Really interesting blog on Eeben Barlow and Executive Outcomes. I'm a freelance journalist, writing a piece on the positive work done by external (a.k.a. 'mercenary') forces in Africa and the way they can aid the countries they operate in. Hoping to get in touch with a few people who can give me some insight into governmental and non-governmental military actions. Would you be willing to open a dialogue with me on these sorts of issues?
Thanks, Joe T.
What a coincidence - right now I'm on contract in SW Africa - you may have gathered that from the lack of activity on my blog. Don't wish to come across as rude, but talking with journalists is often a career-ending move in this line of work. Still, there's a bit of an air gap with the S.L. persona . . . if we get into sensitive territory I'll back off.
FWIW I do not care for the term 'mercenary' - it suggests a gun-for-hire - I am not that, there are some things I will not do - and also suggests an organization that maneuvers against an enemy force. The operation I am involved with does not do that - we are a security company. It would be the broadest stretch to describe the modern private military companies or security firms as mercenary outfits. I refer to myself as a security professional or consultant.
To the best of my knowledge there have been relatively few mercenary activities in Africa in recent years; Sandline and Executive Outcomes were pulling missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 90s; I was still on active duty at that time and was active in West Africa. Late 90's up to 2001 I became aware of Serbians and Ukrainians involved in mercenary work in Africa but haven't heard anything more recently.
Please do not quote me directly; especially if the sentence or paragraph includes the word 'mercenary' - if word got back to my employers that would be a career-ender and could probably get our company thrown out of country.
I don't know if I can be much use to your project given the above constraints but I simply cannot have my name associated with the term 'mercenary' - often synonymous with 'war criminal' and I definitely am not that.
Having said all that I just recalled two operations I am aware of where private armies are maneuvering against an armed foe. The actual extent of their operations I am not aware of, but it might be able to give you a start point.
Hope this helps - S.L.
Thanks for the reply, getting an inside perspective on what can be a misunderstood industry is really interesting to me (and hopefully some readers). The article I am looking to write will be called something like 'The role of foreign security consultants in Africa's future' - working title. It will focus on how they can be a force for good, and achieve things that both local forces and external armies cannot.
I completely understand, it definitely has negative connotations. The article I want to write is going to address why these perceptions are outdated and wrong. That's why I phrased it 'mercenaries' in quotes - It's not a term I'm planning on using except to disown it. I'll make sure any questions I ask can be answered without compromising either your confidentiality or your ethics.
Could be useful to establish the boundaries of what you can and can't discuss, few brief questions to start with and see how we get on?
- Can you say who you work for and where you are operating?
- Can I quote you using the 'Sean Linnane' alias?
Thanks, Joe T.
P.S. Could you give me a few details about the 2 operations you mentioned?
Answer to your questions:
I'm afraid I cannot name my employer and the reason why is the splash it would make on our client would be a disaster. Large multinational corporations do not want attention on their security arrangements, for a couple of reasons; A) security concerns (obviously) and B) negative publicity. Lets just leave it at mining operations, SW Africa. I will describe the work we are doing in general terms: physical security, evacuation planning and rehearsal, and emergency medical support.
I suppose you can reference 'Sean Linnane' - I adopted the nom-de-guerre for precisely this reason and the anonymity has held up, which surprises me because it seems that anybody doing about 5 minutes of detective work could determine my real identity - but again, please do not refer to me as a 'mercenary' because I am not that. Security professional, retired US Special Forces, professional soldier, security consultant - these are how I describe myself and they are all accurate. I am not a mercenary because there are some things I simply will not do, and they include: A) treason, B) murder, C) drug dealing and D) human trafficking.
One guy I know told me he figured out who SL was from my writing style - he is an old Team Leader with whom I served in C Co 1st Bn/1st SFG in Okinawa. I took this as a compliment. Around 2010 I became aware that Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan - when they were required to sign for supplies from support units - were signing "Sean Linnane". I took this too as a compliment and I actually regard this as a measure of immortality.
The 2 operations I mentioned:
1) Sons of Liberty International (SOLI) - their current mission is consulting and training Iraqi Christians to fight ISIS.
A colleague of mine - whom I count as a friend - is currently trying to sign on with SOLI. We served together and he - like myself - is an immigrant to the United States who earned his citizenship the same way I did: military service. I do not know at this time whether or not SOLI has accepted him.
2) Free Burma Rangers - "The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement. They bring help, hope and love to people in the war zones of Burma. Ethnic pro-democracy groups send teams to FBR to be trained, supplied and sent into the areas under attack to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation. The teams also operate a communication and information network inside Burma that provides real time information from areas under attack."
Regarding the Free Burma Rangers, I personally know the American (former US Army Ranger / Special Forces) mentioned in this article. I've known him since I was a kid, actually.
The FBR are associated with the Karen National Liberation Army Finding information about the KNLA on the internet is difficult because the regime in Rangoon has an active disinformation campaign against them and wipes out referenced links, articles etc. Here's what I could find regarding their foreign military professionals:
Yangon's Anti-Rebel Offensive Rages On
Another outfit involving foreign professional soldiers is the Dwekh Nawsha, a military organization created in mid 2014 in order to defend Iraq's Assyrian Christians from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and possibly retake their lands currently controlled by ISIL. The article points out that they seem to be having internal political challenges that is affecting their ability to retain foreign fighters.
None of the above organizations are active in Africa, however. The Foreign Legion has units stationed in Africa, of course, and I was actually present on a battlefield with elements from the 13th DBLE, in Cote d'Ivoire. The security profession here on the continent is infested with ex-Legionnaires, of course - it is part of their retirement program - and I have been involved with some of them. I speak French so that's a bit of an icebreaker.
Hope this helps - and thank you for helping me break out of the rut I am in with the blog.