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, December 2, 2015


Having sat through numerous debates and discussions on ‘peacekeeping’, I have always been surprised and disappointed that this costly and failed approach to security and stability is, for some very (not so) strange reason, still being advocated and encouraged. 

The truth is that without sustainable peace, Africa will never see real development and prosperity. Economic development and stability is ensured by good governance, law and order, and the application of sound policies. But if the policies and approaches are wrong, no amount of strategy and tactics can provide peace and stability.

Ending a conflict or war can only be assured when the state has the political will and the military might—and will—to engage the enemy. This must result in the enemy or threat being decisively beaten, and begging and pleading for mercy to save it from complete annihilation. This requires a strong and capable deterrent force with strong military policies in place.

If a government cannot negotiate from a position of total strength, it is merely giving the adversary time to rebuild and rearm its forces and continue the conflict.  Besides, the terms of negotiation must be dictated by the government and not by the enemy or threat. Indeed, it must be an unconditional surrender or nothing at all. During negotiations, the enemy or threat must be subjected to intense intelligence scrutiny to ensure that the call to negotiate was not a deception measure aimed at reducing pressure on the crumbling threat forces.

A well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and disciplined armed force, correctly postured and able to rapidly project decisive force, is a significant deterrent to an armed adversary. So why have some African governments decided to demilitarise their armed forces and instead turn them into ‘peacekeepers’?

The mere thought of ‘peacekeeping’ when and where a conflict or war is raging is nothing short of idiotic and suicidal. But in order to remain politically correct, and in the good books of the UN and those governments driving the (failed) peacekeeping approach, this new form of ‘un-warfare’ has taken hold in some African governments whilst emasculating their armed forces.

Simultaneously, it has expanded the current and future market for ‘peacekeepers’ and other ‘partnership forces’ to enter fragile and troubled countries—the results of which, to date, have been catastrophic, disgraceful, and disastrous to say the least. The numerous scandals created by these forces have simply added to the already tarnished image of the ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘partnership’ approaches.

Besides, if peacekeeping was such a valuable tool in the arsenal for halting the spread of conflict and war, why aren’t these forces standing between the warring parties in Nigeria, Libya, Cameroon, Niger, Burundi, and so forth? And if they are there, such as in Mali, South Sudan, Somalia—why aren’t they keeping the peace?

Sadly, many African governments have allowed themselves to be cajoled and hoodwinked into training their armed forces for peacekeeping missions—a euphemism for demilitarising and emasculating the armed forces. Soldiers have now become ‘peacekeepers’ and ‘nation builders’ and time and money is spent on irrelevant ‘free’ training programmes supposedly aimed at keeping the peace and building nations—especially where there is no peace and governments have become fragile or failed. Soldiers have become quasi-policemen as opposed to fighting men who can and will fight to annihilate armed opposition or enemy forces.

The demilitarising of African armed forces has had serious knock-on effects such as a lack of intelligence gathering capacity—especially HUMINT, an inability to fight to decisively end conflicts and wars, a neglect of doctrine development and training, the neglect of essential combat equipment along with the procurement of unsuitable equipment, a watering-down of essential combat skills, the acceptance of bad advice, and so forth.

This, however, suits those powers who have encouraged a mission diversion to ‘peacekeeping’ as they are guaranteed that African governments and their armies will be required to call for foreign help when the wheels fall off. And fall off they will—and are.

Anyone who dares criticise the farce of ‘peacekeeping’ is shouted down and viewed as a warmonger. It is, after all, not politically correct to criticise a failed approach that gives violent and murderous threat forces—viewed by many in the West as ‘moderate terrorists’, ‘pro-democracy fighters’ and ‘freedom fighters’—the advantage. Also, ‘human rights’ have overridden common sense as national armies are expected to show tolerance and understanding to the very people trying to kill them, murder and terrorise the populace, destroy infrastructure, and collapse the government.

The ‘peacekeeping’ mantra has become a dangerous cancer that is eating away at the combat effectiveness of African armies—and it is subsequently endangering the populace, destroying societies, and eroding the stability of states.

For Africa to survive in an ever-increasing turbulent environment, be independent, and ensure the safety and security for its people, the concept of ‘peacekeeping’ needs to be given a very serious rethink. 

Perhaps the time has come for African governments to stop demilitarizing their armed forces and instead redefine their missions—away from peacekeeping and towards enemy and threat identification, deterrence, targeting, and annihilation.

After all, that is what the armed forces are supposed to do—isn’t it?


Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Barlow.

I'm a producer with The Current, the national daily current affairs radio programme at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I'm working on a segment for our programme on Friday morning (0830ET -- I believe 1530 local time in SAF) that will look at whether using mercenaries in the fight against ISIS is a legitimate course of action.

Given your expertise in this area, I was wondering if you might be availble for an interview?

In the meantime, please feel free to visit our website at www.cbc.ca/thecurrent for more about our programme. We are the top current affairs programme in Canada, with over 1 million listeners.



The Current CBC Radio One
CBC News Network

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your message, Catherine, but I shall decline. I have no desire to be interviewed by the media.

Unknown said...

Dear Mr Barlow,

I have the feeling that your thoughts on peacekeeping armies and unwarfare can be abstractet and transfered on the Afghanistan-adventures of many NATO-armies. As a german veteran I often think about my deployments, now that I started my civilian career. The Insurgents where never a match in the few skirmishes I experienced. But somehow the military leadership and the politics could not or did not want to use the created momentum for keeping up the pressure. In fact we where only fighting when ISAF or allied troops where attacked. It took about two years to deploy (own) CAS, artilery and AIFV´s. Somehow they mixed the phases of war, peacekeeping(-enforcing) and nationbuilding to a great mess. Furthermore it looks like things are happening again... .

Yours, Mathias

Unknown said...

"There are no compacts between lions and men , and wolves and lambs have no concord."

Unknown said...

Excellent synopsis not only for Africa but the entire world. Did peace keeping end World War 1 or 2? No, it was a truly concerted, international effort that had the slight benefit of a rich benefactor who came into both wars far too late (disgracefully in my opinion)! The United Nations 'Nations' need to all be strong, sharing information, targeting common threats and eliminating them. The UN is, unfortunately, becoming the same 'Paper Tiger' that was the 'League of Nations'!

Herbert said...


Good to see you back on the air, so to speak. One of the reasons I enjoy your writing is that it always offers a refreshing blast of truth. This your latest piece is no exception. You've previously seen me rant on about peacekeepers, United Nations types and other forms. So I will spare us that in this comment.

Political correctness has unfortunately won the day. I'm reminded of the old Mao adage about first one must capture the vocabulary. They've done it. So now "peacekeeping" cannot be challenged, even when very non-peacekeeping activities are herded under its tent. As you said, to question it is to be labeled a warmonger. PC is so ingrained that I am not sure what to do about it.

A similar aside on political correctness is occurring at this moment here in the US. A couple of days ago we had an Islamic terrorist attack in California that killed and injured many people. From the beginning the Islamist motive was obvious to anyone with a pulse. However, our government will not yet even connect the word terrorist to the massacre, although the FBI has proved it down to the molecule level. If you say terrorist you risk being called racist, and if you say Muslim or or Islamic/Islamist with it, you have assured your racist label in the eyes of our current administration. Am I watching a television comedy?

Back to Africa. As you know better than I, small nations follow the money. When a large nation offers goodies to a smaller one under the guise of peacekeeping with the potential for more to come, the game is done. Who can compete? And as you point out, it ensures a continuing market for the same old business. How does one compete with a large national budget? The real losers: As usual, the poor people of Africa.

I realize that I've simply lamented the sorry state of affairs we've come to, particularly in the West--not much value in that. I detest the thought of surrendering the field to the current crowd, and will never join them. I am fed up and cannot yet see the light.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you for your comment Mathias. Whereas I am unfamiliar with the Afghan-adventures of NATO forces, I suspected as much as you highlighted. Unwarfare, political correctness, lawfare, restrictive rules of engagement, courageous constraint and such nonsense was, in my mind, aimed at reducing the aggression of the soldier and turning it into a fear to fight back in case he gets sued by the enemy. Of course, the enemy will get all the assistance he can from the UN, the ICC, and even from the government the soldier represents.
In Africa though, governments are threatened is they do not toe the line dictated by foreign powers and the constant disarming, pathetic foreign training, substandard or dumped equipment and so forth is creating a waiting time-bomb that was planned. They also know that they need to be careful how they approach the creeping trap that was laid for them as a too early move could result in a violent regime-change.
But many governments have come to realise this and are now silently casting their eyes elsewhere.
I do believe that that in all cases, doctrine has been neglected to the detriment of the armed forces and the advantage of the enemy. But political and military will is glaringly absent and in Africa it is manifested by a demilitarising of our armed forces.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Very true Munyul!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Peacekeeping has ended no conflict or war, Stephen, no matter how those who drive the failed concept wish to doll it up. It has however lengthened their duration and created even more casualties but that is simply overlooked.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have witnessed the misery and harm this approach has done to Africa Herbert and cannot keep quiet about it. The constant Western concerns for the human rights of those who refuse to acknowledge the human rights of others is sickening. Yet, governments actually encourage this nonsense. I find that astonishing to say the least.
We saw the news of the attack you refer to and wondered when the PC brigade would come out and say that it was a ‘moderate terrorist couple’ who simply had a bad day? There seems to be a concerted drive to apologise for those who display and conduct violent behaviour and acts of terrorism. Yet those who react against it, are often criticised as being ‘heavy-handed’ and ‘brutal’.
Small nations do follow the money and many are under constant economic blackmail, ICC threat or concerned about regime-change if they do not play the game as dictated by some foreign powers. I have witnessed this and even overheard a command staff being threatened by a foreign military delegation. But, as long as Africa presents itself as unable, uncoordinated, and unwilling, and so forth, these things will happen.
Many governments have yet to realise that the threats facing them are not only from domestic anti-government forces (usually with foreign support) but also foreign governments who will stop at nothing to replace them if they do not toe the line.
A sorry state of affairs if ever there was one.

Unknown said...

Mr Barlow,

To throw a stone in the bush, I am compelled to ask you this question : what about Mugabe's 5th Brigade ?

By all accounts they are an elite unit only answerable to Mugabe, with a track record for brutality and effectiveness - Joshua Nkomo surrendered to Mugabe in 1987, whereas he didn't do so to Ian Smith in the 70's.

Nkomo and his ZIPRA rebels must have resorted to similar tactics against Mugabe as they employed against the Smith regime ... and ZIPRA lost.

Is this because Mugabe was more brutal with a better army and had the backing of the media and a sympathetic foreign power ?



But if this is the case, then why is Mugabe still in power ?

It must be the 5th Brigade again. They are a Praetorian Guard, and in ancient Rome even the Senate feared the Praetorian Guard - whomever wanted to be emperor had to have the backing of the Praetorian Guard ... which means the Praetorian Guard had to be bribed.

I believe that the 5th Brigade has a similar purpose in Zimbabwe today. So whomever takes over after Mugabe's death, will lose his position in a coup if the 5th Brigade ain't happy.

Which is why, methinks, the ANC is neglecting, nay, undermining the SA Military - they don't want a Praetorian Guard - which is politically astute, but militarily an utter disaster.

If the military is weak, then the police is next, and that is a recipe for a kind of chaos that is the stuff of headlines.

Which explains a lot of what is happening in this documentary :


Truly was the king of the Zulus, Goodwill Zwelitini, a prophet when he said that history will judge the current majority electorate harshly for burning down what they inherited.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A valid stone, Unknown.
I personally believe that Mugabe is still in power as (a) there is no oil in Zimbabwe and (b) he was put there by the West, despite him never having won the final elections making the transition to a new ‘democratic’ Zimbabwe.
The 5th Brigade was also Mugabe’s personal army within the army and its initial aim was to commit genocide – something the West did nothing about and said even less about. Entry into the 5 Bde was based on tribal affiliations and loyalties thus rendering it a very subjective force insofar as the populace was concerned.
As it never faced any direct military challenge, the 5 Bde was able to roam freely and became a law unto itself. No one challenged them in this and thus they were able to cement a reputation built on fear and terror – and supported by the Mugabe government’s political will and desire to commit genocide. Again, the world turned a blind eye and within the Zimbabwe Defence Force no one dared challenge the 5 Bde as it was a certain path to early retirement – or worse.
That said, I called for ‘A well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and disciplined armed force, correctly postured and able to rapidly project decisive force’. But this also requires a stringent vetting process, and an army that is politically astute and non-partisan. Non-partisanship will never truly be eradicated as it exists in ALL armies but its impact can be minimised. The problem is that this does not suit agendas.
Sadly, I have witnessed how trainers from foreign powers, who a week after arriving in Africa are ‘African experts; and then exploit tribal divisions and loyalties and in the process, assist this circle of demilitarising and fermenting antagonism. The aim is the same, regardless if we call it demilitarising the armed forces or weakening them to achieve foreign political and economic goals.

Unknown said...

Mr Barlow,

My thanks for that response of yours. I can't find a source for it, but I've read that Mugabe sent his 5th Bde to Zaire/DRC in the late 90's to plunder that country.
Whatever can be said the lesson of the 5th Bde is this - nothing stops violence like the threat of superior violence.

Mr Nkomo rebelled against Mugabe, and for this he had to suffer his tribe, the Matabele, being slaughtered.

Sometimes I wonder if the (victorious) rebel armies north of South Africa, will not trek to this the last unblemished Eden at the southern tip of Africa, and plunder it. Sooner or later they will realize just how weak this state really is. Why do I say weak ?

1) The ANC capitualted to the #feesmustfall students. They didn't even negotiate. They just capitulated.

2) Malema's trip to the UK. The foreign powers are starting to back this dark horse.

3) These rebel armies must also have seen how pitiful the conduct of our soldiers were in their 'peacekeeping' missions.

4) We no longer have an air force.

I fear for this country Mr Barlow. We are a pack of dogs tearing each other apart, while across the fence all the vultures looks on, and where the vultures gather, the lions and hyenas will surely come ... looking for an easy meal.

What is our future then ?

This documentary made by Italians in the 1960's gives an answer. Even then, the Africa they portrayed was a tragedy. I urge you to watch it, but be warned, some of the things will be very uncomfortable to see. I mean it.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many of us are extremely concerned, Unknown.
It is no secret that a foreign power offered a firebrand young politician in SA weapons, training, money and support a mere 3 years ago. This ought to be a warning to those who have a misguided belief the West will come to save SA – they must open their eyes and realise that is the last thing the West wants. SA is part of BRICS and BRICS is not viewed with favour by the West.
Yes, our armed forces are in a state of weakness but one cannot merely blame the government. There are members of the old NP who sit on the boards writing documents on the SANDF and if one looks at where they served in the old SADF, one cannot other than be shocked. Indeed, one was a ‘canary’ in the air force choir yet he now has to write about national strategy!
Then there are the foreign powers that have ‘advised’ our armed forces into almost total weakness. Sadly though, our government took the ‘advice’ they were given in good faith and it turned out to be really bad advice!
I am not coming up for government as I have no reason to do so. However, one cannot only view our defence-related problems through a single prism.
Having travelled the length and breadth of Africa, I am aware of the tragedy it has become, hence my continual battle to try to make it a better place. But, let us not forget the media’s role in this either as they cannot walk away from the problems they have created and claim a lack of accountability.

Unknown said...

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has overseen an unprecedented expansion of American military might on the African continent, with dozens of bases and outposts opening there since he took office.

A Nov. 17 investigation by Nick Turse, a journalist and American military scholar, found that the United States maintains at least 60 bases or military outposts throughout Africa, although not all are actively used at all times:


Any comment Mr Barlow ?

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I shall refrain from comment Unknown.

Besfort said...

Sir Barlow,

What do you think about the news in Burundi these days? Will the army be able to stop the rebels in time before another civil-war starts? I've read that the Burundi army is trained by the Americans (I hope not like they train some countries: control points, and humanitarian operations,and barely a soldier will have the chance to train musketry, military discipline etc.).

I also heard that the army is cruelly killing civilians - won't this add sympathy for the rebels among the population?!

Have a nice day, and
Merry Christmas

Tonk said...

Dear Mr. Barlow,
In your blog post you make many references to the negative effects of African armed forces becoming neutered peacekeeping forces, especially in the 10th paragraph ("an inability to fight to decisively end conflicts and wars" etc). What are the practices in a peacekeeping focused doctrine that cause these negative effects? I ask this because I am not very familiar with African armed forces, the insurgents they fight, or the tactics used against them.

Die Stoor said...

Dear Eeben,

First. I want to wish you a speedy return to full health and an excellent year forward.

Second. Regarding the first comment by the Canadian "journo" requesting an interview: I had to chuckle and often think that if these so called journalists did a little more reading through the wealth of information here and elsewhere they'd have at least 99% of all the material needed to provide a concise and accurate synopsis of what you are actually trying to achieve and your opinions on matters related.

Then, I am glad that you mentioned the regarding of "Moderate Terrorists" by certain countries who use this type of rhetoric to render aid and comfort to these terrorists under the noses of their constituents, who are too anesthetized to bother even having a coherent opinion about it, let alone use their votes to fundamental change this suicidal landscape that they have entered.

Anonymous said...

Good day Mr Barlow, I trust you are well. I find your blog really interesting and I am in agreement with the articles that you have posted to date.

I would like to pose the following question: What is the possibility of a Revolt/Genocide in South Africa based on the current events in the country? (I base this question with reference to your article of 2 December 2015 titled "Afirca Must Stop Demilitarising Its Militaries").

On a lighter note I trust that the nicotine withdrawals have stopped, however they do tend to give you mood swings!

Kind Regards,
The Don

Unknown said...

Good Day Eeben

Excellent thoughts.

Is your blog still active?


An old student of yours

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many armies in Africa are trained to tie their bootlaces badly Besfort. That is part of the great tragedy.
As we are not in Burundi, I am unable to comment on what exactly is happening there.
Belated good wishes to you as well.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An inability to fight is the result of numerous effects, Tonk. Many African armies are continually deployed on internal law enforcement operations and are ill-equipped to deal with the problems. Then when called upon to fight, they do not have the training, equipment, doctrine and so forth to fight effectively. Some lack both political and military will to end the conflict as rapidly as possible with minimum collateral damage.
On the other hand, some so-called insurgent forces are really proxy forces that are at times trained and equipped by the same governments that train African armies.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks Stoor.I am very well and cannot complain. I trust you are well?
Many ‘journos’ are merely internet miners and are too lazy to actually do a real story. Besides, if it doesn’t match their perception of reality, they have no interest. But, I have also stopped talking to them as I have come to realise that many of them make their living off reporting on conflicts and when the conflicts end, so too do their ‘scoops’. I recall well the concerns some had when we went to Nigeria and how they did everything possible to bend reality to match perceptions.
Ah, the ‘moderate terrorists’ have outwitted the West again. Sadly though innocent citizens become the targets of these evil forces. And of course, you are correct: many people are too anesthetized and have come to accept it all as the ‘new normal’.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks The Don…the mood swings are almost gone and I have barely managed to survive the withdrawal symptoms. Some days, the urge is very great to light up again.
I believe that we are witnessing the propagation of divisive and militant politics and that race and ethnicity have become major factors aimed at overshadowing failures at many levels. And not all of it is locally driven as I recall being told some years ago by a foreign diplomat that SA is too big for one government.
We are certainly witnessing a political revolt of sorts. But again, we are also witnessing numerous intelligence and law enforcement failures. No revolt or even genocide occurs overnight or spontaneously. There are – and have been - numerous indications of what was and is coming yet many simply turn a blind eye thinking it will not affect them.
I also think that as a country that is part of BRICS, we will continue to be faced with foreign fuel being poured onto the militant politics we witness.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Always good hearing from an old student JR R.
My blog is still alive – it was just neglected for a while due to some other priorities.