Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.Selous Scouts "Pamwe Chete" title block.Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.
































By Ian F. W. Beckett

Modern counter-insurgency is rarely a purely military problem for a government and its Security Forces. Of this basic truism, the experience in Rhodesia between 1966 and 1979 affords a significant example. Not only were the efforts of the Rhodesian Security Forces frequently directed towards particular political goals, but their ultimate failure to contain insurgency at an acceptable level derived to a large extent from external political pressures over which they had little control.

In a real sense, Rhodesia was the creation of private enterprise rather than the British government, the British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes annexing Mashonaland in 1890 and Matabeleland in 1893. The Company continued to run the administration until, following a referendum of the white settlers which indicated their long-standing disillusionment with such control, Southern Rhodesia as it was then known became a self-governing colony in 1923. Far more prosperous than either Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland, Southern Rhodesia effectively dominated the Central African Federation into which it entered with these neighbours in 1953. The Federation collapsed in 1963, with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland becoming the independ­ent black states of Zambia and Malawi respectively in the following year. The larger white settler population in Southern Rhodesia rejected the concept of majority rule, a determination reinforced by the spectre of chaos in the Belgian Congo in 1960 and by the urban unrest in Southern Rhodesia itself which followed the rejection by the growing black nationalist movement of the proposed 1961 constitution, despite its greater participat­ory role for the African.

The nationalist movement had developed in the 1950s with Joshua Nkomo’s African National Congress being established in 1957. Banned on a number of occasions, Nkomo’s group re­emerged under different titles, becoming the National Demo­cratic Party in 1960 and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) in 1962. The nationalists were moving towards the advocacy of violence to achieve their political aims at the very time when white resistance was symbolised by the sweeping electoral victories of Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front Party in December 1962. The advent of a Labour administration in Britain in 1964, dedicated to majority rule, catapulted all sides closer to confrontation and, on 11 November 1965, Ian Smith issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

The war that evolved in Rhodesia thereafter has to be seen in the context of continuing political and diplomatic activity aimed at securing Rhodesian acceptance of majority rule and the end of rebellion against the Crown. The British rejected the use of force, although they did resort to largely ineffectual economic sanctions, including the so-called Beira Patrol off the coast of Portuguese Mozambique from 1965 to 1974, when the latter became independent. Similarly, British troops were stationed in Bechuanaland (later Botswana) from 1965 to 1967 to guard a BBC transmitter at Francistown from possible Rhodesian sabo­tage. In December 1966 Smith met the British prime minister, Harold Wilson, for talks aboard HMS Tiger and there were more negotiations aboard HMS Fearless in September 1968. The subsequent Conservative government sent the abortive Pearce Commission to Rhodesia from January to May 1972 to test the acceptability of new Anglo-Rhodesian proposals on a constitution.

Following the collapse of Portuguese control in Mozambique, Rhodesia not only became more exposed to guerrilla infiltration, but also suffered increasing pressure from the South African prime minister, John Vorster, to reach an accommodation with the guerrillas. A brief ceasefire came into effect in December 1974 and, although this failed, Vorster and Zambia’s president, Kenneth Kaunda, arranged negotiations between Ian Smith and nationalist leaders on the Victoria Falls bridge in August 1975. There were further talks between Smith and Nkomo in early 1976 and in September of that year, under considerable South African pressure, Smith conceded the principle of majority rule within the context of an overall agreement worked out by Vorster and the United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. A conference at Geneva from October 1976 to January 1977, however, failed to produce a settlement acceptable to all parties, and further proposals put forward by the British and US governments in September 1977 also came to nothing. Ian Smith then reached an internal settlement with three nationalist leaders Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole and Chief Jeremiah Chirau in March 1978, by which Muzorewa and Sithole entered a transitional government. This did not, however, rule out further negotiations between Smith and Nkomo in Lusaka in August 1978. In April 1979, as a result of internal elections, Muzorewa became the first black prime minister of Rhodesia. The republic declared in March 1970 was formally brought to an end in June 1979 with the creation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The final political turn of events was the Lancaster House Conference in London between September and December 1979, which resulted in a British-supervised ceasefire on 28 December 1979 and a transitional British administration under Lord Soames as governor. Elections were held in February 1980 with Zimbabwe gaining full legal independence in April.

These complicated political events between 1965 and 1980 inevitably affected the conduct of the war inside Rhodesia and across its frontiers, although large-scale conflict did not occur before December 1972. Thus Security Force operations could be undertaken to put direct pressure upon the guerrillas in order to achieve political results in the wider diplomatic field. In October 1976, for example, the Rhodesians frustrated guerrilla attempts to launch an offensive coinciding with the Geneva Conference by themselves striking deep into Mozambique. Similarly, the highly successful Rhodesian attack on New Chimoio (Operation ‘Miracle’) in Mozambique in September 1979 put pressure on the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) during the Lancaster House Conference. Moreover, there was a whole series of attacks on economic targets in both Mozambique and Zambia, designed to compel the guerrillas’ hosts Kaunda and Samora Machel, President of Mozambique to ensure that their clients adopted a more positive approach to the negotiations. In September 1979, for example, Rhodesia suspended Zambian maize shipments on Rhodesian railways, Zambia having been forced by economic pressure to reopen its frontiers with Rhodesia in 1978. In October 1979 Zambia’s own railway system came under Rhodesian attack, while it has been estimated that Mozambique suffered over 26 million dollars’ worth of damage in 1979.1 In February 1979 Angolan targets had been bombed by the Rhodesian Air Force to frustrate any guerrilla build-up prior to the internal elections.

The fact that the ZANLA guerrillas and those of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) operated from sanctuaries in other countries, resulted in further political complications. In January 1973 Rhodesia closed its frontier with Zambia, with the exception of copper shipments, as a direct result of the escalation of guerrilla activity in the north-east of Rhodesia. The Rhodesians subsequently reopened the frontier but, as indicated above, Zambia then declined to do so until 1978. Similarly, Mozambique closed its frontiers with Rhodesia in March 1976 and by the end of the war only the 222 km (138 mile) frontier with South Africa out of a total frontier length of 2964 km (1841 miles) was entirely free of infiltration. The Rhodesians had, in fact, begun operating up to 100 km (62 miles) inside Mozambique in co-operation with the Portuguese as early as 1969. The first large-scale cross-border raid was not launched, however, until August 1979 (Operation ‘Eland’). Such raids occurred frequently thereafter, often coinciding with the imminent approach of the rainy season in November and hitting the guerrilla concentrations that would have attempted to infiltrate under favourable climatic conditions that restricted Rhodesia’s monopoly of air power. Physical difficulties as well as political restraint precluded large-scale raids into Zambia until October 1978, when the first took place in direct response to the shooting down of a Rhodesian Viscount civil airliner a month previously by ZIPRA, who had then massacred the survivors. A second airliner was shot down in February 1979, eliciting the air strike into Angola although, as already indicated above, the operation fulfilled other requirements as well. There was also an attempt to kill Nkomo in Lusaka in April 1979 while, earlier in the same year, Rhodesian forces had sunk the Kasangula ferry which was Botswana’s only link with Zambia. But, just as the neighbouring black states were to some extent dependent upon Rhodesia’s railways for their survival, Rhodesia itself after UDI was equally dependent upon external sources.

With the withdrawal of the Portuguese, Rhodesia’s lifeline lay through South Africa, but it is clear that Vorster sacrificed Rhodesian whites in the cause of wider detente with black states. Thus although elements of the South African police were committed to assist the Rhodesians in 1967, they were withdrawn by August 1975 to facilitate the attempt by Kaunda to get the nationalists to negotiate and, equally, to put pressure on Smith to do the same. In fact, a number of South African pilots and technicians remained in Rhodesia, but they were also recalled following the first major raid into Mozambique in August 1976 which Vorster feared would jeopardise relations with Machel. Furthermore, the South African foreign minister then broadcast his government’s support for majority rule in Rhodesia which, as two recent historians of the war have written, ‘pulled the rug’ from under Ian Smith.2 Subsequently, Vorster’s successor as prime minister, P.W. Botha, went some way towards reversing the situation by lending the Rhodesians military equipment and personnel and committing South African troops to defend key points such as the Beit Bridge which linked Rhodesia and South Africa across the River Limpopo.

Vorster had feared the consequences of any escalation in the war between Rhodesia and its neighbours and there were inevitably clashes between Rhodesian forces and those of the black states. On one notable occasion in September 1979 during the attack on New Chimoio, Rhodesian Eland armoured cars, a version of the Panhard, engaged Soviet-supplied T-34 tanks of the Mozambique Army (FPLM). On such raids the Rhodesians invariably had two Hawker Hunter jets armed with 68 mm rockets avilable as an anti-tank reaction force.3 Curiously, the Rhodesians themselves also had some Soviet T-55 tanks, which had been landed in South Africa instead of the intended destination of Uganda when Idi Amin’s regime fell in 1979. But incursions into neighbouring states also carried the possibility of clashing with the wide variety of foreign nationals Chinese, Russians, Cubans and so on who advised the guerrillas. In the case of the struggle for New Chimoio, for example, East German advisers fought with ZANLA guerrillas. The guerrillas were, of course, also sustained by many other external organisations, including the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the World Council of Churches and the Third World lobby in the United Nations.

The involvement of both Chinese and Soviet advisers with the guerrillas is in itself an indication that the struggle inside Rhodesia was yet further complicated by the existence of deep rivalries within the nationalist movement. As early as 1963 Sithole had split away from Nkomo’s ZAPU to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). To a large extent the split was along tribal lines, ZAPU being based on the minority Ndebele of western Rhodesia and ZANU on the majority Shona of eastern Rhodesia. This contributed to the tendency of the two organisations to operate in what might be termed the area of their ‘natural’ support. Thus ZAPU and its military wing, ZIPRA, operated out of Zambia and Botswana, while ZANU and its military wing, ZANLA, operated out of Mozambique. While the early guerrillas of both organisations had trained in diverse or even the same countries overseas, ZIPRA came increasingly to reflect Soviet orthodoxy and ZANLA to reflect Chinese theories of rural guerrilla warfare. Thus a feature of the war after 1972 was the reluctance of Nkomo to commit large numbers of his ZIPRA forces to Rhodesia, preferring to retain them in Zambia for a Soviet-style conventional assault at an appropriate moment. Indeed, a number of Rhodesian spoiling operations in late 1979 were specifically mounted to disrupt the ZIPRA build-up, including the destruction of key road bridges which might have been used to throw ZIPRA armour across the Zambezi.

ZANLA also briefly considered a conventional assault in 1979 to establish a provisional government inside Rhodesia, but for the most part the approach of the two groups was markedly different. This made co-operation between ZANLA and ZIPRA difficult and there were further break-aways such as that of James Chikerema, who left ZAPU to form the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI), forcing a hasty and temporary junction of ZIPRA and ZANLA in a Joint Military Command in 1972. Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who had emerged during the Pearce Commission as a nationalist of some authority, and his United African National Council (UANC) was recognised by the OAU in 1974 as a means of uniting the disparate guerrilla struggle. Muzorewa ‘joined together with Nkomo, Sithole and Chikerema to form a Zimbabwe Liberation Council in 1975, while ZIPRA and ZANLA were forced by their black African hosts to create a unified army in the shape of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA). This unity quickly faded, the subsequent union of ZAPU and ZANU in the so-called Patriotic Front for the purpose of attending the Geneva Conference in 1976 never resulting in any actual military unity between ZIPRA and ZANLA. Within ZANU, Sithole was by now being out­manoeuvred by more radical elements and, after his release from detention inside Rhodesia in 1974, Robert Mugabe became the dominant figure. Thus Sithole, still heading a group he called ZANU, came together with Muzorewa’s UANC and Chief Chirau’s insignificant Zimbabwe United People’s Organisation in aceepting the internal settlement in 1978. Their three parties contested the internal elections in April 1979, all seeking the Shona vote rathcr than that of the Ndebele. Subsequently, Chikerema deserted the UANC to form yet another faction the Zimbabwe Democratic Party. Throughout the war, therefore, there were divisions among the nationalists that could be successfully exploited by the Rhodesians as the internal settlement indicated only too clearly. On occasions there were clashes between rival guerrillas and a number of major internal upheavals such as the ‘Nhari Rebellion’ in ZANLA in December 1973 and the assassination of one of ZANLA’s leaders, Herbert Chitepo, in Lusaka in March 1974 which led to ZANLA’s virtual expulsion from Zambia.

At the time when insurgency first began, the complicated nature of the divisions among the nationalists was not apparent and the nature of the insurgency itself was limited. The first white man was killed by a so-called ZANU ‘Crocodile Commando’ in July 1964, but the first systematic attempt to inifitrate guerrillas into Rhodesia did not occur until April 1966, when a group of 14 ZANU guerrillas crossed into the country from Zambia. Over the course of the next two years a variety of guerrilla columns from ZANU, ZAPU and, on occasions, ZAPU guerrillas co­operating with the South African branch of the African National Congress, were comfortably contained and successfully elimin­ated by the Rhodesian Security Forces to such an extent that virtually all insurgency ceased for the next four years. The ease with which the guerrillas had been defeated did, however, have subsequent repercussions since it was largely seen as a police action and was controlled by Rhodesia’s British South Africa Police (BSAP). The Rhodesian Army was rarely used, even though the BSAP was frequently operating as a conventional military force with patrols, sweeps and supported by helicopters.4 Similarly, the BSAP Special Branch was especially prominent, its network of informers working well since the local African population of the Zambezi valley had little sympathy for the guerrillas. In any case the valley was an inhospitable environment and few guerrillas penetrated beyond it. Where military support had been required, temporary brigade areas were established with a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) involving military and police representatives as well as civil commissioners from the Department of Internal Affairs.

When insurgency developed once more, with the opening of ZANLA’s new front in the Centenary district of the north-east in December 1972, there was a natural tendency to persist with previous practices. Beyond the local JOCs, the chain of command therefore stretched upwards through provincial JOCs, a Joint Planning Staff (JPS), and a Deputy Minister in Ian Smith’s office (from 1974), to the Security Council of the Rhodesian Cabinet. In September 1976 a War Council replaced the Security Council and in March 1977 a Combined Operations Headquarters (Comops) replaced the JPS. In theory the creation of Comops should have enabled the Security Forces to develop a well coordinated strategy for the prosecution of the war. In reality, the command and control system failed at a number of levels. For one thing, there was increasing friction between Army and Police as the escalation of the war led to the replacement of BSAP personnel by the military in positions of responsibility on JOCs. In 1973 the JOC in the northeast was converted into a permanent operational brigade area ‘Hurricane’. This was followed by the establishment of ‘Thrasher’ and ‘Repulse’ in 1976, ‘Tangent’, ‘Grapple’ and ‘Splinter’ in 1977, and ‘Salops’ in 1978. With the exception of the latter, which remained a largely administrative creation under BSAP control, the other JOCs were now chaired almost as a matter of course by the Army.

The Army was also increasingly critical of other civilian government agencies, notably Internal Affairs which it held responsible for failing to perceive the nature of the growing ZANLA threat in the northeast prior to its eruption in 1972. Comops offered the possibility of reconciling differences but it never had effective control over civil affairs and ministries like Internal Affairs and Law and Order which had a considerable contribution to make to the war effort. Moreover, Comops became entangled in the day-to-day conduct of the war rather than in planning long-term strategy. Its commander, Lieutenant­General Peter Walls, also assumed command of all offensive and special forces as well as responsibility for all external operations. This left the Army commander, Lieutenant-General John Hickman, commanding only black troops and white territorials, while his staff were deprived of any real function at all. One commentator with first-hand knowledge of the system has claimed that the de facto commander of the Army in these circumstances was the Brigadier of Comops.5 Walls sought further clarification of his powers but was to be disappointed, although it has been claimed that by 1979 he was the most powerful man in Rhodesia6 and certainly the command structure as a whole was streamlined after the internal settlement, to exclude Muzorewa and Sithole from effective influence. At the same time Smith’s influence also waned and he was on bad terms with Walls.

With division at the top of the system, it is not unlikely that this will be magnified at lower levels and such was the case in Rhodesia. There was, for example, an attempt to co-ordinate the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS) and the Selous Scouts with the establishment of a Special Forces Headquarters in July 1978. However, this fell foul of inter-unit rivalry and was eventually confined to administering the black Security Force Auxiliaries (SFAs) that came into existence after the internal settlement. The rivalry between the Army and the BSAP was also apparent in the attempted co-ordination of intelligence. Prior to 1972 intelligence was firmly a BSAP responsibility and of its Special Branch in particular, as was so frequently the case in British or former British territories. The Army had no intelligence network of its own, but the lack of real insurgency simply did not necessitate it. This was to change with the escalation of conflict in December 1972. In the northeast, which had been generally neglected by the Rhodesian administration at all levels, Special Branch’s traditional reliance upon a handful of picked informers proved hopelessly inadequate. When the Army subsequently formed its own Military Intelligence Department in 1973, however, Special Branch regarded it with suspicion. The Department had no effective access to captured insurgents until 1978 and was generally confined to gathering external intel­ligence, largely through its radio interception service. There was also no Intelligence Corps formed within the Army until July 1975. Similarly, Special Branch initially controlled the special intelligence-gathering units which were raised by Major Ron Reid-Daly between November 1973 and January 1974. Subse­quently named the Selous Scouts in March 1974, the regiment came under Comops control in 1977. There is some evidence of

friction between the Selous Scouts and the Army, the attempt by Reid-Daly to recruit black servicemen from the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) being persistently resisted. Equally, the blowing of the cover of the Selous Scouts’ first ‘pseudo’ operation in January 1974 by a Special Branch officer led to friction between the BSAP and the Scouts. A further indication of some of the tensions within the armed forces was the allegation in 1979 that the Selous Scouts were more intent on ivory poaching than killing guerrillas in areas frozen to operations by other members of the Security Forces. The Army’s Intelligence Department bugged Reid-Daly’s telephone and, amid the reverberations, Hickman was sacked as Army commander and Reid-Daly court-martialed. Reid-Daly was reprimanded and retired.

The lack of co-ordination of both command and intelligence was an important drawback to the Security Forces since they would always be stretched numerically, given the view of the Rhodesian authorities that the effective ceiling on manpower was the available white male population. Prior to the war, Rhodesia’s regular forces were small and in 1968 still amounted to only 4600 men in the armed forces and 6400 in the BSAP, excluding reserves in both cases. By 1978 the whites numbered only 260,000 in a total population of some 6.9 million and, as the war progressed, white emigration the ‘chicken run’ outpaced immigration. Between 1960 and 1979 some 180,000 whites entered the country but 202,000 left, a net loss of over 13,000 whites in 1978 being the highest recorded. Under the 1957 Defence Act, young white males were liable to a six-week period of training in the Rhodesia Regiment, a territorial formation, followed by a reserve commitment. By 1966 the basic term of national service had increased to 245 days. In December 1972 national service for all whites as well as Asians and coloureds (who numbered about 30,000) between the ages of 18 and 25 was increased to a full 12 months, while the period to be spent in the reserve was increased from four to six years. In February 1974 the size of the annual intake was doubled and in November restrictions placed on the ability of those liable to military service to leave the country. In May 1976 the period of liability for territorials was increased indefinitely and the initial term of national service increased from 12 to 18 months. In January and February 1977 the net was widened still further with those aged between 24 and 38 compelled to do 190 days’ service per annum, those aged between 38 and 50 made liable to 70 days’ service a year, and those aged over 50 encouraged to volunteer for the BSAP reserve, which required 42 days’ service per annum for this age bracket. In September student deferments were cancelled and rewards advertised for those willing to extend their terms of service. It should be noted that the term of service of the older age groups was not continuous but completed as a number of tours through the year, such as six weeks on and six weeks off to try and minimise economic disruption. In January 1978 the deferment of two years for new immigrants of military age was reduced to just six months, although in October the term of service for those aged between 18 and 25 was once more reduced to 12 months. The ultimate measure of white conscription was introduced in January 1979 when those aged between 50 and 59 were made liable to six-weeks’ service per annum, the new entrants being referred to as ‘Mashford’s Militia’ after a well-known Salisbury funeral parlour.

Despite the increasing demands made upon white manpower, the great majority of the personnel of the Security Forces remained black. Until 1979 they were also all volunteers and there was no shortage of recruits, particularly among the Karanga tribe. Accordingly, the RAR added a second battalion in 1974, a third in 1977 and a fourth in 1978, the establishment of the latter raising the proportion of black servicemen from some 66 per cent of the whole to around 70 per cent. Approximately 75 per cent of the BSAP were also black, including most of the Police Support Units (PSU), popularly known as ‘Black Boots’. Africans were attracted not only by good pay, housing, educational facilities and health care but also by traditional bonds of family service to the state. By 1979, too, there were 30 black commissioned officers in the Army. There is little evidence of disciplinary problems among black service personnel, although it would appear that some opposed the Anglo-Rhodesian proposals tested by the Pearce Commission and that the majority of the RAR probably voted solidly for Mugabe in the 1980 elections.

There was therefore no pressure for African conscription until after Muzorewa and Sithole joined the transitional government in 1978. In October it was announced that conscription would be introduced for educated Africans between the ages of 18 and 25 in January 1979. The measures were then extended to all educated Africans between 16 and 60 in August 1979, but there is evidence of some opposition to conscription among Africans and the scheme had not been fully implemented by the time the war ended. Somewhere between 1000 and 2000 foreigners also served with the Rhodesian Security Forces during the war, while the South African presence between 1967 and 1975 amounted to perhaps 2000 to 3000 men at most. In theory the Security Forces thus had large numbers of men available by the end of the war, but the requirements of the economy meant that only a relatively small proportion could be deployed at any one time. This usually amounted to about 25,000 men, although in the run-up to the internal elections in April 1979, some 60,000 men were deployed in the field, but only for a short period. It was only the establishment of the SFAs after the internal settlement that enabled the Rhodesians to reach even this total.

The lack of manpower tended to imply that there was little administrative ‘tail’ to the Security Forces, since traditionally most support functions had been undertaken by African labourers. The majority of the white national servicemen, especially older age groups, were also placed in a variety of more or less static roles such as holding units, police reserve units, the Guard Force created in February 1976 to assist the defence of protected villages (PVs), and the Defence Regiment formed in 1978 to guard important installations and communications. The principal strike formations were the regulars of the all-white Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). the white SAS, and the mixed-race Selous Scouts. While the RLI and the RAR provided the men for the ‘Fire Forces’ inside Rhodesia, the SAS and Scouts were available for external operations. There were also some other specialist units for counter-insurgency. The BSAP, for example, had Police Anti-Terrorist Units (PATU) as well as the PSUs, specialist anti-stock theft teams and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics Teams) which were designed to contain urban terrorism. The latter, however, was relatively limited, the most successful urban guerrilla operations being the bomb planted in the Salisbury branch of Woolworths in August 1977 and the rocket attack on the capital’s oil storage depot in December 1978. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also fielded African District Security Assistants (DSAs) from 1976 for security duties in PVs. Another specialist Army unit was the Grey’s Scouts, a mixed-race mounted unit often used to patrol border minefields.

The manpower shortage also had repercussions in terms of strategy in frontier areas and to prevent guerrilla infiltration into the interior. Ironically, the white urban areas and farms were surrounded by the African Tribal Trust Lands (ATLs) in a manner approximating to the Maoist guerrilla theory that the countryside dominated by insurgents should surround the cities. The need to prevent infiltration was an additional reason for striking at guerrilla concentrations outside Rhodesia. The Rhodesian forces were, in fact, well suited to counter-insurgency and had begun a systematic study of the subject in the 1950s. Some 50 per cent of all regular training was in the form of small-unit operations. There was also a reservoir of expertise from direct experience of British counter-insurgency operations. The Rhodesian Far East Volunteer Unit had served in Malaya during the Emergency in the 1950s; the then single battalion of the RAR had served in Malaya from 1956 to 1958; and Rhodesia’s SAS had begun life as ‘C’ (Rhodesia) Squadron of the Malayan Scouts, later named ‘C’ (Rhodesia) Squadron of the British SAS, and had served both in Malaya and in Aden. The Rhodesian Air Force had also sent elements to Kuwait and Aden between 1958 and 1961. Indeed, it was sometimes alleged that there was a ‘Malayan’ clique within the armed forces, Walls having commanded the Rhodesian SAS squadron in Malaya. More recent experience was also available, the Selous Scouts being modelled to some extent on Portugal’s Flechas whom Reid-Daly had studied. There was also close study of Israeli techniques, particularly in terms of external operations.7

Yet, despite the expertise available, the crucial lack of co­ordination in command and control prevented the development of the kind of distinct overall strategy that had characterised the British operations with which the Rhodesians were so familiar. Comops appeared after its creation in 1977 to abandon the generally-defensive reaction to guerrilla infiltration of earlier years in favour of a strategy of mobile counter-offensive. But, in the absence of sufficient numbers of men on the ground, the success of the counter-offensive largely depended upon inflicting high kill ratios. No real attempt could be made to hold cleared areas until the SFAs became available and it was not until 1979 that an area defence system was adopted, based on firmly holding ‘Vital Asset Ground’ corresponding to the white areas of Rhodesia.8 This did not mean that some areas were tacitly abandoned to the guerrillas since elite groups such as the Selous Scouts would make periodic forays and the remaining ground of ‘tactical importance’ outside the vital asset ground, primarily the flLs and game parks, became available for locating and destroying guerrillas at will. It was, however, late in the day before such a co-ordinated strategy was evolved and it has been suggested that the apolitical nature of the Rhodesian armed forces prevented them from seriously coming to terms with the political aspects of guerrilla insurgency.9 There was never any real attempt at political indoctrination or instruction within the Rhodesian armed forces and to the end of the war guerrilla insurgency tended to be regarded as a military rather than a political problem to which military solutions alone should be applied.







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