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.

Monday, December 2, 2019



I was recently asked to comment on the Russian PMC Wagner’s role and their current lack of success in Mozambique.
I do not usually comment on the work of other PMCs, but as some in the mediavery falsely and stupidly—alluded and/or claimed I was part of Wagner’s creation, I feel I ought to voice my opinion. Others in the media, again very falsely, claimed that STTEP had submitted a proposal to the Mozambique government, but that it had been rejected—especially as no such proposal was ever submitted.
It is sometimes very difficult to counter the media’s constant lying with reference to EO/STTEP as people tend to believe the ‘creative journalism’ they read in the media without any verification of the story. I have been down that road before…
Equally dim-witted is the assertion that EO/STTEP were/get paid in ‘resources’. (It is very difficult to pay employees in barrels of oil, carats of diamonds, or whatever other resources I/we supposedly get paid in). I suppose by padding their stories with lies, some of these ‘journalists’ feel they are worthy of some journalistic prize.
Back to Wagner: It is a well-known fact that they are in Mozambique. It is also a well-known fact that they have found themselves totally out of their depth. I recently commented that arrogance and over confidence can result in disaster for those who are unprepared for deployment in Africa. Africa does not take kindly to a Western or Eastern doctrine, or such approaches to conflict as a template that can be superimposed on the continent.
I also commented that a lack of their understanding of the impact of the Operating Environment (OE), the Area of Operations (AO), the terrain, the threat, the customs and traditions of the local people in the AO, and so forth all indicate a definite lack of preparation.  As intelligence drives strategy, and tactics is related to terrain, it is apparent they missed that part as well.  
However, the mere fact that a Russian PMC is in Mozambique, is an indication that the Mozambique armed forces need help, and that South Africa missed a golden opportunity to project force by providing robust and effective support. Many African armies have become victims of their own making. But that is another argument for another day…
I certainly do not applaud the fact that Wagner suffered casualties. Rightly or wrongly, they are there to do a job—and if they are successful, much of Sub-Saharan Africa may benefit from their success. If they fail, the threat will simply be incentivised and gain additional support—and that ought to be of grave concern to the Mozambique government, and many other governments.
Am I pleased that Wagner are in Mozambique? No, as I believe there are other PMCs way better qualified and with a better track record than they have, but it was a decision taken by the Mozambique government.
Perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures…But ultimately, you get what you pay for.  

Friday, October 18, 2019


The disinformation piece published by ‘The Bell’ on 29 January 2019, seems to be steadily gaining traction, and creeping across the informational domain. I initially thought that people would see through the deception in the article, but sadly, they didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t.
The piece, titled “Private army for the president: the story of the most delicate assignment of Evgeny Prigozhin“ (https://thebell.io/41889-2/) tries to connect Executive Outcomes (EO) with the formation of the Russian PMC ‘Wagner Group’, and furthermore implies that I am/was an advisor to the Russians. The Bell’s article, amongst other ‘valuable insights’, states:

“In the official program of the St. Petersburg economic forum in June 2010, Barlow’s name is listed as a participant in one short session …. the main reason for his visit was a closed presentation for a small delegation of the General Staff”.

It is sometimes difficult to defend oneself against a lie that has gained momentum. I can only suppose that it is irrelevant that such a ‘closed presentation’ with the Russian General Staff was never on the cards and never happened. Another irrelevant fact is that I certainly wouldn’t compromise EO’s reputationor even that of STTEPin favour of a foreign government-sponsored companyespecially in Africa.
The origins of The Bell can be found here: https://thebell.io/about/?utm_source=desktop_topline
The same piece, with ‘additional reporting’ recently surfaced on ‘Veterans Today’  (https://www.veteranstoday.com/2019/09/13/russia-a-private-army-for-the-president-the-tale-of-evgeny-prigozhins-most-delicate-mission/), dated September 23, 2019. Veterans Today puts itself out as ‘a journal for the clandestine community’.
When a journal that supposedly focusses on ‘clandestine operations’ get its ‘facts’ so wrong, it becomes suspiciously clear that they base their ‘clandestine intelligence’ on disinformation, and definitely not on irrefutable and verifiable facts. Basic research is no longer a requirement; instead, acting as an extension of a Russian disinformation piece is. It seems Veterans Today are trying hard to give credibility to a Russian disinformation pieceI wonder why?  
The fact that the original ‘journalists’ were paid to produce this masterpiece of deception came as no great surprise to me. Their paymasters are also no great surprise to me. Apparently, the fact that EO closed its doors more than a decade before the Wagner Group was even a thought in the minds of the Russians also seems to have passed them by. But then again, EO/myself have frequently been blamed for things that happened long before the company came into being, and even long after the company closed its doors.
Although I cannot comment on the rest of The Bells piece, I feel I am more than qualified to comment on EO/myself.
What was a fleetingly nice comment was that the ‘journalists’ promoted me to the rank of Lt GenI almost fell for this promotion until I realised I was reading a carefully prepared piece where fact and fiction were interwoven with one another to create a specific narrative and perception.
Given that I have also spoken, lectured, and participated in numerous forums in the traditional West, I suppose EO/myself were also instrumental in creating all of the foreign PMCs now running around Africa, and acting as their advisers as well.
Sometimes, I can only shake my head and wonder why, in this world of scientific wonders, a tablet has not yet been developed to counteract stupidity. The reality is that in our interconnected world, deception, through mobilising disinformation and fake news, now sadly carries more weight than verified information.
A shame indeed, but I suppose ‘The Bell’ and ‘Veterans Today’ also took some of their lessons from the EO-era SA Intelligence Services and the media, and achieved their deceptive aim.
After all, if a lie is repeated enough times, it eventually morphs into the ‘truth’. As Lord Tim Bell, the founder of the disgraced and now defunct PR company Bell Pottinger once claimed: “Why tell the truth when a lie will do.”
The Bell seems to have adopted that approach.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019


(This is neither a media statement nor an invitation for party political rhetoric)

(Adapted from a talk I gave at the Rooiplaas gathering on 6 April 2019)

South Africa’s national security ought to be above petty party politics. Unfortunately, it is not.
I believe that many people in our government, and indeed most of our citizens, are unaware of the fact that, as a country, we are being targeted by Fourth Generation Warfare (FGW). I wrote about this phenomenon in my book Composite Warfare under the heading of 4th Evolution of Warfare.
I hope that I am wrong but what I see unfolding is not merely a clash between different ideologies but a concerted effort to bring about the collapse of the country. This will impact negatively on every citizen of the country regardless of colour, language, and religion, and unless there is dedicated, driven, and urgent intervention—supported by all political parties—the momentum will merely build up over time and will become increasingly difficult to stop.
Like any other conflict in Africa, FGW is about influence, interests, power, and resources.
FGW is characterised by the following:

1. It is multidimensional in nature and of long term duration. The build-up is gradual and its escalates over time
2. It includes acts of armed action, terror, sabotage, violent protests, and violent crimes driven by different ideologies that act as the glue holding it all together
3. Its support base is decentralised, and it (usually) enjoys covert financial support
4. It is a direct attack on a target’s culture, past, style of governance, and its support base, and includes attacks on—and the wanton murder of—civilians
5. Hate-speech is a vital component of this type of warfare as it adds to anger, division, tension, militancy, and hatred
6. It is a highly sophisticated psychological warfare and propaganda campaign conducted through mainstream and social media manipulation, internet/cyber warfare, internet trolls, and bots
7. All potential targets are placed under pressure ie political, economic, governance, social, law enforcement, and military. This is to create the perception that the government’s security forces are either unable or unwilling to intervene, or that they cannot be trusted to secure the populace
8. It contains threats of punishment, violence and/or sanction against any person or party that wishes to intervene or counter its end-goal. This will usually be driven by a small but vocal group of people who will use a distortion of both history and facts to justify and propagate their militancy. In this process of created anger, they will threaten to resort to an armed uprising  
9. It occurs in conflicts that are usually low intensity in nature and includes participants from all political and ideological sides
10. Non-participants (the populace) present the security forces with strategic, operational, and tactical dilemmas, but to the proponents of FGW, the populace standing between them and the government/security forces are merely collateral damage
11. It lacks an apparent and defined hierarchy
12. It appears small in size, but uses a vast and all-inclusive network of communication, media coverage, soft power, and financial support
13. It employs the use of tactics such as violent organised crime, violent and destructive protests, sabotage of state infrastructure, threats to disrupt and/or erode the health services, industry and food security, and even terrorism and small guerrilla actions.
14. Political warfare plays a large role in FGW to breakdown resistance.

Many of the above characteristics are already very visible in our political landscape.
I believe we are where we are as we do not have a coherent and realistic National Security Strategy to advise, support, strengthen, and guide our National Strategy. If a strategy is good but cannot be implemented, it is a waste of time and effort—and it gives the initiative to the bad guys.
Sadly, as seen from the recent report on our state intelligence services (SSA report), the SSA became a fiefdom and partisan intelligence organisation aimed at protecting personal interests instead of collecting intelligence on national interests. This placed us on a very dangerous trajectory of strategic failure. It has also eroded the pillars of state to such an extent that they are close to collapse.
This can only be turned around by reassessing these strategies, stopping the divisive and violent political rhetoric that is taking place, and re-establishing the rule of law. Just these few actions will go a long way in partly negating the political warfare/FGW campaign that is currently unfolding. Unless we do that, we will continue sinking.
As a result of these failures, the President can be likened to a ship’s captain that has a blind navigator. He knows where he wants to go but won’t be able to get there as the navigator has no clue where the map is, and he cannot see the iceberg that is rapidly approaching.