Strategy: The Future Of War, By Sean McFate

I really liked this presentation because it brings in all of the elements that I have been talking about on this blog, into a nice format that Dr. Sean McFate has put together. It is definitely worth your time to watch and absorb.

The thing that stood out to me was the discussion of the strategic uses of private forces or PMSC’s. He presents the case that A. the industry is not going away B. we are reverting back to a pre-westphalian era, and C. that the west might not want to use PMSC’s for waging war, but other countries like China or Russia have no issue with them.

It is that dynamic that is interesting to me. That countries are slowly going towards the use of PMSC’s to wage war, and they are doing it as a part of their national interest. Russia for example used their little green men hybrid warfare strategy in the Ukraine. Iran uses mercenaries in Syria. And then there is China and their use of maritime militias. Even with the west, contractors have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to supplement manpower shortages in this wars. The common theme here is that private forces are used as a part of a larger ‘strategy’, and this presentation challenges those who are closed minded or unaware of those uses. It forces the viewer to think about how PMSC’s are used, or could be used, strategically.

In the past, I have discussed all sorts of interesting ways that private forces have been used for the sake of national interest. The very first overseas land operation of the US was the Battle of Derna (Shores of Tripoli from the Marine Hymn) in Libya, where a small contingent of Marines/Army commanded several hundred Christian and Islamic mercenaries to fight in the First Barbary War. The early privateers that the US used in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were another example of the use of PMSC’s as a part of a larger strategy to support national interest. The Flying Tigers was another example of modern aviation PMSC’s, or Britain’s Watchguard International Lmtd. in Yemen, or even recently with STTEP in Nigeria. Private forces can be used to great effect, and there are historical cases that make this point.

Sean covers a broad scope of ideas, and they are provocative to the say the least. What I wanted to post was the ten ideas of this future war he describes. Bear in mind, he is mostly referencing what is going on right now, and trying to envision where this goes with each point.

1. There will never be ‘symmetry’.

2. Technology won’t save us.

3. States matter less.

4. Warriors are masked and may not fight for states.

5. Laws of war and international law don’t apply.

6. There will be a market for force with mercenaries.

7. Others will wage war and new kinds of superpowers will emerge.

8. Plausible deniability is power.

9. Hearts and minds matter very little.

10. There will be more war.

I won’t ruin the whole thing for the reader, but I did want to comment on one deal he brought up that is not discussed a lot out there. He mentioned ‘hack back‘ companies, or basically cyber companies contracted to attack hackers or countries that used hackers to attack those companies. To me, this is pure cyber privateering, and we are getting close to the concept of state sanctioned hacking as this becomes more of a problem. I am reminded of the attack on Sony, and how brutal that was. Or worse, hacks on nuclear facilities…. In the past I have talked about how the Letter of Marque could be used for this as a means of keeping it in check. As more companies or countries get attacked by hackers who are sponsored by states, the idea of attacking back becomes more and more a thing to consider. For a further exploration of cyber privateering, I suggest the Morgan Doctrine blog. Interesting stuff and check it out below. If you are interested in further exploring this topic, I highly recommend Sean’s book called The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order. –Matt

 

The future of war points.

A screen shot of the future of war points.

 

 

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Leadership: Team Rescorla

On 9/11, it is a somber time. You remember that day and all the death and destruction attached to it. It was a horrible day and I will never forget it. It is a memory that many of us in the security industry carry with us to our jobs both at home and abroad.

With that said, every year I try to shine a light on those stories and sacrifices that need some attention. I am a security contractor, and it seems that the private security sacrifice in this war or during 9/11 never gets the focus or respect it deserves. Most attention goes towards the civilians killed, or the military/police/firefighters killed, and other sites and news orgs out there always give attention to those sacrifices. Which is fine, but here on this blog, I feel it is equally as important to highlight the contractor sacrifices and heroism in this war.

For example, I have talked about Rick Rescorla and his heroic actions in the past, or all the private security contractors killed in the Twin Towers. This year, I would like to talk about Team Rescorla or the concept of red teaming in order to create or improve upon action plans.

Team Rescorla was an informal team that Rick Rescorla formed amongst fellow security consultants after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Rick formed this group to spit ball ideas about potential future attacks against the WTC, based on this attack. In the video below, they talk about how prophetic this team was in coming up with attack scenarios that could be devastating to the employees of Morgan Stanley.

What was interesting is Rick Rescorla reminds me of how Col. John Boyd would work with his Fighter Mafia friends to spitball ideas. Boyd was all about working with his team to bring up and refine ideas. Rick did the same thing with Team Rescorla and was constantly tapping into his human resource. One example of this was Rick and his conversations with Dan Hill, a special forces operative and fellow Vietnam Veteran who also fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russians. Dan was also a muslim convert and spoke arabic, something that was quite handy when trying to get into the mind of the jihadist back then. Rick used Dan’s knowledge of guerrilla warfare and terror tactics to think of a weakness of the WTC back in 1990. Here is a quote that sums up the point of the conversation.

Rescorla’s office at Dean Witter was in the World Trade Center. The firm, which merged with Morgan Stanley in 1997, eventually occupied twenty-two floors in the south tower, and several floors in a building nearby. Rescorla’s office was on the forty-fourth floor of the south tower. Because of Hill’s training in counterterrorism, in 1990 Rescorla asked him to come up and take a look at the security situation. “He knew I could be an evil-minded bastard,” Hill recalls. At the World Trade Center, Rescorla asked him a simple question: “How would you take this out?” Hill looked around, and asked to see the basement. They walked down an entrance ramp into a parking garage; there was no visible security, and no one stopped them. “This is a soft touch,” Hill said, pointing to a load-bearing column easily accessible in the middle of the space. “I’d drive a truck full of explosives in here, walk out, and light it off.

Of course, three years later the WTC was bombed, a prediction of Team Rescorla.

Another member of Team Rescorla was Fred McBee. Rick consulted with Fred after these attacks about the possibility of flying an aircraft into one of the towers at the WTC. Fred was able to use a flight simulator on his computer and show how it was possible to fly an aircraft into a building. According to the book Heart of a Soldier, this is how Team Rescorla spitballed the flying bomb theory.

Rescorla also enlisted Fred McBee, his friend from Oklahoma. He said he assumed the terrorist’s goal had been to take down the towers. Since a truck bomb had failed, what would they try next? Rescorla mused that a small, portable nuclear weapon might do it. Another possibility, he said, which he’d drawn from Hill’s plan to start World War III, was to fly a cargo plane into the building. McBee happened to have a Microsoft flight simulator on his computer at that moment. He’d been experimenting with it using a Cessna light plane, but with a click of the mouse he changed it to a Boeing 737. Then he pulled up the image of lower Manhattan and simulated a crash in the World Trade Center. “This would be a piece of cake,” McBee said. Then he tried it on the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, with the same results. Then he switched to Washington D.C. But the White House and Capitol were blacked out. “It looks very viable,” McBee concluded.

You get the picture that Rick really tapped into his team and what they could come up with. Constantly throwing out ideas and asking for input, with no idea too crazy. After all, terrorists had already struck the WTC once with a truck bomb, it could happen again but worse. Boy did it ever…

Also, for both the 93 and 01 attacks, Team Rescorla submitted their warnings to authorities. They mostly gaffed them off. Luckily for Morgan Stanley, Rick drilled and drilled the employees for just such another instance as what happened in 93. I am sure Rick consulted with Dan Hill on all aspects of the action plan, and called others for ideas. In the video below, they talk about all the upgrades done to the stairwell and the drilling procedures they went through to make evacuation more efficient. Team Rescorla knew this was going to happen again, and they were going to make sure that things were in place. Unfortunately another attack did happen, and everyone knows of those events on 9/11.

To sum up this post, I wanted to emphasize the power of having your own team, formal or not, to red team your security site defense or action plan. Having a group of folks that you trust, who will give you honest feedback, and who will really look at all the possibilities is key. One person cannot come up with everything, and it is important as a leader to really leverage any input you can get from your team or outside sources to either create a plan of action, or improve upon the current plan. And things are constantly changing, so the plan needs to constantly be evaluated and improved upon. Lives depend upon it, and it is that process that led to Rick Rescorla with the help of Team Rescorla, in saving 2,687 lives on 9/11. That is something to never forget. –Matt

The Rick Rescorla Memorial page.

 

Dan Hill an Rick Rescorla in Vietnam together.

 

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Publications: DoD Contractor And Troop Levels In Iraq And Afghanistan 2007-2016

Another fantastic resource for those that are keeping track. Over the years, I have tracked these statistics and it is always interesting to see the trends or actual hard facts about the use of contractors by the US in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Mind you, this is only for DoD related contractor personnel.

On a side note, I personally think that this reporting activity should be done based on a legal requirement, separate from the budget. That way, we can get a true picture of how many contractors are actually being used out there. It would be nice to see DoS report as well, and do something similar to what DoD is doing with these. –Matt

 

Report PDF here.

 

 

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Legal News: Robert Langdon Is Pardoned!

When I heard the news about Robert Langdon being pardoned and released, I was floored. I originally wrote about Robert back when he was imprisoned, and I was trying to get some attention on his case. I mean this guy was sentenced to death at one point, and it is truly remarkable that not only has he survived that system but has been pardoned and released. What a horrible ordeal and I am just glad that he is home with his family.

I also wanted to highlight the outstanding work that Kimberley Motley and Stephen Kenny (the family lawyer) have put into this case. Kimberley is actually licensed to practice law in Afghanistan and has been fighting that pathetic legal system for quite awhile to free contractors that have been wrongly imprisoned. (Bill Shaw and Philip Young are two such examples) I have written about her good work in the past and I think one day, we will see a movie made about her. Truly a legal rock star.

As to Robert Langdon’s story, probably what jumped out at me was the hardships and survival strategies he had to employ as a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Here is a quote from one of the stories below.

In prison, Mr Langdon was under constant threat of violence and was regularly attacked. During his final months in jail, he used a padlock to lock himself in a stinking cell. He had a smuggled mobile phone and a knife he had fashioned from a piece of steel.

I don’t know if he had SERE training in the military, but it sounds like if he had, it would have been very helpful in surviving this prison. Especially being the only expat and especially when some of his cellmates were Al Qaeda and Taliban. Amazing that he survived. –Matt

 

Robert Langdon Free

Lawyer Kimberly Motley signs release papers for Robert Langdon, who spent more than seven years in Kabul’s maximum-security prison. Picture: Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal

 

Robert Langdon: Last Western prisoner held in Afghanistan pardoned, flown home to Australia
By Michael Edwards
9 Aug 2016
A former Australian soldier has been released from an Afghan jail after serving seven years for murder.
Robert Langdon initially received a death sentence in 2009 but always maintained his innocence, claiming he killed in self-defence.
His family, after spending years campaigning for his freedom, received the news this week that a presidential pardon had been granted and he was on his way home.
“He certainly has been released and the family, of course, are very very pleased about that,” family lawyer Stephen Kenny said.
Mr Langdon was initially convicted for shooting Afghan colleague Karimullah, when a dispute arose while they were escorting a convoy to an American military base in mid-2009.
He was found guilty of killing the man, and then trying to blame the murder on a Taliban ambush.
The Australian was also accused of setting fire to the dead man’s body and trying to flee the country.
Mr Langdon was sentenced to death but later had his sentence reduced to a 20-year jail term after his family reportedly paid the family of the dead man a substantial sum of money in compensation.

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Publications: Nigeria’s Private Army–A Perception Study Of PMSC’s In The War Against Boko Haram

As soon as I found this, I had to share. I have never seen anyone do an analysis like this about our industry and it needs to be put out there for consumption. These folks attempted to get actual public perception about PMSC’s fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria. And even though they do not mention STTEP specifically, this is the company they are absolutely talking about.

It should be noted though that the study had none of the pertinent links to the reportage done on STTEP in Nigeria. Specifically the excellent articles by SOFREP and their interview with Eeben Barlow, the chairman of STTEP. After all, they are the only site that Eeben gave an interview too in regards to this contract. Eeben also gave plenty of information about what STTEP did on his blog, so it was odd to not see any links to those sources in the footnotes.

For whatever reason, they decided to keep the report free from those sources, and focus solely on doing their survey of Nigerians and their perceptions of PMSC’s in Nigeria. Specifically, PMSC’s and their role in countering Boko Haram.

Below I have posted their findings, and I was kind of shocked. Overall, there was very high support for using private military contractors against Boko Haram. 75 percent of respondents in telephone surveys supported groups like STTEP fighting Boko Haram. On social media it was 62 percent! That is incredible.

The reasons for supporting companies like STTEP are pretty simple. They could care less who they used to defeat Boko Haram, just as long as they were defeated. As for those that opposed using PMSC’s, they expressed that Nigeria should do this themselves.

Very cool and this will go into the archive here for anyone needing to come back to it. You can find a copy of this report at Remote Control’s website, and this is the pdf for it. I posted the findings below, but please check out the rest of the report to dig into how they conducted the survey or check out their website to learn more about the group. –Matt

 

 

Commissioned by the Remote Control project, the Nigeria Security Network carried out a perception study into the use of private military contractors. The study suggests that the majority of Nigerians support using private military contractors to fight Boko Haram. However, within the minority that oppose their use, some expressed opinions that could be vulnerable to manipulation by Boko Haram, due to their similar emphasis on western meddling in Nigerian affairs. The research suggests that opposition to PMSCs is strongest when they are engaged in combat roles, and that their potential for carrying out human rights abuses with impunity was of particular concern. The report concludes with a series of recommendations.

Level of support

Our study found that the majority of Nigerians are in favour of using private military contractors against Boko Haram. 75 percent of respondents to our telephone survey said they support using foreign mercenaries. 23 percent, meanwhile, said they oppose with only 3 per cent not having a view.
There was a significant difference in responses between men and women, with 80 percent of women saying they support using mercenaries compared to 69 percent of men. Conversely, 17 percent of women opposed using mercenaries while 23 percent of men opposed them. The reasons for this fall outside the re mit of this study, but may be an indication of heightened fear among female segments of the population following large numbers of abductions of women and girls by Boko Haram.
There was a little regional variation beyond the margin of error, with opposition significantly stronger than average in the South East and weaker in North Central. This is notable since the North Central region, including the city of Kano, is an area that has been significantly affected by Boko Haram’s violence. The higher than average support for mercenaries may be due to the region’s heightened experiences of violence. Conversely, the South East is one of the least affected regions. However, respondents in the most affected region – Nigeria’s North East – answered much closer to the average, making it difficult to draw conclusions about these regional variations.
On social media, of our sample 62 percent supported the use of private military contractors, with 36 percent opposing and 2 percent expressing a mixed opinion.
Reasons for supporting
Reasons for supporting private military contractors varied. The most popular reason was that people did not care what method was used to defeat Boko Haram, as long as they are defeated. 42 percent of support- ers argued this. Meanwhile, 27 percent suggested the contractors could offer better capabilities, while 20 percent said the Nigerian army is not effective enough to stop Boko Haram by itself. 6 percent said Nigeria can benefit from using foreign fighters since Boko Haram does the same.
These reasons were also reflected in our social media analysis. The most common reason was again that the method of defeating Boko Haram shouldn’t matter, with 47 per cent of those in favour arguing this.
Other common reasons included a feeling that Nigeria was being singled out for using private contractors when it is normal for other countries to do so, and a belief that contractors would be more effective.
Reasons for opposing
Of those telephone survey respondents opposed to using foreign mercenaries to fight Boko Haram, most (51 percent) expressed opposition to private military contractors on the grounds that Nigeria should have the capabilities to defeat Boko Haram without outside help. A further 27 percent of respondents cited reasons that could be interpreted as aligning with the insurgency’s messages or that could be manipulated by the insurgency to gain support. Within this group, 12 percent said foreign mercenaries are more likely than Nigerian troops to hurt civilians or commit human rights violations, 9 per cent said foreign mercenaries are trying to control or colonise Nigeria, and 6 per cent said they are trying to impose Western ideas on Nigeria.
16 percent gave “other” reasons for opposing contractors that were not anticipated, for example that the Nigerian army knows the terrain better.
Like with the telephone survey results, our social media analysis revealed that the largest number (46 percent) of tweeters who opposed private military contractors did so on the grounds that the Nigerian army should be able to defeat Boko Haram itself. Other, less common reasons included the perception that mercenaries were trying to advance a colonial agenda, that using them may back re, and that the Nigerian state should not re- cruit soldiers associated with the Apartheid era in South Africa.
Switchers
To determine whether perceptions of private military contractors changed according to their role, we asked respondents their views of contractors if they were restricted to a training role versus a combat role.
This variable made a small but perceptible difference. If used only in a training role, 78 percent of respondents supported using the private contractors, whereas if used in a combat role 71 percent supported their use. Similarly, if used in a training role, 21 percent opposed their use, while 27 percent opposed their use if used in a combat role.
7 and 6 percent respectively may seem like a small amount. However, when considering the population of Borno state alone, which is likely to be around 4.5 million, 6 percent represents 270,000 people. Even if a tiny fraction of these were so angered by the use of private military contractors that they were tempted to support Boko Haram, this could result in thousands of new supporters.
This switcher group is especially important because those who switched were mostly the same people who were concerned about private military contractors imposing Western values or colonialism on Nigeria,
or abusing human rights, rather than simply opposing them because they think the Nigerian Army should not need such assistance. In total, there were 18 respondents in the former category. Of these 18, 16 switched their opinion if private contractors take only a training role. This suggests a restricted role for private military contractors could mitigate the perceptual backlash and reduce the risk of Boko Haram gaining support as a result. However, it must be noted that because the group expressing negative opinions for these reasons was so small, further research would be needed to ensure these ndings are not a statistical anomaly.

Read the rest of the report here.

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Funny Stuff: Abu Hajaar–The Carl Of The Middle East

I had to put this one out there because here on FJ, I have a history of sharing memes and other material that mocks the enemies of the world…. Emo Osama was a classic…. So let me introduce to you Abu Hajaar, the Carl of Daesh. Or according to one of my readers, the name translates into ‘father of rock/mountain’…. You can’t make this stuff up. lol

This video posted by Vice is an attack that Daesh or ISIS did on a Peshmerga position back in December of 2015. Daesh did not do well that day, and Peshmerga destroyed them. For an excellent analysis of that attack and it’s failings, read this post from the Oryx Blog.

What I wanted to highlight though is how idiotic these attackers were. And get this, on Facebook and Twitter, this video has gone viral. The star of the show is none other than Abu Hajaar, or the proverbial Carl of this motley crew of Daesh. Carl is a popular Meme going around the internet either derived from the show The Walking Dead or from the movie Sling Blade. Either way, Carl has come to signify ‘that guy’ that just never get’s it right…

On Twitter, the hashtag #AbuHajaar is actually gaining traction. Unfortunately though, the hilarity of combat videos like this are really not appreciated by civilians because they do not know what is going on tactically. It’s just guys in the middle of an intense fire fight, that meet their doom on the battlefield.

Now if you go to youtube, folks are actually modifying the original video. I was laughing after watching this version, complete with a live studio audience.

For veterans who know better and have actually been shot at, this is wildly hilarious for all of the dumb stuff these morons were doing. The fools certainly paid the price for their idiocy. –Matt

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.52.43 PM

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