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Thread: Rhodesian COIN (consolidated thread, inc original RLI)

  1. #201
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    While I don't want to divert this thread into a political discussion, it is worth pointing out that, in at least two ways, the high Rhodesian kills rates achieved against ZANLA and ZIPRA were politically problematic.

    First of all, the military success achieved against black nationalist guerillas appears to have blinded many in the the Rhodesian government to what had been perfectly obvious since 1965: that, in the end, the Rhodesian experiment with white minority rule was doomed to eventual failure.
    While UDI was strategically pointless, it must be remembered that the white Rhodesian government enjoyed so much support from the UK population as to make military action against Rhodesia, impossible. Thus the Government policy that followed was for a negotiated transition to majority rule.

    From a military standpoint what the Rhodesian Army's successes did was force ZANLA and ZIPRA to recognise they could only win via massive conventional military action. Lancaster House was convened to prevent the war escalating to a state that would have forced external intervention - certainly from the UK and external raids by the Rhodesians had crippled the economies of all the states harbouring and supporting ZANLA/ZIPRA.

    Now the viability and even the reality of a ZANLA/ZIPRA conventional invasion is very debatable, but the Rhodesian Army ensured the the cost of a guerilla campaign was unacceptably high, and progress unacceptably slow - thus talks were the only option. What military action ensured was a negotiated peace and not a forced one - which is what the armed insurgency sought.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    But I'm not and was not a sir ...
    In similar situations some American NCOs have been known to say, "Don't call me sir, my parents were married."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    However, Ewell was right -- so was JMA -- in that the ratio is the important thing. Today, the troops keep score, even if units do not.
    True enough, but you also need to consider which ratio you're looking at.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Now the viability and even the reality of a ZANLA/ZIPRA conventional invasion is very debatable, but the Rhodesian Army ensured the the cost of a guerilla campaign was unacceptably high, and progress unacceptably slow - thus talks were the only option. What military action ensured was a negotiated peace and not a forced one - which is what the armed insurgency sought.
    Wilf, I'll have to disagree somewhat on your take here--both in terms of what Smith originally hoped to achieve through UDI, and whether ZAPU and ZANU saw a negotiated transition to power as somehow second-best to a forced one.

    Much of ZANLA's political mobilization and force-in-waiting strategy through the 1970s was precisely predicated on the view that either through military exhaustion or external pressure, the Rhodesian government would eventually either collapse or be forced to step down, at which point a combination of ZANU preparations and its larger Shona political base would allow it to triumph over ZAPU. There was no reason to see negotiations as a the second best way of doing this—on the contrary, by the late 1970s Mugabe and Tongogara were generally convinced by the argument (especially made to them by Samora Machel) that a military victory risked bring South Africa into the war in an even larger way, and that a negotiated route to power (legitimated by African and international support) was the safer bet.

    This, of course, is exactly what happened.

    Note that I'm not saying that ZANLA didn't attempt to inflict the maximum possible casualties on Rhodesian forces (and even civilians). I am saying that they believed, correctly, that their military power gave them political advantages too, and that the Lancaster House route was a perfectly acceptable way of securing victory.

    In my view, Smith would have got a better deal in the late 1960s and early 1970s (pre-Altena Farm) than by the late 1970s. However, with Rhodesia having the upper hand militarily in the initial years after UDI, there was little incentive to negotiate--resulting in a worse outcome later. That's why I argue that Rhodesian military success on the battlefield came at a cost in terms of political and diplomatic common sense.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon6 View Post
    Aren't you contradicting yourself here? Are you implying US and UK soldiers in Afghanistan aren't trying their best within the political and tactical constraints they are operating under?
    You don't seem to understand the fundamental difference. Perhaps you can let me in on your active service background?

    Even the South African troops who served in Angola were unable to connect the dots as to exactly how their efforts there were protecting their families and their homes in South Africa itself.

    As far as the Brits are concerned there are not many left who believe their military efforts in Afghanistan actually translate into safer streets in the UK.

    So let me try again then, do you see the motivational difference between a soldier fighting a war for the very survival of his country, his way of life and his family and friends and that of a squaddie who squeezes a 6 month tour of Afghanistan into an otherwise busy schedule of other military stuff?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    While I don't want to divert this thread into a political discussion, ...
    Then don't Rex.

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    In reference to CAS.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    A lot of folks from Viet Nam can recall Nape right on top of their position and 2.75 Rockets spewing Nails at them.
    I suggest what I am saying is how close the CAS target actually was. Not necessarily narrow escapes from off target ordinance.

    The Cessna 337 was good for us in that it carried light ordinance that allowed effective delivery at very close safety tolerances.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    You don't seem to understand the fundamental difference. Perhaps you can let me in on your active service background?

    Even the South African troops who served in Angola were unable to connect the dots as to exactly how their efforts there were protecting their families and their homes in South Africa itself.

    As far as the Brits are concerned there are not many left who believe their military efforts in Afghanistan actually translate into safer streets in the UK.

    So let me try again then, do you see the motivational difference between a soldier fighting a war for the very survival of his country, his way of life and his family and friends and that of a squaddie who squeezes a 6 month tour of Afghanistan into an otherwise busy schedule of other military stuff?
    I do understand the difference but how do you measure how hard someone is trying? Are they trying 10% less hard? 20%? When soldiers are actually at war (as opposed to back home) aren't political considerations less important? The governments clearly aren't putting all the effort in but I don't how you can claim that for the people on the ground. I've never claimed any active service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    From a military standpoint what the Rhodesian Army's successes did was force ZANLA and ZIPRA to recognise they could only win via massive conventional military action. Lancaster House was convened to prevent the war escalating to a state that would have forced external intervention - certainly from the UK and external raids by the Rhodesians had crippled the economies of all the states harbouring and supporting ZANLA/ZIPRA.

    Now the viability and even the reality of a ZANLA/ZIPRA conventional invasion is very debatable, but the Rhodesian Army ensured the the cost of a guerilla campaign was unacceptably high, and progress unacceptably slow - thus talks were the only option. What military action ensured was a negotiated peace and not a forced one - which is what the armed insurgency sought.
    There were plans to take out all the strategic bridges in Zambia and Mozambique that would have been used in a conventional invasion.

    Op Manacle was the name of the Op for the Mozambican bridges and was first in line. But on the 15th November 1979 during the Lancaster House Talks there was a switch and the go ahead was given to take out the Zambian bridges which effectively put ZIPRA out of the war.

    As the rush was on to prepare for the Mozambique part of the op the word came through from London that the cease fire had been signed and all external ops were terminated.

    The thinking has been since then that the switch was orchestrated by Carrington who had 'influence' over Bishop Muzorewa to take ZAPU out of the equation and open the road for Mugabe. "Ours not to reason why..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Also, despite the Fire Force's high kill rates, wasn't the rate of infiltration towards the end of the war far exceeding this rate? Didn't this lead to the effective abandonment of most of the countryside to the insurgents by 1978, and indeed this was simply recognition that the insurgents had already broken down Rhodesian government authority in those areas?

    If any of this is inaccurate, please let me know.
    OK, this is not something that can be dealt with in a sound bite. (Wikipedia does not always tell the whole story

    Rhodesia never had the troops to hold all the ground. There had been a debate for years over why the military should concentrate on the vital ground and strategic communication routes and carry out raids into areas of no tactical importance through a combination of Selous Scouts and RLI fire force actions. So yes there were some areas which they could have termed "liberated areas" but we could go in there whenever we wanted and had the troops to do so. So they got relaxed and then we went in and killed a few hundred then moved on.

    From the government authority point of view no rural police station was ever closed down. Schools were closed as teachers were killed or intimidated. Cattle dipping ceased, clinics closed and it all went back to nature.

    Later in 1979 there was a push by ZANLA certainly to get as many insurgents into the country as possible for pre-election activities. But at the same time Bishop Muzorewa's militia was starting to have an effect in the rural areas which had no real strategic value. There were about 10,000 of them out there and there were numerous contacts between them and ZANLA.

    Then of course you may be aware that the southern edge of Rhodesia and the adjacent portion of Mozambique were being taken care of by South African troops. Took the local farmers a while to realise why these Puma helos were flying around in their areas.

    Interesting little war where they did a lot of the right (political) things too late to make the required difference.
    Last edited by JMA; 07-01-2010 at 08:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon6 View Post
    I do understand the difference but how do you measure how hard someone is trying? Are they trying 10% less hard? 20%? When soldiers are actually at war (as opposed to back home) aren't political considerations less important? The governments clearly aren't putting all the effort in but I don't how you can claim that for the people on the ground. I've never claimed any active service.
    Maybe someone else can give a better explanation than I?

    I will say that there are many times in these little wars where your resolve is tested. After a hard day where friends were CASEVAC'd and you are standing-to at last light (when the flies have gone and before the mosquitoes arrive) when to get to think things through.

    Please take my word that you will know how hard people are trying when you are out there in front and never have to look behind to see where you men are. You know, you just know the difference between the 'committed" and the "this is not worth dying for" crowd.
    Last edited by JMA; 07-01-2010 at 08:15 PM.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Later in 1979 there was a push by ZANLA certainly to get as many insurgents into the country as possible for pre-election activities. But at the same time Bishop Muzorewa's militia was starting to have an effect in the rural areas which had no real strategic value. There were about 10,000 of them out there and there were numerous contacts between them and ZANLA.
    So by 1978, were the insurgent zones of control expanding or fading? Sure, perhaps they could not or did not contest RLI or Fire Force incursions, but since the RLI did not bother to contest control of the population, what did it matter?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Note that I'm not saying that ZANLA didn't attempt to inflict the maximum possible casualties on Rhodesian forces (and even civilians). I am saying that they believed, correctly, that their military power gave them political advantages too, and that the Lancaster House route was a perfectly acceptable way of securing victory.
    I would 110% agree. As the IRA used to say, "ballot box in one hand, Armalite in the other." They used violence to create the conditions in which the policy might be set forth - which it eventually was.
    Mugabe was trained by the Chinese. The Chinese teach Clausewitz - but never admit it. Mao was a Clausewitian!

    The Rhodesian Army's actions just ensured increasing cost to ZANLA and forced an international dimension in terms of a negotiated settlement and internationally observed cease fire. Two things that would not have happened if they hadn't had some success.
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    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default Moderator at work

    I have moved the posts from No.108 to here from the thread on 'Moving Fire Force concept to Afghanistan' and hopefully they make sense.

    Link:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=2090
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    The Rhodesian Army's actions just ensured increasing cost to ZANLA and forced an international dimension in terms of a negotiated settlement and internationally observed cease fire. Two things that would not have happened if they hadn't had some success.
    Yet they could have had those thing many years earlier, arguably under much better conditions--but didn't, because the Rhodesian Army was so successful that Smith couldn't see the writing on the wall.

    And there lies, IMHO, the paradox of Rhodesian counterinsurgency.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Rex,

    You wrote just:
    Yet they could have had those thing many years earlier, arguably under much better conditions--but didn't, because the Rhodesian Army was so successful that Smith couldn't see the writing on the wall.
    At several points in post-UDI Rhodesia, before the war took hold, the senior military commanders did visit Ian Smith, urging him to change his stance in negotiations as Rhodesia was in such a strong position it could make concessions and each time Ian Smith said no there was no need to.

    The first time Ian Smith's confidence was punctured was Henry Kissinger's visit in 1976, when a presentation was given by the USA on all aspects of the situation and in particular that the war was not winnable. By that time "taking the gap", falling re-enlistment rates and lack of resources were all having an impact. The Rhodesian military were also astonished that so much had been learnt, much of it from satellite imagery, SIGINT etc.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Yet they could have had those thing many years earlier, arguably under much better conditions--but didn't, because the Rhodesian Army was so successful that Smith couldn't see the writing on the wall.

    And there lies, IMHO, the paradox of Rhodesian counterinsurgency.
    Rex, I am fascinated by your take on this. What is your source if I may ask?

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Rex,

    You wrote just:

    At several points in post-UDI Rhodesia, before the war took hold, the senior military commanders did visit Ian Smith, urging him to change his stance in negotiations as Rhodesia was in such a strong position it could make concessions and each time Ian Smith said no there was no need to.

    The first time Ian Smith's confidence was punctured was Henry Kissinger's visit in 1976, when a presentation was given by the USA on all aspects of the situation and in particular that the war was not winnable. By that time "taking the gap", falling re-enlistment rates and lack of resources were all having an impact. The Rhodesian military were also astonished that so much had been learnt, much of it from satellite imagery, SIGINT etc.
    Don't forget that the first wake-up call was the coup in Portugal in 1974. Who could have predicted that? The shock wave was also felt in South Africa as Angola now opened up access to SWA/Namibia for SWAPO/PLAN.

    Then you focus on the supposed "gee-whizz" electronic stuff when you forget (or don't mention) that Smith agreed to the Kissinger Agreement of 1976 (probably only after South Africa threatened to cut off all financial and military aid if he did not) and went to the Geneva Conference to sign the agreement only for the Brits under the Chairmanship of that hopeless incompetent Ivor Richard to collapse like a wet paper bag before the increased demands of the nationalists and the OAU.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Going back a bit in time

    JMA,

    My comments on the Rhodesian military and advice to Prime Minister Ian Smith are based on conversations with several Rhodesian officers. IIRC some books also refer to this, but I cannot cite sources - except didn't Ken Flowers mention it? For the new to Rhodesia readers Ken Flowers was the ex-policeman who headed Rhodesia's external agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and somewhat controversial.

    The comment on the Kissinger presentation in 1976 is based on wider conversations with politicians and the military, plus an academic who watched the situation. Again IIRC I think the reaction is shown in some books.

    You refer to:
    the supposed "gee-whizz" electronic stuff
    .

    My recollection is that the USA did not pay great SIGINT attention to the region, although more after Portugal's exit and after the Soviet-Cuban arrival in Angola. What surprised the Rhodesian military was the extent of US understanding of their problems, for examples the exit dates for serving career officers and who was who in operations from monitoring car parking at headquarters. Some Rhodesians thought some, if not more of the information came from "insiders", traitors and elsewhere. The other snag was that much of the information and analysis was known about within parts of the military, but had not been given to the politicians.

    I left alone what happened to the Kissinger involvement as that was peripheral to SWJ and my interest in Rhodesian history is not all embracing.

    Later on, with the Lancaster House Agreement, I recall the reporting on the emergence from the "bush" right across Rhodesia of thousands of guerillas and followers into the assembly points etc. This was also commented upon in the open literature by the Commonwealth Monitoring Force and others which I read in 1980 and shortly after - including articles in UK Army publications.

    I fully accept that many of the guerillas remained in the "bush" to ensure that the rural voters cast their votes for ZANU and that many of those in the assembly points (BBC cites 22,000) were not guerillas.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    JMA,

    My comments on the Rhodesian military and advice to Prime Minister Ian Smith are based on conversations with several Rhodesian officers. IIRC some books also refer to this, but I cannot cite sources - except didn't Ken Flowers mention it? For the new to Rhodesia readers Ken Flowers was the ex-policeman who headed Rhodesia's external agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and somewhat controversial.

    The comment on the Kissinger presentation in 1976 is based on wider conversations with politicians and the military, plus an academic who watched the situation. Again IIRC I think the reaction is shown in some books.

    You refer to:.

    My recollection is that the USA did not pay great SIGINT attention to the region, although more after Portugal's exit and after the Soviet-Cuban arrival in Angola. What surprised the Rhodesian military was the extent of US understanding of their problems, for examples the exit dates for serving career officers and who was who in operations from monitoring car parking at headquarters. Some Rhodesians thought some, if not more of the information came from "insiders", traitors and elsewhere. The other snag was that much of the information and analysis was known about within parts of the military, but had not been given to the politicians.

    I left alone what happened to the Kissinger involvement as that was peripheral to SWJ and my interest in Rhodesian history is not all embracing.

    Later on, with the Lancaster House Agreement, I recall the reporting on the emergence from the "bush" right across Rhodesia of thousands of guerillas and followers into the assembly points etc. This was also commented upon in the open literature by the Commonwealth Monitoring Force and others which I read in 1980 and shortly after - including articles in UK Army publications.

    I fully accept that many of the guerillas remained in the "bush" to ensure that the rural voters cast their votes for ZANU and that many of those in the assembly points (BBC cites 22,000) were not guerillas.
    I would suggest that it was a surprise to Rhodesians as to why the US was bothering to show that degree of interest in situation in their little country. So what was the implied threat of holding this knowledge? That Kissinger would pass it on to the Soviets (in 1976)? Or pass it on to the insurgents?

    I suppose you heard of the arrest in June 1979 of three CIA agents? (Smith's book "The Great Betrayal" pg 308) And how Carter promised to lift sanctions against (then) Zimbabwe-Rhodesia in exchange for the release of the spies who had also been operating in Kenya and South Africa. Sadly the idiot Muzorewa agreed to release the spies on Carter's word. Big mistake. The rest is history.

    As to information being passed to foreign governments during the war. We were never concerned with (nor should we ever have been) stuff classified as "Restricted" ending up anywhere from the CIA to MI6 to the insurgents.

    Of concern to us was the fact that at one point operational intel was being passed on. For example on one camp attack into Zambia when we were going through the paperwork in their ops room we found a fresh signal they had received that morning saying "You will be attacked at 12h00 today". Then there were the numerous cases where attempts were may to kill/assassinate Nkomo and Mugabe but on arrival they were never at home. A number of other examples. It was a war and we were aware that everyone was out there with their spies and sources. Everyone trying to be more clever than the next.
    Last edited by JMA; 07-04-2010 at 08:34 AM.

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