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.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Several senior African government representatives who have recently come through my door have told me that they have been “instructed” and “warned” not to meet or talk with me/STTEP by the “US Government”. But, they also tell me that for too long they have been misled and will now meet with whomever they wish to meet. Like me, they too believe that African governments have a rightful say in terms of who they want to talk to and get advice from and not be dictated to whom - and who not - they may talk to. (See my previous posting titled “HYPOCRISY AND THE POWER OF PERCEPTION”).

Then I recalled that several years ago, a senior US officer said to me: “If you are not with us, you are against us – if you’re against us, then you are the enemy. It is as simple as that”. I shrugged off this comment as it merely smacked of playground bullying. Little did I realise just how prophetic his words would become. By implication, no one is allowed to criticise anything the US does in Africa – even when it fails dismally - as it seems criticism is now construed as “terrorism”.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with someone in the US who told me that during a discussion with a congressman it had been emphatically stated that STTEP has been blacklisted by the US Department of State (DoS). We are now “persons of interest”. We are now placed in the same category as subversive groups. Was I surprised? No, not really.

But, I suppose that makes anyone who speaks to us or is in any manner or form associated with us also “persons of interest” and therefore attempts will be made to blacklist them as well. 

I was aware of the fact that the FBI had spent time, money and effort investigating a totally legitimate contract a US company had with STTEP so I knew that for some reason we were considered as “unsavoury” in their eyes. We also know the US company was threatened if they did not terminate the contract with us. Was the US concerned that we were about to succeed and that questions would then be asked and which they would not be able to answer?

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see certain indications and footprints on the ground and then be able to make a fairly accurate prediction of what is coming. These predictions are usually correct – and they hold no good for Africa. The examples are there to see for anyone who follows happenings in Africa.

As I was told earlier this week: “In times of universal deceit, the truth is a revolutionary act”. We have been there, done that and patiently waited for the truth to surface – which it now finally seems to be doing.

I often wonder if US citizens are aware of the duplicitous nature of US foreign policy in Africa? I am sure that many would disapprove if they really knew and understood what was happening. I know that many US servicemen are equally alarmed at what is happening but they go where their government orders them to go. We understand that as we too have walked that path. We also know that many fine US citizens are really keen and willing to invest more than just talk to make Africa work and conflicts end. Conversely, we are also aware of the immense anger, distrust and dislike that is gradually building up against the US from numerous quarters in Africa. We are privy to that on an almost daily basis. When I mentioned our being blacklisted to an ambassador this morning, his response was “Then it proves you are doing something right - don’t stop!”

One would therefore think that as the US is trying to win friends they would not make such an effort to alienate people who simply disagree with them.

Recently, one of our directors was apprehended on arrival in the US after “babysitting” a US NGO in a conflict zone. He was subject to a lengthy interrogation and his laptop was confiscated and sucked dry. If they were so keen to know what was on his laptop, all they had to do was ask but instead, he was treated like a criminal. Two subsequent “interviews” have since followed. Since the return of his laptop, it has never been the same. It appears the DoS even regards Africans who assist US citizens and NGOs as threats to US national security.

We have again become the “bad guys” despite the fact that neither EO (1989 – 1996) and later STTEP (2006 -) had and have never acted illegally – although we were constantly subject to such untrue claims by those who wanted the conflicts to continue - never invaded countries but were always invited there by the governments, worked alongside government forces, were/are always accountable to the contracting government, never attempted to depose governments, always fulfilled our contracts, never raped women and children, never smuggled opium or any other drugs, never lied to and/or cheated a government, never murdered civilians, never bribed or blackmailed government officials into giving us a contract, actually ended long-running conflicts rapidly, always been honest with African governments, never engaged in criminal behaviour, never engaged in acts of terrorism against the US or any other government and so forth. This appears to be simply a continuation of trying to prevent an African company that has a record of success of working in Africa and solving African problems. That right is apparently solely reserved for the US DoS despite the fact that success remains sadly elusive for them and that destruction and destabilisation in Africa will continue to be their legacy.

This may also explain the reason my blog’s comments are being tampered with and on occasion blocked or deleted before I can post and respond to them.

Be that as it may – STTEP and I will never give up on Africa as we were born here and will die here. We love our Continent despite its many problems which we are very well aware of. I believe we understand those problems better than most who live beyond our shores.

If it is the desire of US DoS or any other foreign government to promote conflict in Africa, we will criticise that approach and when we are asked by the targeted African governments, we will work at ending conflicts and trying to see this wealthy continent flourish.

If our desire to see a peaceful, prosperous and successful Africa has resulted in us being blacklisted by the US, then so be it. At least, we now know where we stand.

But, if we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.

We are not prepared to do that.

We will leave that to the so-called superpower which is now fast losing its power in Africa.


Unknown said...

Well said.
Look at it this way. The yanks have people solely dedicated to analyzing every full stop, comma and sentence you write at their super secret "mountain lair" out in the boonies of Utah. People are employed at the data center to read your posts.

You are not only helping African countries rid themselves of terrorism, civil unrest but you are creating employment for Americans too! Flipping fantastic!

To Mr Eeben Barlow I say "give that man a Bells!"
Regards Mike.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The irony of it all Mike…

We are not another one of the USA’s states yet they want to dictate what we can/cannot do. Personally, I am getting sick of this hypocrisy we witness in Africa but fortunately, they are the ones losing the friends, not us. As they believe all African governments are stupid and unable to see through the duplicity they engage in, they will learn a harsh lesson.

The LAST thing the DOS wants is stability in Africa. They prove it time and again.

Tks for the Bells!



rogerpociask said...

Dear Eeben,

After reading your latest post with great interest, quite frankly I am puzzled. With due respect, your profile states "political…debates will not be entertained on this blog."

Without getting into any unforgiving details, I must add that I have a VERY unique and direct perspective from within the US military and from within the minds of African politicians.

Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of your post.

It seems that there are many thin layers to this onion that you are attempting to parse. Are you not straying into the outside perspectives that you have previously pledged to count as off limits? Or is it rightly difficult from within the profession of arms to distinguish between military and political objectives?

If I may I offer a few examples of how political and military objectives have collided in Africa with very bad (or very good results - depending on which side one is on):

(1) The botched roll out and resulting public relations disaster of U.S. Africa Command, even after the USA elected a black president which culminated in the murder of the Ambassador to Libya and the apparent removal of General Ham for his lack of respect to political versus real world perspectives.
(2) The SADF raid on Cassinga which murdered hundreds of innocent civilians. A military success? Sure! But, not a good public relations day for the apartheid regime.

As “an international, privately-owned Military, Intelligence and Law Enforcement training and advisory company,” I cannot believe that within STTEP there is not someone in charge of political liaison activities or, at the least, a solid public relations representative. Your purpose is to be successful and make a ton of money in the process while staying out of prison. You do that by meeting the needs of your customers. Yes, you have to sound noble but c’mon: War is hell and whether you’re talking about Africa, STTEP or the USA -as Henry Kissinger said: there are “no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Or as in politics: “If you don’t win you can’t govern.” At a core level the business you’ve chosen has a dark side. This is not a judgment or a put down. It is simply reality.

Let me take it a step further (pun intended). If the USA has the largest military in the history of planet earth and seeks assistance globally to meet its needs, what do you think is better: (1) trying to shame them into doing what you’d like? or (2) maybe hiring a few lobbyists and trying to change whatever incorrect perceptions they may have about you? They don’t call the inside of the D.C. beltway the belly of the beast for nothing!

I suppose my main point is that while you are a man of superior military tactical intelligence, I find it hard to stomach what comes across a bit as whining about those big bad mean Yankees. If there is an issue to overcome, then devise a plan, refine it, successfully execute it and overcome the obstacle!

Just don’t tell me you can separate the military and political realms. As your own blog post has proven, you can’t, ever. They are joined at the hip.

I am interested to hear your reply.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment Roger. You make some valid points – and some not. I also apologise for my lengthy response but I need to make several points of my own in response to your comment. Due to its length, I have to respond with 2 separate comments. But, allow me to say that you certainly forced me to start thinking very early in the morning!

You are correct - I refer to not entertaining political debates. As you well know and point out, the armed forces are the tip of the political spear and therefore inextricably linked with political decisions – good and bad. Soldiers know that and accept that. However, I do not enter into party political discourse as I do not – and have never – seen this blog as a forum for such. I do not publish posts that have strayed into party political discourse or attacks on political parties – although on occasion I comment on those who attack African governments simply to attack them and/or me personally or those I am associated with.

I am sure you have a unique and direct US perspective and I respect that. But, I do not see myself straying beyond my own perimeter when it has now finally emerged that DoS have been trying to negate our support to African governments. Although we suspected it for some time now – and have been told so on numerous occasions by US soldiers - it has been confirmed to us. And this isn’t whining as you call it.

We are a South African company that has come under attack by a foreign government that wishes us not to work for stability in Africa. This is not “Yankee bashing” as you imply it to be. If we see a house burning with people trapped inside, we have a choice to either fan the flames or rescue the trapped people. We opt for the latter. I see this as patriotism towards both my country and the continent of Africa – something you as an American will understand very well.

I know many, many US soldiers and citizens who are appalled at the actions and activities of the DoS and they are usually the first to mention it to me. Many of them are prepared to do more than just talk the talk. Criticism does not and has never equated to subversion.

That said, I too criticise African governments and politicians but I do so to their faces and not in some backhanded manner. Similarly, they criticise me and also to my face. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t.

Now to your nuts and bolts:

The tragedy in Libya was preceded by writing on the wall that was ignored. Were it not for some brave men, the tragedy would have been much worse. Yes, it was an example of political inaction and stuttering at a very bad time but it is an example of a lack of political will at a very sensitive stage. It was also the result of an end state that was not considered. The result was deplorable.

I suspect that you too are a victim of the story of Cassinga. Although I was not part of that operation, even SWAPO – against who the operation was directed – have finally admitted – albeit grudgingly - that it was a military transit facility. So, if armed civilians with guns are shooting at you, you shoot back. This is much the same as what the US forces are encountering in Iraq/Afghanistan etc. But, without being too political again, the amount of civilian casualties for which the SADF was accused pale in comparison with the thousands upon thousands of civilians killed by the US and referred to as “collateral damage”. However, I do not think this is the place and time to discuss who murdered how many “innocent civilians” and why.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...


Roger, it is a known fact that military and political objectives often collide but that collision is the result of mismatched or even non-existent strategies. Those at the short end of the stick are those who are caught on the ground, carrying out the numerous plans with little to no political will. As I suspect you – I have been there and suffered the consequences of poor political guidance and support.

Whereas I agree fully with your statement that the profession I/we/STTEP have engaged in has a very dark and even murky underbelly, we are not only out to make a “ton of money” but also to bring about a definite change. We have never worked at prolonging a conflict to earn that more money. We don’t and have never backed both sides of a conflict – and please don’t tell me it isn’t happening – it is. We understand national, vital and foreign interests. We complain when we are unfairly attacked – if we said nothing, it would smack of cowardice. If those attacks are formulated on the basis of lies and false perceptions and may place any of my friends in danger, we will make it known. If they are aimed at collapsing a state with the intention of installing a puppet state, we will also make it known. As we live on this continent, we have some duty re our actions. If in the process, we disagree with the foreign policy of a country we usually keep our peace unless it impacts negatively on us. It is not about shaming anyone or trying to get them to view us differently as we know they won’t – it is about doing what we believe is right. And that is not trying to sound noble or holy, it is simply reality.

If the criticism against us is justified and fair, we will take it on the chin.

You do indeed have the largest and best equipped military in the history of mankind. That has never been a point of argument. Often are the times we have wished for some of your equipment. Reality is we will never have that equipment nor get it so we make the best use of what is available.

Again, let me make it clear: The post was not about whining and bashing Yankees. If, however it was seen as Yankee bashing, I am but a small rising voice in a chorus of growing world-wide condemnation – a lot of that coming from within the USA. If that has raised the ire of some, then so be it.

As with any attack from an unexpected quarter, one will withdraw, defend, reassess the situation and act accordingly. That is what we will do as every challenge has a solution and we do not give up or run away from our problems.

Thanks again for your comment.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for PM and the links, Mike.

It seems to me Roger has already voiced some of my concerns in those postings yet now he regards it as American bashing – which it was not.

Since this posting, many Americans – as well as people from across Africa and further afield – some whom I know but most who I have never met - from the military to politics to captains of industry have contacted me to express their shock and disgust at my/STTEPs blacklisting by the DoS. There are millions of good Americans who have no say in what their DoS does, much as we in SA have no say over what DIRCO does or says.

Innuendo, rumours and perceptions have never been viewed as “evidence” against anyone - but against us it appears to be “compelling evidence”. Ironic indeed.



Herbert said...


I had decided to stay out of this discussion. I changed my mind. As you know I mentioned to you earlier that you were not to be touched by our administration. I have decided that I care not if narrow-minded analysts monitor my communications, as they surely are--I say that with some authority as I supervised some of them for years. So, they can kiss my nether parts and those of the purple horse I rode in on.

Roger raised many valid points. I rationally agree with many of them. He represents the "Realist" view of foreign policy. State interests prevail. He is right, but the counterpoint policy theory "Idealist" remains on the field. I (and I suspect you, my friend, if I can use that term as I have never met you) keep getting hung up on right versus wrong. I have told you before how I feel, if you recall; not that you should, as you hear from many people.

Your response to Roger was on point. However, we (Idealists) will never win. But, we shall never quit the field, as ultimately the realists move on to other "interests." They have no moral core. As for the rest of us, we are who we are.

BTW, as an American from the south (Texas), I do not consider myself a "Yank". My ancestors fought, bled, and died fighting "yankees" in the civil war. I know how the term is used internationally and must accept it, but since we are letting it all hang out, that is my two cents worth.

Hang tough and best of luck to you.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment, Herbert. I must apologise for dragging you into what I considered merely putting something into the open – albeit with some disgust - as I want African governments to know what is happening. I also know that those governments that speak to me regardless of my/STTEPs being blacklisted are serious about their intentions and will not let pettiness distract them.

Roger saw the post as a direct swipe at Americans in general, which it was not. Whereas citizens may vote a government into power, they have little to no say re the development of that government’s foreign policy. My gripe is not – and has never been - with Americans in general but rather with the duplicity of DoS. And I do recall your comment that we are lepers as far as DoS is concerned.

I agree Roger made some valid points – and some not. Yes, state interests will always top the list and I know we can never negate that but I cannot stand by and observe the chaos and hold my tongue. If I did that, I would be both a coward and complicit in these actions, neither of which I want to be. Also, I cannot stand by and accept that foreign interests must override our continent’s national interests – at our expense. But that is a discussion for another day.

You are quite right: We are who we are and will remain so until death takes us.

I hope those who monitor this blog/our emails do not regard our discussions as subversive. I am honoured to be considered your friend and do not like to be the cause of any aggravation with parties beyond the circle of friends.

I know the term “Yank” irritates some and can understand your feelings towards the term. No ill intent meant as Roger used the term. By the way: My best saddle was made by an old Texan…That ought to tell you something.



Anonymous said...

I'm a "yank", and I served in the Military, but not in a combat role, so I don't often comment as the blog seems to be concerned with tactics, and way out of my lane.

But I am privileged to know someone who was once involved with you, and EO, and he speaks very highly of you, Mr. Barlow.

I have read your book (my friend loaned it to me) and studied what history I could find here in the states concerning PMC activity in Africa. I even visited SA, just to check it out.

If the US Gov. is truly black listing you, in my opinion (not worth much, I admit) it is a huge mistake. Why close the door on a person and an organization with such a close involvement in the military and political history of the region? Because you are "bad"? Because EO was "bad"?

From what I have read, and been told by a man I would trust with my life without hesitation, you aren't a bad person, but even if you were, why on earth would we turn away from your usefulness as an asset in the region? The US deals with bad people every day.

What a mistake. We should be talking to you and your organization at every turn, and paying you as a consultant. We could have used a little "relentless pursuit" in Afghanistan, although I am out of my lane in saying that.

So we ignore, and even badmouth, the people in the region who have been there and done that. Great. Let's get involved in Africa with one eye shut. It seems the poor utilization of available regional assets is a tactic of the US. Like some sort of SOP.

I can only shake my head.

Best Wishes,


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment, Levi.

Let me say again that the post was not directed at the American people but rather at the clumsiness and stupidity of what has happened. I also understand the concept of foreign interests fairly well and must admit, that the notion actually made us laugh. Ironically, since it has become known, we have been inundated by African governments calling on us.

As for EO, it is strange that after more than a decade since closing its doors, there still seems to be an unquenchable anger that we ended conflicts in Africa. We too can only shake our heads.