On Friday, Prosper and two other Americans, former army officer Michael Newton and lawyer Robert O’Brien, gave a presentation to the international community about the proposed projects.

     But diplomats said the presentation raised more questions than it answered. They said they didn’t know how the force would be deployed, how it would be integrated with current efforts to reform the security forces or how it would work with international antipiracy navies. The diplomats did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to appear in the press.

    And Saracen International will be doing the training for this as well.  So this is turning into quite a deal and I am surprised by the lack of media coverage on this. This mystery donor is putting up a ton of cash for an all out war against these pirates.

    One of the questions on my mind about this is if this force will be fighting any jihadists?  Because if this mystery donor is from the middle east, I wonder if their intention is to try and lure some of these jihadists away from their attacks on the government and AMISOM, and get them focused on eradicating piracy? Or do they intend to fight these holy warriors along the way, and especially if some of them are moonlighting as pirates (jihadist privateers)?

    Finally, I certainly would hope that Prosper and his gang lawyers would be so kind as to provide little ol’ bloggers like myself a copy of this presentation so we can comment on the thing. I also wonder if there is any talk of joining forces with the insurance companies and  their planned use of private security for this anti-piracy war? Interesting stuff and stay tuned. –Matt

Edit: 12/13/2010- Here is an interesting angle on the whole deal. That Saracen could be a threat to the AMISOM mission, by giving an impression that Uganda is not at all interested in stability in Somalia. That they care more about making a profit I guess. Thanks to a reader for sending me this.

Salim Saleh’s Saracen training militia in Somalia

December 13 2010

Saracen International, a security company associated with Uganda’s Gen Caleb Akandwanaho, alias Salim Saleh, a senior advisor to President Yoweri Museveni, who is also his younger brother, has come under the international spotlight for its alleged involvement in training militia in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland state.

Intelligence sources told The EastAfrican that President Museveni’s younger brother’s interest in this private military contractor has major regional security implications that could affect the efforts to restore peace in Somalia.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that a well-equipped military force was being created in northern Somalia with the help of Michael Shanklin, a former CIA officer and Pierre Prosper, an ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues under former President George W. Bush.

The training and the equipment — which is so far estimated at over $10 million — is being paid for by a mysterious “Muslim nation.”

These sources said that this deal usurps the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which includes security training. Ironically, Uganda has the most troops in Amisom, with the rest coming from Burundi.

The source said that the African Union is concerned that Saracen’s advent could be a propaganda gift for Islamic fundamentalist groups like Al Shabaab, because they can argue that Amisom is in Somalia to make profits and do business, not to bring peace.

“If this is not nipped in the bud, it could bring the roof down on the head of the AU in Somalia because Uganda has the largest contingent there,” he said.

The revelation comes at a time when some AU officials and members are allegedly concerned about how Uganda is handling the affairs of its troops in Somalia.

The Amisom troops are paid $750 a month. Uganda docks  $200 from each soldier. Burundi, on the other hand, takes off the recommended $100.

It is understood that the AU, fearful that this could demotivate the troops, has complained to Ugandan authorities, who have agreed to deduct the standard $100 only from each soldier, and refund the rest.

Our source also said that there is “grumbling” in the AU that Uganda, because it went in with the most equipment, has already been compensated more than handsomely for use of its resources — nearly $28 million so far, compared with $170,00 for Burundi.

Story here.

Somalia mulls privately trained antipiracy force

12/10/2010

Somalia is considering allowing a private security company to train a 1,000-man antipiracy force in the capital of Mogadishu, a Somali official said Friday. It would be the second such unit funded by an unidentified country — a project that has raised eyebrows in Washington and in the U.N.

The security company, Saracen International, is already training a different 1,000-man force in Somalia’s northern region of Puntland. The project is being funded by an unknown Muslim country that those involved in the project — including and former U.S. ambassador and a former CIA officer — will not name.

Somali Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur told The Associated Press the Mogadishu force would hit the pirates on land, where their havens are out of reach of a multinational naval armada which has tried to protect international shipping.

The Somali government will decide in the next three weeks whether to have Saracen train the antipiracy force in Mogadishu, Nur said. Another program to train up to 300 men for the presidential guard is also being considered.

If approved, that could mean up to 2,400 men would be trained by Saracen International. The mystery donor has also promised to pay the men and equip them with everything except arms. The total cost of the project is unclear. A European Union-led program to reform the Somali army is training and paying for 2,000 men at a cost of around $13.2 million, indicating that at such a level of expenditure, the anonymous donor nation has deep pockets.

The donor insists on keeping its identity secret, citing concerns over terrorism, according to a presentation about the company given to Nairobi-based diplomats on Friday and provided to AP.

Somali pirates have never been known to retaliate against nations that have sent warships to patrol the Somali coast, but the al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgency launched suicide bombings in Uganda that killed 76 people in July. Uganda is a main contributor to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

The mystery donor is paying for the services of a former American ambassador for war crimes, Pierre Prosper, and a former CIA deputy chief of station, Michael Shanklin. On Friday, Prosper and two other Americans, former army officer Michael Newton and lawyer Robert O’Brien, gave a presentation to the international community about the proposed projects.

But diplomats said the presentation raised more questions than it answered. They said they didn’t know how the force would be deployed, how it would be integrated with current efforts to reform the security forces or how it would work with international antipiracy navies. The diplomats did not want to be identified because they are not authorized to appear in the press.

Nur said he did not know how long the donor country would be willing to pay the salaries of the recruits. Regular payments are vital to ensure recruits do not desert to the insurgency, a problem that has dogged previous programs.

Nur said the Saracen-trained antipiracy forces would go after pirates “on land.”

In a seemingly related development, a plane that landed in the northern Somali town of Hargeisa on Friday was impounded. The minister of information in the breakaway region of Somaliland, Abdillahi Jama Osman, said the plane was carrying mine-detecting equipment and military uniforms. Six Russians and two South Africans were on board, he said.

The flight originated in South Africa, stopped in Uganda — where Saracen International is based — and was due to go to Bosasso, the capital of Puntland. The plane had to land in Hargeisa because of mechanical problems, Ahmed said.

Story here.