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

































The major problem touched on above, that of the widespread use of pseudo operations and the illegal nature of some of these practices, relates to a much wider problem, namely that of legitimate political authority. Without a legitimate claim to authority in the eyes of a substantial portion of its population, a government would have to rely on coercion alone to enforce compliance to its laws.

Legitimacy is a political necessity, for it reduces ... dependence on naked power by allowing (the government) ... to rely on authority. (9)

Furthermore, Claude E. Welch points to an important factor in relation to government resorting to force

inconsistent use of coercion can both speedily alienate individuals and focus their discontent upon political institutions. (10)

As a legitimate institution, authorities lay down and enforce compliance to laws that govern human activity in any country. Should this same government provide evidence of not abiding by these same laws, it stands to lose much of its legitimacy in the eyes of those affected. Such loss of legitimacy of necessity focuses on the political structures and institutions of the country. Within rural areas such dissatisfaction is aimed at the manifestations of government, i.e. local administration, the police and other government institutions and agencies.

In the following quotation Frank Kitson addresses the same problem, if more directly relevant to pseudo operations  

...there is absolutely no need for special operations to be carried out in an illegal or immoral way and indeed there is every reason to ensure that they are not, because they are just as much part of the government’s program as any of its other measures and the government must be prepared to take responsibility for them. (11)

  Pseudo operations were used extensively in Rhodesia and in the long term proved to be counter-productive. In such operations the population inevitably become the battleground. If adequate protection from the insurgents is not provided, pseudo operations cause the local population to be yet further alienated from the Security Forces. In fact, the widespread use of such operations in Rhodesia trapped the local population between the two opposing sides: the insurgents on the one hand and the Security Forces posing as insurgents on the other. Both sides were ready to exact retribution should the local inhabitants assist the enemy. Yet, purely as a military measure pseudo operations were probably the most effective means of effecting insurgent casualties. According to a study by the Directorate of Military Intelligence in 1978 a full sixty eight percent of all insurgent fatalities inside Rhodesia could be attributed to the Selous Scouts.

Casualty figures in themselves, however, are not a sure indication either of success or failure in a counter-insurgency campaign. This is particularly true in pseudo operations: although numerous insurgents were killed, Security Forces failed to gain any permanent hold over rural areas. Such operations did succeed in creating distrust and confusion both amongst the insurgents themselves and between the insurgent forces and the local population. At the same time the punitive approach to subverted and potentially subverted rural people led to the simultaneous creation of distrust and confusion between the rural population and Security Forces. Security Forces completely lacked a strategy by which they could steadily gain control over increasingly subverted rural areas. Therefore, the Selous Scouts were merely the instruments of an overly aggressive and punitive strategy, simply directed at killing as many insurgents as possible and punishing the rural black population to force them to desist from support for the insurgent forces.

Security Forces should not have attempted to exert an uncertain control over all contested areas. The most seriously subverted Tribal Trust Lands should have been temporarily abandoned. Those areas securely under government control should have been identified. Working outwards from these secure bases, Security Forces would then have been able to concentrate their resources on adjoining areas which were as yet only partially subverted. These threatened areas could have been consolidated by means of strict population control and by involving the local population in their own defense and development.

Within the structure of the Rhodesian Security Force apparatus the affiliation of the Selous Scouts presented problems of its own. Army control of the unit was initially vested in the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant-General Walls. When appointed as General Officer Commanding, Combined Operations, General Walls retained this relationship. COMOPS involvement in the planning of special force operations has been discussed in Chapter 2, ‘Command and Control’. In addition friction developed between the Selous Scouts and the Special Air Service each vying for the status as primary special forces unit.

A particular problem resulting from Special Branch’s control over all pseudo intelligence activities was the almost total absence of co-operation with the Directorate of Military Intelligence. The Selous Scouts were in fact under specific Special Branch instructions not to divulge any information to the Directorate of Military Intelligence. It would seem that professional jealousy and personal animosity played a major role in these co-ordination problems. When the concept of pseudo operations was initially put into practice, military intelligence organizations were by their own admission, incapable of controlling them.

Selous Scouts liaison with brigades also left much to be desired. An area would be frozen, pseudo teams would move in, complete their task and be withdrawn with very little intelligence passed on to the brigade headquarters in whose area it had taken place. Again Frank Kitson has very definite ideas on the subject

  ...special operations must be organized and implemented under the auspices of the normal machine for directing the campaign and the advantages to be gained from them weighed against the psychological implications of them becoming known. Furthermore normal Security Force units should be informed as to the nature and purpose of special operations as far as it is consistent with the requirements of security so that they come to regard Special Forces as helpful colleagues and not as wild, irresponsible people whose one purpose is to steal the credit from those who carry out more humdrum, but necessary roles. (12)

In the final analysis the technique of pseudo ope­rations in Rhodesia proved highly successful and reemphasized its value as a method of gathering intelligence. The problems encountered and deviations from the concept were less the result of the Selous Scouts and Special Branch than they were the result of the absence of a coherent Security Force counter­insurgency strategy and a punitive approach to the whole problem of the insurgency.




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