View Full Version : Eeben Barlow on why governments & armed forces fail at COIN

08-08-2012, 01:50 PM
Eben Barlow (occasional SWC poster) has a blogsite and has added two posts 'Why governments fail', with forty comments:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/why-goverments-fail_26.html

There is no single reason why governments fail in countering an insurgency; rather it is a colliding of a host of different factors and reasons that culminate at the right time to give impetus to an insurgency......a COIN conflict’s main effort is aimed at restoring faith in the government and redressing real or perceived wrongs against the populace who are partaking or supporting the insurgency. Failure to do so will simply fuel the insurgency.

In the Comments he adds:
To me, “hearts and minds” means where possible, reduce collateral damage, treat the locals and their property respectfully when encountered and if the situation and time permits, we can provide some medical care. Our mission is to kill the enemy – government’s mission is to do its job and govern – and that implies providing the services and support to the populace that they ought to. Hearts and minds has sidetracked us to the point where we seem to think it is our primary mission and the hunting and killing the insurgent secondary.

In mid-July Eben added 'Why Armed Forces fail at Coin', with four comments:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/why-armed-forces-fail-at-coin_19.html

As it is an internal problem, countering the insurgency is essentially a law enforcement responsibility. The problem is that often the law enforcement agencies do not realise that an insurgency is developing and through ignorance and denial, mislead government – and the nation - on the seriousness of the situation. This provides the insurgents with numerous advantages, most crucial being time to organise, train and escalate the insurgency.

The role of the armed forces, once it has been mandated by government to take control when the law enforcement agencies are unable to contain the insurgency, is to create an environment that will allow government to negotiate from a position of strength – and govern. To achieve this, the armed forces must destroy the armed elements of the insurgency and “out-guerrilla the guerrillas”.

(He ends with) It is furthermore crucial that the armed forces know when to stop and when government must take over and govern and the law enforcement agencies enforce the law.

There is plenty to mull over here, even if there is a mixture of Wilf and Bob Jones in his points.

04-14-2015, 09:42 AM
A reminder to check Eeben's website, even if not regularly updated there is a book in prospect and a number of items since the first post:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/

This item fits this thread's theme, with 85 comments:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/missing-point-with-counter-insurgency.html

04-19-2015, 06:00 PM
Mr Barlow hasn't updated the blog for some time. It is a worthwhile read, though.

I wouldn't expect any updates for some time, as I understand he is quite busy with STTEP in Nigeria at the moment. Hopefully he finds some time to post about his recent experiences either on the blog or in the Nigeria thread here.

05-12-2015, 09:55 PM
Nearly missed this, note a secondary report:
...last week, Col Barlow discussed his company's role in a seminar at the Royal Danish Defence College, and in a separate interview with a Sofrep.com, a special forces website, he described in detail the "aggressive" strike force that was created to push Boko Haram onto the back foot. “The campaign gathered good momentum and wrested much of the initiative from the enemy...It was not uncommon for the strike force to be met by thousands of cheering locals once the enemy had been driven from an area. Yes, many of us are no longer 20-year-olds. But with our age has come a knowledge of conflicts and wars in Africa that our younger generation employees have yet to learn, and a steady hand when things get rough.”Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/nigeria/11596210/South-African-mercenaries-secret-war-on-Boko-Haram.html

Echo Bravo
05-13-2015, 04:31 AM
Amazed at how a journo can lift an article off one website, credit someone a co-founder of EO (who wasn't), add in his own imagination and interpretation of the situation, credit us (STTEP) with so much, add several years to my age - and get paid for it.
Poor research and an apparent lack of professional integrity ought to have no place in the media.

05-13-2015, 03:05 PM
Amazed at how a journo can lift an article off one website, credit someone a co-founder of EO (who wasn't), add in his own imagination and interpretation of the situation, credit us (STTEP) with so much, add several years to my age - and get paid for it.
Poor research and an apparent lack of professional integrity ought to have no place in the media.

Thank you Echo Bravo for that pithy assessment.:wry:

SOFREP have a five-part series on Eeben Barlow's work in Nigeria. Part 1:http://sofrep.com/40608/eeben-barlow-south-african-pmc-devestates-boko-haram-pt1/
Part 2:http://sofrep.com/40623/eeben-barlow-speaks-pt-2-development-nigerian-strike-force/
Part 3:http://sofrep.com/40633/eeben-barlow-speaks-pt-3-tactics-used-destroy-boko-haram/#ixzz3a1yhh2z8

He describes 'relentless pursuit' as:
Barlow’s key points to utilizing relentless pursuit include:

Troops eating while on the move
Combat tracking the enemy at a high rate of speed
Having the ability to leap-frog ahead of the enemy via helicopter
Utilizing communications
Emphasizing aggression
Maintaining proficiency in night operations
Outgunning the enemy

Part 4:http://sofrep.com/40675/eeben-barlow-speaks-pt-4-rejecting-racial-narrative/
Part 5:http://sofrep.com/40700/eeben-barlow-speaks-pt-5-external-drivers-nigerias-war/

Echo Bravo
05-13-2015, 04:10 PM
Ironically the journo mentions us ageing white mercenaries despite the "palefaces" being heavily outnumbered by our black colleagues. And then he wrote his piece as if he had actually had an interview with me - which he hadn't.

05-15-2015, 03:39 PM
Glad to see you have returned and that the blog has been updated with new articles.

10-12-2016, 11:53 AM
Eeben Barlow published a book in South Africa a few months ago and it is available from the publishers. It is not available via Amazon UK, despite two entries.

Amazon USA state it will be available after Xmas for US$35:https://www.amazon.com/Composite-Warfare-Conduct-Successful-Operations/dp/1928211763/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476272904&sr=1-1&keywords=eeben+barlow
The book is 'Composite Warfare: The Conduct of Successful Ground Force Operations in Africa' and the site states:
This book is intended as a guide and textbook for African soldiers and scholars who wish to understand the development of hostilities, strategy, operational design, doctrine and tactics. It also illustrates the importance of non-partisanship and the mission and role of the armed forces. It covers the role of government along with operations related to war, operations other than war and intelligence operations and how these operations, operating in a coordinated and unified manner, can secure and strengthen a government.

Not cheap from the publishers, with P&P UK 44 or US$54.

Finally there are updates on his blog:http://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/

04-19-2018, 11:23 AM
Spotted today an update on his blog that a new edition is out soon.

Added here although I recall there was a thread on this PMC, alas the search function is not currently working, so placed here.

A "taster" passage:
The book (770 pages) contains a lot of new information and photographs. It not only covers the contracts EO engaged in, but also a lot of new information on the devious role played by elements of Military Intelligence, and their lackeys—including some very unethical journalists who used their poison-pens to further their own personal agendas. The double-dealing of our politicians of that time, and their efforts to deceive the South African public, is also discussed.
More details and the South African publisher too:https://eebenbarlowsmilitaryandsecurityblog.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/executive-outcomes-against-all-odds.html


01-03-2019, 09:04 PM
Posted on Facebook by Eeben, worth a read, it does make you ponder IMHO:
(This is neither a media statement nor an invitation for party political rhetoric)
Like many, I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions—conclusions that were based on incomplete or false information—conclusions that have sometimes proven to be incorrect or off-the-mark. Adapting plans and actions based on incorrect or faulty conclusions and perceptions can have dire consequences.
Most reasonable people’s thought processes rely on an input (incoming information/intelligence), resulting in a mental process (objective thinking, pondering, reasoning, and reaching a conclusion) and an output (issuing a comment, instruction, response, or a statement).
The input I was on occasion given was tainted with a personal bias, subjectivity, an agenda, or with a specific aim.
Like many, I had regularly accepted the input given to me as ‘true’ or as ‘intelligence’. This has driven home the adage ‘don’t believe everything you hear or read’. It has also taught me to question the input more. This does, however, not exonerate me from having reached faulty conclusions, and subsequently having made bad decisions—something I have done in the past—more times than I care to remember.
No matter how well intentioned a decision may be, if the input is false or based on rumour, innuendo, flawed intelligence, or economic, racial, religious, political or xenophobic bias, it is inviting disaster.
In a world where the stakes are increasingly high, I would encourage all those in positions of influence, education, trust and power, to question more and not merely accept the ‘facts’ as given to them or as they perceive them to be.
Some political leaders, political commentators, historians, and mainstream and social media journalists specifically target emotive issues with deep, hidden agendas often aimed at inciting negative—and even evoking threatening responses. Their statements are often without substance or are given a spin to suit their own personal narratives. Ironically, very few people question their motives. Yet good people fall for the lies of bad people—one of the dangers of simply jumping to conclusions. And some of these good people will end up doing stupid things that could ignite the powder keg we are sitting on.
When education is presented in a manner aimed at thoughtless parroting, the ability of students to think clearly and logically is reduced. When history is rewritten in a manner to distort facts, it degrades the abilities of students to think objectively, to reason—and to debate sensibly. It also closes off the world to them. This disadvantage is carried-over into adulthood. The vital lessons history teaches us are then flushed down the drain of political madness, and we are bound to repeat those mistakes.
In many instances, academic rigour has been replaced with ‘politically correct’ regurgitated nonsense. The end result is a manifestation of a lack of education and reasoning, along with replacing truth with fairy tales, coupled to an inability to ‘connect the dots.’
Those who are able to reason and reach sound conclusions are dismissed or targeted simply because they deviate from the prevailing narrative, or pose a threat to those unable to think.
Distorted input has also resulted—and still results in bad political, economic, social, and military decision making, the issuance of divisive and militant comments, the propagation of untruths, the collapse or downgrading of economies and governments, chaos, conflict, and even war.
I look forward to the day when our commentators, political leaders, educationalists, historians, journalists, and our nation, will do some serious introspection and change their behaviour; instead of a continually accepting false as fact, we need to start questioning the input and agendas before we reach conclusions.
Until that day, accepting faulty input and jumping to incorrect conclusions, will simply further downgrade our economy and our social fabric, ruin or even destroy our country, and continue to divide our people.

Bill Moore
01-05-2019, 08:25 PM
The political aspect of your post is self-evident, and of course those with different views will point to the other as accept false as fact. However, biases and agendas impact more than our political systems.

Until that day, accepting faulty input and jumping to incorrect conclusions, will simply further downgrade our economy and our social fabric, ruin or even destroy our country, and continue to divide our people.

This same human character flaw that we're all affected with to varying degrees has resulted in the promotion of a seriously flawed counterinsurgency doctrine based on questionable premises that are assumed to be fact. With the exception of wasting billions of dollars and lives, the danger isn't simply being wrong. We should assume we're getting to get it wrong, at least partially, at the outset. The danger is accepting falsehoods as facts, because that will prevent us from learning and adapting. That results in forever wars that serve the interests of some, but not our nations as a whole.