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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Whereas there can be no doubt that Rules of Engagement (RoE) are important in determining how, when, where and against who armed force shall be used, are we not sometimes restricting ourselves with RoE and in the result causing the deaths of our own soldiers?

In Operations Related to War (ORW), the RoE are really very straightforward, especially as one of the aims of war is the annihilation of the enemy force. However, care still needs to be exercised in order to prevent civilian casualties or causing unnecessary, excessive damage to private property. But even in well planned and executed ORW, it is not always possible to prevent civilian casualties or minimise damage to property, especially in and around urban environments.

It is, however, when we embark on Operations Other than War (OOTW) that these rules can become restrictive and, in many instances, counterproductive. “Don’t shoot until you are shot at” is difficult to accept when you know a sniper is tracking your movements.

RoE, and the approach to applying such rules, differ from culture to culture. Furthermore, OOTW are often applicable to hostile environments and an enemy that does not abide by any laws, be they local, regional or international.

Whereas it is commonly accepted that excessive force in OOTW will result in alienating the local population and cause resentment which may strengthen the cause of the rebels/terrorists/insurgents, the rules still need to be very carefully crafted.

Ultimately, the RoE are applicable to both military and law enforcement operations that take place within the scope of both ORW and OOTW and are aimed at:

1. Preventing own forces casualties
2. Increasing force legitimacy
3. Minimising collateral damage
4. Preventing unnecessary civilian casualties
5. Increasing operational legitimacy.

Any commander’s aim is to, apart from achieving mission success, prevent casualties amongst his own forces whilst increasing the casualties amongst the enemy’s forces. But sometimes the RoE appear to disregard this fact in favour of not upsetting the politicians, the enemy or the media.

When the RoE are so restrictive that a commander cannot perform his mission effectively, tension will inevitably develop between the political masters and the military commanders. When the restrictive RoE leads to own forces casualties, the tensions are bound to escalate.

As all military operations are politically driven, too restrictive rules place the commanders at a disadvantage. When the political masters decide to use military force to achieve their political or diplomatic ambitions or objectives, they ought to consider that the lives that may be lost due to their restrictions could lead to operational disasters and a drop in morale, both on the battlefield and on the home front.

But, military incompetence should not be hidden behind or blamed on restrictive RoE. Blunders such as the so-called peacekeeping missions in Africa are commonly blamed on too restrictive RoE. The lack of will, the inability to gather and act on intelligence or develop sound military strategies is usually ignored at best or simply never mentioned.

On the other hand, too loose RoE can lead to the indiscriminate use of armed force against whoever passes through the sights. Whereas it may appear that artillery and air strikes on densely populated urban areas may break the morale of the enemy and the civilian population, these actions also violate international law as they are construed as “excessive and indiscriminate force” – which they are.

When crafting RoE, we ought to remember that the world has become a tough neighbourhood. If we wish to play in this neighbourhood, we ought to show our toughness – not by allowing our troops to be killed by the enemy but by killing the enemy. We can only do this if we know “who” the enemy is.

Knowing “who” the enemy is requires intelligence that is verified. In ORW this is, again, relatively simple as a state of war exists between two nations. We know who we are fighting. In OOTW, a lack of intelligence allows us to either view the “enemy” as the local population or the local population as the “enemy”. This confusing view on the “enemy” results in RoE that restrict offensive action – one of the fundamental principles of land warfare. In turn, this gives the enemy the initiative.

The lack of intelligence and the loss of the initiative may result in the rebels/insurgents/terrorists resorting to criminal activities to fund their operations. This can result in extortion, kidnapping for ransom, armed robberies and other financially rewarding crimes.

I disagree that today’s wars are either won or lost at the political level. A lack of real progress on the battlefield or in the area of operations, coupled to increased casualty figures, increased defence spending vs lack of results, resentment from the local population, negative media coverage, a decline of morale on the home front and so forth may add to the political pressures to leave a conflict area. But, this is a direct result of the military action.

Without intelligence, we cannot craft sensible Rules of Engagement. The lack of sensible RoE gives the enemy an opportunity to exploit the perceived lack of “fighting spirit”. Not understanding the cultural environment we operate in amplifies this problem.

Whereas Rules of Engagement are important, they should be based on sound intelligence and an understanding of the operational environment and not sacrifice operational freedom or expose troops to unnecessary danger.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Many folks have written asking why I have been so slow in updating the blog. Being unable to update it on a daily basis has been a concern to me but I have been here, there and everywhere which has made it rather difficult to do daily updates. Hopefully, I shall be able to catch up on the blog and several other outstanding issues over the next couple of days.

A few weeks ago I was contacted via the blog asking if I would consider attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I was very honoured to be invited as a panellist to the 14th St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. My participation as a panellist was on the session related to “New Models of cooperation for the Military Industry”.

Once known as Petrograd and as Leningrad, St Petersburg is a beautiful city and is indeed a massive museum under the Russian sky. As I love history and art, there was no shortage of places to visit and sites to see.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is held with the support and participation of the President of the Russian Federation. The aim of the Forum is to gather the world's leading decision makers from government, business and civil society to identify and deliberate the key challenges facing emerging markets and the world and engage communities to find common purpose and frameworks to forge solutions.

One thing that has always struck me on this type of travel is the kindness of strangers. Mr Sergey Nedoroslev, the Chairman of the Board of Kaskol, noting my confusion, stepped in to help me on numerous fronts. I was also privileged to meet some of his friends and associates which included Mr Nikolai Kovarsky, Mr Evgeny Tarlo and the son of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Mr Sergey also made sure that I knew where I had to be at what time.

The Forum was officially opened by President Dmitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation on the 18 June and he was joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the 19 June.

The panel session on New Models for Cooperation for the Military Industry was very ably moderated by Charles Grant, the Director for the Centre of European Reform. Fellow panellists were Vice Admiral Premvir Das (Indian Navy), Aleksei Alyoshin (First Deputy Director General, Russian Technologies State Corporation), Alexey Isaikin (President, Volga-Dnepr Group), Douglas Harned (Vice Pres, Senior Analyst – Aerospace and Defence, Sanford C Bernstein and Co) and Emeric d’Arcimoles (Senior Exec Vice Pres and Chairman of SAFRAN USA, Inc).

Although my small input was focussed on Africa in the main, I thought the comments by my fellow panellists were very interesting and enlightening. However, I still believe that too much emphasis is being placed on technology and terminology changes – and too little on really preparing soldiers for their missions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Several people have, over the years, alerted me to the fact that a company known as Northbridge Services Group (NSG) are either claiming or posing to be a “reborn” Executive Outcomes. Not only is this a blatant lie, it is a seriously fraudulent manner of trying to attract clients by deception.

I am well aware of the fact that NSG enabled enquiries to a website www.executiveoutcomes.com (this was not EO’s true web address) to redirect to their site, trying to give credence to their deception. For the life of me, I fail to understand how a company can act in such a deceptive manner yet expect clients to trust them.

A certain Mr Pasquale DiPofi was one of the scoundrels involved in NSG. DiPofi also ran his own “Executive Outcomes” based out of Michigan, USA. This is what another site had to say about this person:

"When the classic Executive Outcomes left the civil war in Sierra Leone, they never received payment for $23 million worth of services. In the pursuit of the debt, an English company, Audax Trading, approached the same named company from Michigan in February 2002 about collecting the debt. Knowing full well they were not the intended Executive Outcomes, DiPofi and his partner, Eastpointe police officer Christopher Belan, produced fraudulent documents and claims to the government of Sierra Leone via Audax for the $23 million".

For his failed efforts to boost the coffers of “Executive Outcomes” and NSG’s, DiPofi pleaded guilty to charges of fraud in 2006. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison at the end of March 2007.

Having had a look at NSGs website (http://northbridgeservices.org) I am rather surprised that they can claim to offer “... a highly discrete, totally reliable yet cost effective service...” (I somehow suspect they meant “discreet” as opposed to “discrete”).

I am not sure if Northbridge Services Group still exists, but if they do, lies and deceit seem to be part and parcel of their modus operandi – as if the industry doesn’t have enough bulldust artists posing out there.

Although Northbridge Services Group was NEVER part of, associated with or linked to Executive Outcomes in any manner or form, this still begs the question: Who exactly are these buffoons?

Whereas I do not doubt the numerous qualifications of the NSG president (He has served in numerous leadership and command positions in the light infantry, mechanized infantry, cavalry and tank units. He has commanded six platoons, three companies and two battalions. He has been a tactics instructor and doctrine writer in both the US Army Armor and Engineer schools. He is an Airborne Ranger and is Jungle Expert qualified and has earned the Combat Infantryman's badge), I certainly doubt their integrity.

Perhaps their president, Lt Col (R) Robert W. Kovacic can answer this for me as I am quite anxious to know.