Film: My Review Of The Somali Project

 

I finally got a chance to watch The Somali Project, which was originally called The Project. This documentary was purchased by The Vladar Company and the film is now available to buy or rent. With that said, I was able to rent the film through youtube, and it is fantastic! When you rent it, you get the film for 48 hours. You also have the choice to rent a High Definition version, and that is what I went with.

Now I had read about the film and how it did at the Tribeca Film festival, I blogged about it, and I watched the trailer. But I never got a chance to watch the whole thing. Here on the blog, I have also written about the Puntland Maritime Protection Force and about piracy off the coast of Somalia during the peak years of that problem. It was a horrible deal, with hundreds of folks taken hostage and just rotting away off the coast of Somalia in captured ships. My interest in the matter was getting armed guards on boats, so that these pirates would have friction at sea. On land, the PMPF was the answer to attacking the source of piracy.

The film starts off with the families of hostages who were from places like India. Heart wrenching to say the least. Basically these hostages were tortured, and treated horribly and their captors were negotiating with the companies that owned these captured vessels. Some companies paid the ransom, and others did not. Some companies just gave up on the whole deal and just left their employees/contractors to rot. Either way, there were multiple ships parked off the coast of Somalia that were captured and being held by pirates and no one was doing any rescues.

Next in the film, we see an individual named Roger Carstens who paid a visit to the PMPF camp in Somalia and accompanied the PMPF on their first mission. He was an observer that worked for The New America Foundation at the time. He was also prior special forces according to his LinkedIn profile and he provided a lot of the commentary in this film.

Now for the main stars of this film–Erik Prince was the idea guy, and EO veteran Roelf Van Heerden was the commanding officer of this operation. Erik had several cameos in this film and discussed some of the ideas behind ‘The Project” as it was called. Roelf was the CO of the entire operation, and his fellow South African mentors/trainers were heavily involved in training these Somalis. And what a process that was. It was also interesting to see a Somali American that was a member of the PMPF.

They did a great job in the film showing exactly how difficult it was to train these guys. We are talking about folks who don’t even know how to put shoe laces in boots, or what basic hygiene was or any of that stuff. The trainers mentioned how much of a challenge this really was. They were taking a very rough product and trying to make soldiers out of them. It was a challenge that any contractor or military guy that has been in this position, can appreciate.

We also get to see how well the PMPF camp was constructed. Within that camp, you get to see all the equipment they had, to include air assets. Here is what they had according to wikipedia and Defence Web.

The Puntland Maritime Police Force possesses both maritime and land security capacities. The force has three Ayres Thrush low-wing aircraft fitted with armored cockpits and engines to protect the crew and aircraft from hostile ground fire. It also operates an Antonov An-26 transport aircraft and a Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter.

For naval capabilities, it operates three rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), which are armed with 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine guns.

I really like the use of the An-26 for paracargo operations. For long range operations on the ground, they were using this aircraft to drop fuel and supplies.

When they finished training their first batch of PMPF forces, they then went on to conduct their first operation, complete with air support. And this is where the film gets interesting… They go into detail about what exactly happened during the incident where one of the SA mentors was killed. His name was Lodewyk Pietersen and I do remember writing about this when it happened. This film shows exactly what went down, and how something like that could happen. Basically a nephew of a pirate, whom infiltrated the PMPF, instigated a mutiny of sorts, and executed this SA mentor as a means of putting a halt to the mission. The pirates knew that if they could kill a mentor, that the operation would stop and the Puntland government would want everyone to stop and get back. Which is what happened and I wrote about that as well. Roger Carstens mentioned that the pirates identified the ‘center of gravity’ of the PMPF, which were the mentors, and effectively attacked it.

What happens next though, is what I was impressed with. The contract at that point was buried and folks went home–except for a few volunteers that stayed behind. Roelf was one of them, and he continued to lead the PMPF in further operations. He and his team were definitely involved in combat, and definitely used their air assets. The film goes on to talk about all the rescue missions and raids that this team went on, and thanks to the leadership of Roelf, they were able to successfully free hostages! I talked about one of those operations awhile back (MV Iceberg) and it was impressive. Roelf was instrumental in keeping that unit operational and effective, and Roger Carstens was impressed with Roelf’s performance out there. Especially against such great adversity. ‘This is Africa’, the saying goes, and these men were definitely dealing with some African friction. lol

Other characters in the film included interviews with UN folks, and South Africans like Lafras Luitingh, another Executive Outcomes veteran.

Overall, this film is excellent and it is worth your time to watch. It puts into perspective what these men were up against for this contract and I have a lot of respect for what they did. This film brings attention to the complexities of modern warfare and what private industry can accomplish. It also brings attention to the sacrifice and hard work of those whom are on the ground, doing the job that no one else was willing to do or wanted to do. These men were absolutely responsible for the rescue of multiple hostages taken by pirates, and they definitely had an impact on the overall piracy problem of the time.

The results speak for themselves–piracy is at an all time low thanks to what has been done on land and at sea by private companies. It is a success story, and one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. –Matt

 

Rent or Buy at Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo, Google, or Youtube, take your pick.

 

 

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Industry Talk: Erik Prince Discusses Libya And Europe’s Migrant Crisis

This is excellent and Erik Prince did a great job defending his former company in this interview with Becky Anderson. What I thought was very interesting was the discussion of Libya and the immigration crisis plaguing Europe right now.

I would agree with Erik that the EU does not have the political will to do what is necessary in Libya to actually lock down it’s borders. But one point needs to be made when it comes to PMSC’s in Libya–they are already there. Europe’s oil interests in Libya have required security in one form or another for years now. I wrote about all sorts of security related stories in Libya starting in 2011, so it should be no shock to any observer of that conflict that industry has provided services there, or has ‘offered’ solutions to frustrated clients. Hell, the CEO of a major French PMSC, Secopex, was killed in Libya.

I would also argue that any security plan like this, should also be coupled with a grand strategic plan for Libya. The border might be squared away under a contract like this, but that will not remove the cause of why people are wanting to leave. The war needs to end there, and reconstruction along with the rule of law needs to be reestablished if they want to stop this migrant crisis. Security on the border is just one piece to a plan like that. But private industry can provide a solution for that.

The other thing that was interesting in this interview was the mention of Erik and the Trump administration.(he is a supporter) The question was posed wether the new administration will be good for the PMSC industry. At 06:58, this is where the video get’s interesting. “Is Libya a quick win for a Trump administration?” the interviewer asks, and I will let the reader check out what Erik had to say….

So maybe Libya is a space to be watching in 2017? –Matt 

 

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Year In Review: 2016 Google Analytics Report For Feral Jundi

It is that time again where I like to go back over the prior year and highlight where the blog is at, and talk about some of the interesting data that came out of Google Analytics.

Overall my traffic on the blog was less than it was for 2015. This is understandable because I have taken most of my interaction with the readership over to Facebook. That, and I am doing a lot of contracting overseas still.

The way I have been using the blog now is to write about stuff that is unique that is not being talked about out there. Typically I find myself seeking stories and sharing them on all of my social media spots, and not really creating any new content. I get fast feedback at my Facebook profile and can quickly comment and interact with the readership. This is important to me if I want good intuition/Fingerspitzejngefühl/coup d’oeil on this industry. It is how I stay ‘oriented‘.

On a technical note, I have a Facebook profile and a Facebook page. The page actually has analytics for it, but I am not active on it at all. I do most of my activity on the Feral Jundi profile page. Hopefully Facebook will create a profile analytics tool that is built in so I don’t have to hunt around for a tool. There is stuff out there, but nothing I am interested in yet. So most of my analytics will come from Google Analytics. So lets begin.

My overall stats for the blog for 2016 is 83,436 visits and 109,102 page views. That brings my total life time visits to 1,733,575 and page view total at 2,610,379 (January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2016). My first post for the blog was on January 22, 2008! It seems like yesterday that I was just firing this thing up and digging into all of the particulars of the industry.

The health of the website is alright. This is the second theme that I have used, and I continue to use Bluehost as my host and WordPress as my blogging platform. Over the years, quite a few links of websites have expired and I have had to remove them. Or images have expired, so I had to remove traces of that in order for the posts to work well and look appealing. But all in all, the site is doing pretty well considering it’s age. I would like to find a new theme, but nothing has really jumped out at me. If folks have any suggestions, let me know.

Now for some data. Here are the top countries that have visited the blog last year. One change is that more Russians are visiting. I have been writing about Russian contractors here and at FB, so that is a factor.

The next graphic is devices. No surprises there, but it does emphasize how information is consumed. Mobile devices do matter. Guys and gals read this stuff while sitting at a doctor’s office or at the bus station or wherever. So it pays to have a website that is friendly for those devices.

As for how folks find Feral Jundi, here are the top channels or paths. Organic search means they found me through a search engine like Google.

Under that Social portion, I wanted to highlight where folks are coming from in that world. No surprises there, and this is why I use Facebook. I do attempt to create some activity on Twitter and Linkedin, but really, the action is at FB. I also fired up an Instagram account last year, but I really wasn’t that active. I might try to post more photos there, but that kind of thing really doesn’t interest me.

Now into the content world. What were the top posts of the website? I did not do a lot of posting last year and it seems like my older posts have dominated. The Job Tips article has been very popular over the years. The only post this last year that registered in the top ten was the War Dogs movie post. People probably wanted to look up the company called AEY Inc to see what I had to say about the company after watching the movie.

As for Social Media referrals, as you can see Facebook is the winner. Google Images is another good one because I will make a poster or set up a graphic for a post, and it will pop up in Google Images. Folks will click on that and find the blog that way.

One interesting side note is that Feral Jundi is actually getting referenced in Wikipedia. I do not have a Wikipedia page for the site, but folks are using FJ as a source or reference. One advantage of running this blog for so long is that my content has not disappeared or shifted. I am hoping that links to posts on this blog remain healthy and informative to any future readers and researchers. Like I mentioned above, if you see anything that needs correcting let me know.

Some other data that I will just write about is demographics. My readers were mostly male, but females were very much represented. I am still not sure how Google is able to ascertain that?

For age groups, the top readers were millennials. That makes sense because they are young, more active on the internet, and looking for work (hence why Job Tips is so popular). Also veterans in their late twenties or early thirties that are getting out of the military are looking for work and seeking answers to questions about this industry.

I do get a lot of emails still, and it is a pleasure to help out where I can. Emails come from all over the world and I am always intrigued by what pops up in the mail box. Unfortunately I am not able to easily access those emails while I am away on contracts, but I do eventually get to them.

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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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