do more damage to the party conducting the effort than to the target.

In terms of overall effectiveness, we know that it is a method used to gather intelligence (political, military, economical, etc) and unless technology is developed and exploited to prevent these methods of intelligence gathering, we are still in for a rough ride.

Let’s see what this conference delivers in terms of gaps and cooperation.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think this is a classical example of a tactically successful operation but with a political blow-back that wasn’t anticipated, Diamond Dallas Rage.

From a mission point-of-view, the team achieved success. They infiltrated the target area successfully, neutralised their target and successfully infiltrated. The “operational fingerprint” left at the scene could have pointed at any one government agency, or even to Hamas themselves. But, whoever did it made one point very clear: A target can run but can never hide. This in itself has a psychological effect on an enemy.

Given that the operation was very much a false-flag operation in terms of cover, using real people’s identities and not legends, this led to the UK having to deny that they were part of the operation. The people whose identities were used, made it known that they had been at home at the time the action was carried out but had visited Israel at some time. This led to the finger pointing that followed. The massive media attention that followed certainly did the overall strategic success no good.

Was his martyrhood worth it? I think it will depend on who steps into his shoes and how that person conducts himself.

Successful missions, either direct- or indirect action ones, are successful because they have remained undetected and the neutralisation of the target has been seen as “natural causes” or the government the target was tied to, took their own action against him/her because of successful indirect actions by those who wanted the target gone. I do know of one or two successful operations that took place.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the run-down on the operation, Tango. Unfortunately I missed the Carte Blanche programme last night but will see if I can find a copy.

Despite the finger eventually pointing to Israel, the tradecraft of the operatives was good and they were not detected before or during the operation. This in itself is an indication of the tactical success of the operation. But, as Diamond Dallas Rage pointed out, the mass media coverage eventually helped uncover the operation.

Yes, the authorities in Dubai made use of technology to retrace what had happened but it was reactive and not proactive as the operatives were never compromised during their stay there. It was the political blow-back that followed that raises questions on the success of the operation.



Alex said...

This is a very interesting topic Eeben, and one I give a lot of thought to in my spare time. I drafted a response as soon as I read this the day it was posted but it seemed too convoluted and uninformed, so I'm back for another go...

I certainly recognize the value of such operations and, when carried out successfully, either as a false-flag or in some other way which does more good than harm to the perpetrator, they can certainly be of tremendous value.

My issue would have to be one of legality and morality, although given the nature of warfare and terrorism I'm sure some would view these as increasingly moot points. I wouldn't say that there is no prerogative to eliminate HVTs outside their AO as this simply absolves them of any threat or guilt over past crimes if they manage to leave their location which seems rather pointless. I would have thought that the bigger issue is both media and public opinion fallout if the op is compromised or publicised in a negative way (and I fully take your point here that they only draw serious negative opinion when they fail), and collateral damage.

This last one is trickier to my mind. Perhaps in some cases it could be seriously argued that non-intentional casualties, even of 'innocents', is worth it if the target is of sufficient value and no other options are available, but I suppose the issues raised with that line of thinking are whether 'we' (the killers) have a right to sentence some to death for the sake of killing one who is a threat to us, and whether the additional casualties will make justifying the operation, or carrying out similar actions in future, more difficult than it's worth.

The other point that I found myself wondering after reading the post was about the line between 'terrorist' (or other who could be legitimately targeted in this way) and 'criminal'. While this seems a strange distinction in some ways, as surely a terrorist as it is commonly defined is also a criminal if he or she carries out attacks on innocents or other supporting roles to such acts, the distinction I'm interested in here is between where rule of law is left behind and military or intelligence-agency action takes over. In a conflict zone this can be obvious more often but in 'neutral' territories or even on 'our' own soil it becomes trickier. There has been a lot of debate in the UK since the start of the GWOT over the powers of the security services and the powers of detention without trial of the regular police forces. So I suppose my personal quandary is over a gradual slip from necessary targeting of HVTs to police forces whacking any criminal they can't quite manage (or be bothered) to build a case against. This may be a far-off eventuality in many countries from where things stand but I still think it needs addressing.

Perhaps I have drifted off topic somewhat but I'd be interested to hear what you think about this (if my post makes any sense to someone outside my own brain...) I'm not entirely sure how successful I've been in constructing a less-convoluted post this time around!

Also I imagine I speak for everyone here when I say I'm rather glad the two attempts to 'neutralise' you failed. I remember about the one in the park at night from reading your book; could you remind me what the other one was? I'm afraid my memory fails me yet again...


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The issues of legitimacy and morality are always at the fore with these operations, Alex. I however believe that when someone or some organisation disregards all issues of morality and legitimacy and they resort to violence and terrorism to make a point or to further their cause, they forego all claims to the issues. Unfortunately, this is a very politically incorrect attitude but I stand by my belief on this issue.

Media and public opinion are always interesting points to consider. If nothing is done to curtail these activities, the media and the public demand answers. When actions are launched, whether successful or not, answers are again demanded. So those who decide on taking steps to ensure national interests will always be in hot water and doomed to negative media and public fall-out. Of course, the point you raise on collateral damage only intensifies the negativity.

An interesting point on deciding if, and when, the collateral damage is acceptable: Again, I suppose it depends on circumstances. If a 9/11-type operation was being planned and we knew about it, we would want to take action prior to the launch of the operation. If taking that action meant that to save 100 innocent bystanders, our action may kill 2 or 3 innocent people, I think the action will be taken and the loss of innocent lives viewed as acceptable collateral damage. If on the other hand, it may kill 200 innocents, I think there would be some serious soul-searching before launching an operation to neutralise the enemy.

The line between “terrorist” and “criminal” is very blurred. If you recall, when SA had a war against terror, we were shouted at for confusing terrorists with “freedom fighters”. Regardless of that issue, someone who commits acts of terror aimed at maiming or killing innocents is a criminal in the truest sense of the word, whether we call him a “freedom fighter” or a “terrorist”. In the case of a drug lord who uses violence to cover his tracks, use his crops to destroy lives and his money to perpetrate more crimes such as attacking those opposed to him – I place him in the same category. Ultimately, his/her acts are criminal in nature and fall within the category of serious crime. To combat these acts, the role of the armed forces is to support police actions when operating within one’s own borders. So, if the police feel they need military intervention to combat crime and terrorism, they request the armed forces to give that assistance. But these operations are sanctioned at the highest level to prevent abuse of power and indiscriminate killings of possible targets.

The same regards detention without trial. I know that guys like Tango and Sonny Cox will be able to elaborate on the SA experience far better than I can. Hopefully, they will read this and respond. But, this is ultimately aimed at removing someone from society to allow the completion of investigations or because he/she is a threat to national interests. When the old SA did it, it was considered a “crime” – now everyone seems to be doing it for the good of their countries. I find it somewhat ironic. But, I accept the value of detention without trial if based on good intelligence or good criminal investigations.

Two direct attempts were made on my life – the one you mention and the other a car bomb at what was then known as Jan Smuts International Airport (now Oliver Tambo International Airport). I was simply lucky. Despite the finger pointing towards MI and some of its more radical agents, they never denied their involvement in these attempts. O course, the media smears were legendary. Strangely enough, those specialists on EO and me now seem to be without work.... (Thanks for being pleased I made it!)

Thanks too for a thought provoking comment.



Sonny Cox said...

Hi Eeben Long time no hear..
I see Lindiwe Sisulu is giving her speech in parliament on Wednesday 5 May regarding the equality of all War Veterans.
Let's see where the pitfalls are...
We will remember them!

Sonny Cox said...

Hi Eeben
I have followed this debate and cannot comment at this stage for I too missed Carte Blanche on Sunday past.
The Dubai saga will play itself out in time and the perpetrators may never be identified or brought to book, depending on their origins.
We take it for granted that it was the Israeli Mossad.
Identity theft is rife all over the world especially in SA with all the corruption at Home Affairs and elsewhere.
Detention without trial was justified pre 1994 no matter who says what.
Terrorists and criminals are taught to hold back information for certain periods to allow their comrades to escape and restructure.
The target was taken out where the "hunters" felt safe.
If it was not for a speck of blood on his pillow, they would have pulled off their operation.
I must end here so I will concede that they did a sterling 'hit!'
The target would have been safer if he had remained in Gaza.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good to see you here too, Sonny.

Well, I doubt that we will fall into the category of “war veterans”. I think this will exclude us for once and for all.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comments re the hit in Dubai, Sonny.

Identity theft is rife and will continue to grow. We encounter this daily in Africa and there seems to be no end to it.

Detention without trial pre-1994 was frowned on by the West. In fact, it became a focus point for many verbal and diplomatic assaults on SA. I however fully support the idea if it is based on good intelligence and good investigations. As I said, ironically, everyone is now doing it – and now it is okay to do so. Strange how the world turns, isn’t it?

I agree the operation was a tactical success. However, from a strategic/political point of view, the dust still needs to settle.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your contact, Yuri. I have written directly to you.



Robby said...

Gives new meaning to the term "between a rock and a hard place"

Tango said...

It was silent but deadly amd clean !

A British sniper set a world sharpshooting record by taking out two Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan from more than a mile and a half away -- a distance so great, experts say the terrorists wouldn't have even heard the shots.

Craig Harrison killed the two insurgents from an astounding distance of 8,120 feet -- or 1.54 miles -- in Helmand Province last November firing an Accuracy International L11583 long-range rifle.

"The first round hit a machine-gunner in the stomach and killed him outright," said Harrison, a corporal of horse in the British Army's Household Cavalry, the equivalent of a sergeant in the American military.

"The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too," Harrison told the Sunday Times of London.

The shots -- measured via GPS -- surpassed the previous record held by Canadian Army Cpl. Rob Furlong, who killed an al Qaeda gunman from 7,972 feet in 2002.

Harrison's shots were roughly equal to the distance between the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park.

Experts called Harrison's sharp shooting as perfect as it gets.

"When you are shooting that far, if you miss by a hair, you miss by a mile," said John Plaster, a retired US Army sharp-shooting instructor and author of "The Ultimate Sniper." "That is about as precise as any marksmen on the planet could shoot."

He said Harrison's targets likely never knew what was coming.

"At a distance like that they cannot even see anyone and they would not even hear the muzzle report," Plaster said.

Harrison, who fired the bullets while his colleagues were under fire, said perfect weather helped him nail the perfect shot.

"[There was] no wind, mild weather, clear visibility," he said.

Harrison learned of his record nine days ago, when he returned to England. In the weeks after his record shot, he suffered a minor gunshot wound and broke his arms when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.


4:19 AM, May 2, 2010

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Indeed it is, Robby. A case of “if you do something you are doomed – if you do nothing, you are still doomed”. A really tough place to be in.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A really phenomenal shot, Tango. I would love to see him behind the 20mm sniper rifle...



Tango said...

If this is the one you are talking about the all i can say ..."local is lekker"

The South African Denel-Mechem NTW-20mm Anti-Material Rifle qualifies quite admirably for the title of Worlds Most Powerful Sniper Rifle, and I don't think that this will be disputed.

This rifle is a serious "take no prisoners" weapon !

The Denel-Mecham rifle fires massive 20mm cannon rounds as more favored by helicopter gunships, fighter aircraft, warships and armored vehicles. Since the 1930's up until recently, the 20mm round has never been deemed suitable by the military as ammunition for use in a rifle, as the rifle required to fire it would be fantastically heavy and way too cumbersome for any infantry soldier to carry. Plus the fact that the 20mm cartridge produces such excessive recoil that no-one would withstand the force.

The rifle would have to be carried like a bazooka and become a squad operated support weapon and would then loose its prime role as a rifle.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That’s the one, Tango.

Having had the good fortune to shoot with one of them, I can tell you it is an amazing system. Maybe one day others will cotton on to the idea of using it.



John said...

Eeeben et. al,

Very interesting point about the ultra-long range sniper rifle. Very good to subdue "HVT" without causing a massive stir - minimal collateral damage. But with a distinct signature that the target was neutralized by his opponent, and the targets cohorts know that we were there - another good form of grey propaganda, less of a heavy hand than a drone.

The 50 BMG has seen that sort of growth in the private sector in the USA - witness the growth from the circa 1917 Mauser tank killer, thru the Boys types and the M2 Browning round being adapted to a rifle that does not kick like a mule. The market has opened and driven down the prices to ~$2000. The beauty of capitalism...

As for what is flowing around the news here - the coyotes are nipping around the edges again. By the Grace of God this one was not adept at getting a good detonation. The Grey propaganda tried valiantly to paint it as a disgruntled tea partier - the truth held out and just confirmed another muslim fanatic. Not a great definition as a HVT - but certainly a dangerous trend, the unattached terrorist with the ability to cause pretty massive damage. I think only great intelligence and massive propaganda can get this trend stopped.

In hindsight I wonder if the internet as we see it now could have helped EO - it certainly is being used heavily by the radicals to send out their garbage to the ignorant.



Tango said...

Top Christmas Toys For Boys
If you are still not clear about choosing Christmas toys for young and old boys, take a pick from the list mentioned below.
.Xbox 360
.Robot dinosaur
.Remote-control helicopter
.Remote-control car
.Underwater digital camera
.Board games made on adventurous themes
.Harry Potter toys
.Star War toys
. The South African Denel-Mechem NTW-20mm Anti-Material Rifle

Fabio Di Caro said...

Good morning Eeben,South Africa was a great piece of cake that various nations wanted to eat;one of the nations envolved has just admitted;however with no doors open how could they get in,just as they did,not bothering to learn about the real internal situation because that was not amongst interests,however using the worst side of the population(poor,jobless and illegals) that so has remained actually no they are worse off now,propelled by false promises.

This situation caused the rising of terrorist activity and everybody who had something against South Africa had the opportunity to become a terr or rise to a command post and be sacrificed as martyr of the cause,having those very interested nations furnishing funds to destabilize local balances .

The wealthy remain wealthy and the poor get poorer being without help,"today".

All governments legalize and condemn "HITS" at pleasure following social necessity,and all those that are difficult to erase are drowned in an ocean of grey propaganda and forced to abandon,that occurs if left alone and abandoned by those who should stay aboard the ship along with the commander,the commander alone has no strength,to make a stand in any situation united is the only word

However there is another very effective system;largely used here;first "OCEANS" of grey propaganda and once the society has had enough of you and has condemned you through TV shows and newspapers and public street opinions,the hit is socially "APPROVED" and I intend approved.

Like we say "united" boet,when I'll be in ZA you'll be the first to know,on my honour.

Keep well

Tango said...

A Video link below
"Live Leak "
of the South African Denel-Mechem NTW-20mm Anti-Material sniper Rifle .
Once you see the Video one can understand why you refer to it as an amazing system.


Anonymous said...

Good day Eeben,

Im busy reading your book “EO” and Im finding it very interesting!
Is there an e-mail address where I can contact you?


tyhz1995 said...

Jesus what a shot.Harrison a stout and steady man.Amazing.-Tyler

Anonymous said...

Good day Eeben.

Can I ask for your email address regarding consulting services?

Ricardo Capazorio

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree John. There is little more terrifying than knowing that you are possibly in a sniper’s sights but you don’t know where he is.

A great danger always lies with “the enemy within”. Too bad this was never considered when the floodgates were opened to all and sundry. Whereas intelligence and propaganda can help limit attacks, intelligence requires forethought (apparently there was very little) and planning (not too sure this was even considered).

The internet as it is today could certainly have helped EO. I would have been able to expose all of the journalists who were working for the Intel Services as well as their support to rebel groups. That would certainly have been fun.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good list, Tango. I particularly like the last entry. However, I think you forgot about the 20mm Assault Rifle...



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, SA was a great prize, Fabio. Sadly, we had to contend with fighting both the West (our so-called allies) and the East – who seem to have been more truthful than our allies. Whereas a lot of terror training was done in the East, it was also given by the West – and political and financial support to terror groups operating in SA came from the West. But, that is all history now especially as the hand that fed the dog is now being bitten.

Eliminating HVTs was an option and was followed. Perhaps the most illustrious example was the execution of a Cuban general by his own forces. But that too was a necessity of war as were the others.

I look forward to meeting you one day.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is certainly a great piece of kit, Tango, as is the 30mm sniper rifle.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am pleased to hear you are enjoying the book, Rick. Thank you for buying it and taking the trouble to read it.

I am sorry but I don’t post my personal email address anywhere.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Absolutely, Tyler.




Col. Barlow,

Can you elaborate a Post about Discretionary Warfare?

Little about this interesting topic is found to be read...

Thank You

Rodrigo Barreto

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I will take a look at doing a piece on discretionary warfare as I see it, Rodrigo.

In essence, it combines strategic and tactical deniability along with pseudo/clandestine or covert actions aimed at destroying or neutralising an enemy.



Zeeh said...

Are you recruiting individuals who are interested?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No Zeeh...