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21 August 2007

Warning in Africa

One of the most difficult factors in the current political – media environment is the difficulty in effectively communicating warning across the noise of an ever more chaotic and ever less factual policy sphere. Clear indicators regarding the decline of Zimbabwe have been evident for quite a long time, yet only now, as the final hour approaches, do the elites begin to express surprise at the outcome of a brutal government enthralled to discredited economic fantasies in a neglected corner of a poorly illuminated continent.

We have great pity for the warning analysts who are responsible for the “new” ROW (rest of the world) accounts – i.e., anything other than the two primary fronts of the Long War: IZ and AF/PAK. AFRICOM no doubt has its work cut out for it – and somehow, forces will likely have to be found to support a British-led intervention, if only for non-combatant evacuation, once it all comes apart.

Interestingly, however, this will likely present an ideal test case for a purely humanitarian and peacekeeping mission supported largely by a contractor force package. After all, it is cases like this for which Greystone was created, in order to leverage the weight of the US private military sector towards the “lesser included” missions that current force commitments render untenable.
The intelligence side of such a situation would pose quite a challenge, however, even for the best national capabilities. We greatly wonder how much such an unsupported (even if national government led) operation would spur the concurrent development of private intelligence capabilities. After all, it was in the African brushfire wars of the 80’s and 90’s that small private operators demonstrated the effectiveness of even a limited number of moderately capable technical assets, coupled with good HUMINT and robust cultural intelligence. (And yes, we have not forgotten the Burundi exercise of the value of OSINT…. but OSINT alone does not a deployment of the magnitude and nature support, no matter that it will of course be the source of first resort.)

Ah, to be a fly on the wall in their operations center briefings on this crisis… we hope dearly that an intrepid young intelligence officer will have the presence of mind to document the evolution of a private deployment of this nature for the future literature, once the day (whether in Africa or elsewhere) has safely passed into history.

Irony is perhaps also too mild a word if the Zim people should owe their best chances for future stability and reconstruction to the modern international mercenary corps., given the long history of private military options in that sad country. We certainly doubt that any African or UN peacekeeping operation could provide them with anywhere near the same assurances of a good outcome.

h/t Captain's Quarters, related at Coming Anarchy

Also, don't miss the definitive review of AFRICOM at the Small Wars Journal blog

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