About the Author:
Eeben Barlow was the founder and chairman of Executive Outcomes (EO) where he trained SADF Special Forces in covert operations. He has worked in South America, the Far East and Africa training and mentoring armies and assisting law enforcement agencies and intelligence services with the development of strategies. He is the chairman of STTEP International Ltd, a company that supports predominately African governments whom he assists with the development of military strategies and operational designs. He regularly lectures at defence universities and staff colleges in Africa and abroad. He is the author of the best-selling book Executive Outcomes: Against all Odds and was a contributing editor to the Counter Terrorist Magazine.
African armies are unlike western and eastern armies because of the need to integrate within their ranks members of different tribes, ethnic groups and religions. This textbook is an excellent guide to those differences and how, by successfully integrating the various factions within their armies, they can work as a unit and be prepared for the conflicts that they will ultimately face.
**Paul Norman on Books Monthly***
I’m recommending this. It is head and shoulders above anything I have read in the applications world for a very long time.
The language is simple and precise, albeit using terms and words that not everyone would choose. It’s also a truly unique publication in terms of practical detail. If you grew up in Western armies then this represents a very plausible and very context specific alternative to much you think you may understand. It’s about war in the real, not the ideal and in Africa. Any read-across and/or extrapolation is going to require some very good understanding to achieve.
That all said there a few things I find puzzling, but I wouldn’t quibble given the authors track record. It clearly worked for him.
“Africa is currently the dumping ground for bad advice, and old and sometimes obsolete weapons from both East and West.”
—Eeben Barlow, Author’s Introduction to Composite Warfare
A useful metaphor for the way wars in Africa are perceived in the West is the way Africa itself is commonly viewed—a homogenous country instead of a continent composed of thousands of distinct cultures, interests, factions, religions, and more countries than America has states. War in Africa is a vastly misunderstood concept to the majority of the United States military, save for the small number of Special Operations Forces that are fighting various groups across the continent. The prevailing narrative has been that the solution to the various African wars requires intervention by outside powers, which has been the understood norm with respect to Africa since its colonization by European powers, as seen in the numerous post-Cold War forays made by the U.S., UN, and other external entities. In his book, Composite Warfare: The Conduct of Successful Ground Force Operations in Africa, author Eeben Barlow seeks to directly challenge that narrative, instead proposing to not only define the nature and causes of conflict in Africa, but to guide African governments and militaries to fight war to conclusion on African terms.
There is not a single individual in Africa more qualified to write a book about warfare in Africa than Eeben Barlow, and to understand the book and his personal perspective, it is necessary to briefly examine his career. There is as much myth as fact associated with Eeben Barlow, and he is often nonchalantly dismissed as simply a mercenary. Not only does this characterization lack depth, but it entirely misses the motivations and career arc of the man. Barlow, a white South African, began his professional military career in 1974, joining the South African Defense Force during the South African Border War. His first assignment was as the commander of the Air Assault Engineer...
Detailed overview of current conflicts in Africa.
Composite Warfare is not a bedtime story. To be that it would have to span several volumes to spread the contents and reduce the density of information per page. It is a concise treatise on ground force operations, tailored to the constraints that Africa imposes on conventional thinking. It does this by defining the battlefield structure at all levels and the mechanisms needed to operate within it. Without diluting the historical insights into tactics and their governing strategy, the author presents the material with appropriate emphasis to make it practical. It is the distilled experience and insights of a seasoned practitioner.
The text does not lose sight of the, sometimes uncomfortable fact, that if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Soldiers need to operate under the umbrella of political support at the highest levels without sacrificing the civilian population. This requires restraint that does not always fit in with operational opportunities. Composite Warfare does not see the civilian population as an expendable on the battlefield.
All the levels of war from politics to foot patrols are tied together into a coherent universe, spanning all of soldiering. This makes the material very accessible to all the cross disciplines that have a stake in the battleground and its outcomes. The book will find its way into course material for the serious student of war as well as politicians that need to understand how the military is to be used efficiently in Africa.