Terrorism is never static. It evolves all the time as one side tries to gain the upper hand over the other and in open conflict, where the terrorist makes a stand, he is usually annihilated by the Security Forces, it is never a good tactic unless the terrorism phase becomes a conventional phase but then it is not strictly speaking terrorism anymore. Terrorism also moves around the world. Without the religious or political changes or compromises that started the terrorism or the insurrection, depending, the war is never ending and may carry on for decades. This means that the counterterrorism operative should be able to operate in any environment where the terrorist is to be found, from the African bush to the Middle East to your own cities – that is the nature of the beast. In October 2017, Donald J Trump, 45th US President, said: ““We are decimating ISIS in the Middle East. What’s happening is, they’ll go to parts of Africa, they’ll go to other places. When they get there, we meet them. It’s a dangerous business. It’s a tough war. We’re beating ISIS very badly.”
The President’s statement came as no surprise to the author, a sub-Saharan Africa counterterrorism expert, that predicted that in 2013 already. The problem is that Africa has never been important to the West. I dedicated an entire chapter here on why the West is not getting the intelligence they need. It is the big unknown and yet, within Africa and the Middle East, you will find 80% of the radicals. The rest are hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Wherever the War on Terror is being won, as Mr Trump noted, the threat moves away and mostly into Africa, the new battleground. The West will follow but don’t think for one moment that the fighting will be easy. Africa is like no other theatre in the world and the West in no way capable. Yet, the answers on how to conduct successful counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Africa are available. You only have to read the fictionalised George M James Series of Books (www.georgemjames.com) and you will know more than any Western War College professor.
The enemy has the same problems as you, no advantage or disadvantage. The terrain is neutral, remember that - “The Jungle is Neutral” is a book written by Spencer Chapman, a man who fought behind enemy lines against the Japanese during World War Two. He did not achieve much except to show it could be done and that was probably his most important legacy, ending the war as a lieutenant colonel and awarded the coveted DSO on top of his Polar Medal. Chapman was one of those schoolmasters which only Pommies can produce, a decent education at Cambridge University and a sense of adventure second to none, from mountain climbing to polar expeditions to Special Forces in the War. His other claim to fame is that he once taught Prince Phillip, later to be married to the current Parasite and still around. When the British Special Air Service got themselves recreated during the Malayan Crisis with Rhodesian help, this book became the manual for all jungle operations, you can read it, it is available on Amazon. Essentially Colonel Chapman said that the theatre you operate in is the same for the enemy, the bastards too have to adapt and hence it is neutral, you can abuse it to suit you. We wholeheartedly included the concept of being able to work in the African bush better than anyone else, based on his philosophies. It was not that simple as it sounds though. Not everyone grew up on a farm in Africa, most had to learn the skills which means anyone can learn it with enough training. Being part of the veldt and listening to the signs is what we do. There is no logical reason why an American soldier, an outdoorsman and “Indian” fighter back in the day, will not be able to abuse any terrain as much as the enemy do and more. It is just proper training and outlook.
Numerous counterinsurgency wars took place in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1950s. The author, as part of the South African Police Force COIN Units in the 1980s touched this subject briefly in his autobiography, Mean Streets – Life in the Apartheid Police. What should be fascinating to the reader is how the terrorists and the Security Forces evolved through the years, countering each other. This book is a comparative study of the history of terrorism operations starting with the Kenya Uhuru. Then the Rhodesian Bush War and lastly the South African Border War as well as counterterrorism operations inside the country. All had highly successful outcomes for the Security Forces and all were lost at another level. Like the US Army in Vietnam, the wars would be lost at the negotiation table far away from the theatre. Yet, the lessons learned are still extremely valuable and appealing to the student of war. Particularly the chapter on why Western Intelligence Agencies are failing in sub-Saharan Africa is important – nothing has changed. Unless you know who to attack, you will, as is happening right now, kill 2 innocents for every terrorist that dies. That is bad for counterterrorism, extremely bad and creates more terrorists by the hour. Then, it is known that drones fail to hit their intended target 96.5% of the time, and it is that pathetic because of a lack of clear intelligence. Nor is it believed here that the US Army is good enough to train anyone in Africa, the knowledge is just not there and since Mogadishu, it is believed that the US Army will run for home as soon as the body bags arrive. That is Bill Clinton’s legacy on counterterrorism, he owns that perception, wrong as it is. Nevertheless, you need to know what you are doing, or you will die. To find out how you look at history, you see what worked and what did not work. In addition to the GMJ Books mentioned, this is a book that must be read as background before deployment takes place.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.