The under-equipped and poorly manned SAMIM (Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique) continues efforts to remove ASWJ (Al Sunnah Wa Jama’ah) from Cabo Delgado in an on-the ground situation a top South African defence analyst warns doesn’t bode well.
In a forthright appraisal of the mission’s efforts to date, Helmoed Heitman told defenceWeb the original SADC (Southern African Development Community) force is “ludicrously weak and under-armed with criminally inadequate air support”.
SAMIM and its SADC political leaders and military commanders face a problem with several parts, he said, outlining three of them.
“Cabo Delgado has 17 district centres. If you want to stabilise the place you at least have to secure all those centres and ensure safe road links. The force was supposed to do that with three 620-strong battalions and miniscule air support, while two Special Force ‘companies’ hunted guerrillas. Then the same three battalions would engage the guerrillas.
“Apart from the district centres, consider the size of the province vis a vis the planned force level and planned air support of two attack, two armed and two utility helicopters and a pair hand-launched UAV systems.
“Then consider published estimates of the number of guerrillas,” he said adding: “I have no idea how many there are, but have seen figures of 1 500 to 2 000 bandied about and remember the old 10:1 rule of thumb”.
On what was apparently the original SAMIM mission concept, Heitman said it was good in that the Special Forces deployment “developed the picture” along with naval elements to interdict seaborne supplies.
“The naval elements, bar the SA Navy offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), never deployed and the Special Forces from Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa are out on a limb.
“The whole concept of employing Special Forces is they develop the picture and locate the enemy, after which reaction forces of paratroops or infantry engage, all while other infantry units provide security for towns etc. and perhaps light armour patrols roads. Having Special Forces running around the bush is not helpful and a gross misuse of those soldiers.”
Heitman takes the Battle of Bangui in March 2013 as an example of what not to do.
“Lightly armed Special Forces and Paras were the logical first on the ground, but should have been relieved by an infantry battalion, perhaps rotating the Special Forces to have a fresh group push outwards for reconnaissance. They should not have been left unreinforced for three months with no air reconnaissance, let alone air support, and no heavy weapons beyond their own.
“The Special Forces in Mozambique seem to have been there on their own for six months. That is not how things are supposed to be done.”
He describes the current situation as “ineffectual faffing around” not “achieving anything”.
“The guerrillas are still killing people and have spread their activities west, which will give access to Lake Malawi for supplies and to spread their efforts further afield. Nothing much seems to stop them also spreading south in due course,” he maintains, adding the absence of at least a pair of Rooivalks to cover hot extractions is “a dismal failure”.