Amongst the Special Operations Forces of the Rhodesian Army, by far the Selous Scouts have garnered the most interest and discussion. The Unit has recently received much more attention by general military buffs, all the way up to active duty professors at West Point, Annapolis and even Ft. Leavenworth’s War College. This attention is a result of the current GWOT and the military’s need to find ways to enhance their COIN capabilities. From the Banana Wars of the early 20th Century to the Mau Mau uprisings in the 1950’s Kenya to Rhodesia’s and South Africa’s wars of the 1970’s and 80’s against Communist Insurgents, the Selous Scouts stand out as perhaps the most successful of all modern forces in effectively penetrating and killing Terrorists.
Even to this day, many of the Selous Scout’s operational details are kept secret both by choice as well as the passing away of members of the Unit. To say that they generated controversy in Rhodesia and worldwide is an understatement. Robert Mugabe’s Marxist paradise, Zimbabwe attempts to block access to any information on the Scouts both online and in print. Upon Mugabe’s ascension to power in the former Rhodesia, the Unit was promptly disbanded and their Operators targeted for deportation or killing.
This relatively small unit accounted for 68 percent of all kills of ZANLA and ZIPRA terrorists during the Bush War, either directly or by Reconnaissance missions that pinpointed the location of groups of enemy and calling in the RLI and RAR for Fire Force missions. All things considered and the small size of the unit, this is a phenomenal number. Combining the above information, it is easy to see why lessons from their history and TTP’s are being studied in earnest. Fortunately, a few members of the Selous Scouts, including an American, have written about their experiences and helped sift through ‘legend’ and fact. Although the enemy and terrain are different, their strategic concepts are still vibrant for any military fighting a COIN campaign.