Executive Outcomes is the model on which all Private Military Companies (PMCs) operating in Iraq and Afghanistan are based. Founder Eeben Barlow in the early 1990s originally offered courses in intelligence to South Africa’s Special Forces and security work to De Beers’ diamond mining industry.
This was greatly expanded in 1993 when an oil company offered EO a contract to provide security for its staff while they recovered valuable drilling equipment stranded at the Angolan oil port of Soyo – after its capture by UNITA rebels. Barlow recruited ex-members of South Africa’s elite military units for the job. EO was contracted for a month, but this ended up being extended and EO spearheading an Angolan Army assault on Soyo and its capture from UNITA.
This highly successful operation led to a contract to retrain the Angolan Army. Both UNITA and MPLA had taken part in UN supervised elections in 1992, but UNITA had rejected the results after losing and it had returned to civil war. During a hard-fought campaign, retrained Angolan Army units led by EO captured Cafunfu – the diamond producing area that funded UNITA’s war effort. Eventually, international pressure spearheaded by the UN and the ‘blood diamond’ lobby, forced EO’s withdrawal from Angola which quickly sank back into chaos.
EO’s next contract was in May 1995 when 200 men were despatched to Sierra Leone where RUF rebels, chopping off people’s limbs and engaging in cannibalism, were marching on Freetown. EO smashed the rebels and this led to free and fair elections with a new government being elected. Pressures were again exerted which resulted in EO’s withdrawal. In the place of its 200 troops the UN deployed 18 000 soldiers at a cost of US$1 billion per year