Posts Tagged Industry Talk

Industry Talk: The APPF On Collecting Revenue

So here are the latest numbers from the APPF, straight from their press releases. I wanted to put this out there as to what these guys are actually making and how much of a government racket this is.
For 2013, they made 5.5 Billion Afghani or in US dollars, that is 98.8 Million! Where that money will go is anyone’s guess. I am sure some will go to pay salaries and what not, but most will probably go into Karzai’s pockets.
Now get this, for 2014 they are already pulling in some serious cash from all the contracts that companies are required to sign with the APPF if they want security. Here is the quote from the press release site.

Press: what is the economical level of this directorate and how effective is it in economical growth of Afghanistan?

Tabish: since beginning of the year 1392 we have received more than 3 billion and hundred and two million Afghani revenue and spent one billion and seven hundred twenty four million Afghani in admin expenditures and delivered one billion three hundred seventy eight million Afghani to government account.

Yep, and yet the APPF has no competition when it comes to performing security. So they can do whatever they want, and there will be no one else that companies can turn to for providing services. So what can go wrong in this kind of set up? How about people getting killed because of poor services rendered? With that said, I invite companies and contractors to share what their thoughts are on the APPF.  -Matt

 

 

5.5 Billion Afghani revenue of current year
30 December 2013
The Afghan public protection force and security enterprise is profit security organization; it is a pay-for-service Afghan government security service provider underneath the Ministry of Interior that protects people, infrastructure, facilities, construction projects and convoys from these activities brings enormous benefit to state treasury.
In order to understand APPF’s gain and revenue generated this year we have prepared an interview with Hashmatullah Latifi business and finance general director of APPF and draw your attention to it.
Q: First brief us information about personnel and activities of business and finance directorate?
A: business and finance directorate works beneath APPF and has three separated departments in its formations, including finance and accounting, logistics and business departments, these departments perform their affairs in various sectors to prevail for example department of business and accounting plans the budget, revenue and expenses and issue personnel salaries, department of logistics provides APPF’s logistical needs and department of business works in contracts related affair with national and international clients.

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Industry Talk: The Slavonic Corps–A Russian PMSC In Syria

“A large field between Lattakia and Tartous, surrounded by barbed wire. That is where our battalion and the Syrian reservists were stationed. It used to be a racecourse. We were housed in the former stables. By October there were 267 people from the ‘Slavonic Corps’, split into two companies. One company was made up of Kuban Cossacks, the other had people from all over Russia; there were 10 or 12 men from Petersburg. The bosses said that the numbers of the corps in Syria was expected to reach up to 2,000 men.”
In addition to assault rifles, the battalion received machine guns and grenade launchers. They had anti-aircraft guns, 1939 models. The mortars were from 1943. Crews were formed for the four T-72 tanks and some BMP (infantry fighting vehicles). The question of how appropriate the weapons were, for the task of protecting “facilities,” came up quickly, even from the most gullible, and was addressed. “Did you come to fight or to guard? Whoever guards is on eternal kitchen patrol.” Those were the words of the commander’s reply. The manager of the project was Vadim Gusev, known to many as the deputy director of Moran Security Group.

This is a unique story that I wanted to get out there for folks to check out. My post about Assad approving the use of PMSC’s was a record post on FJ, and stories like this are very interesting to the community. I also wanted to put this out so that those who were involved with this contract in Syria can respond. The last couple of weeks I have been asking around on FB and nothing has come up. I suspect that it is mostly a language deal and that Russians have not been hanging on English based FB groups. So hopefully this post will get their attention via Google Search.

Basically, this company was contracted to guard ‘and’ do other things in Syria, for the Assad side. Apparently the contractors recruited by this company were victim to the whole bait and switch game, and as soon as they got on the ground, the company changed the contract to a more kinetic operation . So the company I believe is at fault for not being honest in their recruitment from the get go, and not preparing their people for this kind of contract. As  a result, the Slavonic Corps had a poor showing in Syria, it was poorly led and managed, and the contract signed with the client was poorly written. The result was a company running out of Syria with it’s tale between it’s legs, and creating a bunch of unpaid and pissed off contractors. Here is a quote about recruitment:

This was never understood. “When they spoke to us in Russia, they explained that we were going on a contract with the Syrian government, they convinced us that everything was legal and in order. Like, our government and the FSB were on board and involved in the project. When we arrived there, it turned out that we were sent as gladiators, under a contract with some Syrian or other, who may or may not have a relationship with the government… That meant that we were the private army of a local kingpin. But there was no turning back. As they said, a return ticket costs money, and we’ll work it off, whether we like it or not.” As they told the Slavonic Corps troops, the job came down to maintaining control over the centre of the oil industry, in the town of Deir ez-Zor. In order to be in control of it, we had to reach it. More than 500 kilometres across territory occupied by government troops, by the opposition or by completely unknown forces.

Crazy, but this sounds way too familiar from my experience in contracting. But I am not going to let the contractors that signed up for this off that easy. These guys did not do their due diligence before accepting the contract. It sounded like the recruiters attracted a lot of desperate and naive folks who really wanted to believe this was a good deal. I wonder if the Russians have a forum or Facebook group to go to, so they can ask questions to their community about companies like the Slavonic Corps or the Moran Security Group? Because if they would have had a SOCNET or a Feral Jundi or an Eeben Barlow, they could have gotten some second opinions that would have squared them away.  Here is a great quote from another Russian PMSC called the RSB Group, about the idiocy of this contract:

In the words of the professional: This is a crazy scheme
After asking Vyacheslav Kalashnikov several times to speak on the subject of Syria, and having received no answer, Fontanka turned to the head of Russia’s largest private military company, the “RSB Group,” for comment. Oleg Krinitsyn is certain: the Syrian story of the Slavonic Corps was a crazy scheme from the start.
“The widely advertised campaign to recruit mercenaries for Syria initially sounded like a stunt, a kind of PR campaign. Later on, people believed it and were drawn to their dream – to make money. But not all of them understood that this money was dirty, and possibly bloody. Before sending people to a country where there is active fighting, where there is a virtual ‘layer cake’ of the Syrian Army, the opposition fighters, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra etc, it’s essential to prepare them, as well as to understand how to get them out of there. Among those guys, photographed against a backdrop of Syrian equipment, festooned with weapons, I noticed a few of our former employees, who had been dismissed because of their poor moral character. I saw guys with criminal records amongst them. This once again confirms that the aim of the recruiters was not to attract high quality professionals, but just to plug a ‘hole’ with cannon fodder, and fast. And the boys were sent on contracts that resembled contracts for suicide missions. Right away, people signed a contract that included a will to bury their remains in their homeland, or if that proved impossible, in the nation where they died, and then be reburied in Russia. Dreadful.

Luckily for these guys, they were saved by a sand storm. Having experienced these types of storms in the middle east, I can say these things can get pretty dense. Quote:

It could be regarded as a great success that, out of the whole corps, a total of six people were wounded, two of them seriously. It should be pointed out that all of the wounded were removed from the battlefield and returned home with all the others. “We were saved by a sandstorm, we were enveloped by it on our retreat, but it hid us from the local mujahedeen. There was so much sand that you couldn’t see anything. But thanks to that, we are alive.”

These guys also paid the price when after fighting their way out of Syria, they had to deal with authorities when they came back home. The FSB was heavily involved from the sounds of it and this is also an interesting angle to this story. One of the articles I posted below talked about the FSB connection to this company and contract:

For instance, the head of the Slavonic Crops was a commander in the FSB reserve. New York University professor Mark Galeotti has studied the way the Russian security apparatus operates. In an interview for The Interpreter on the topic, he told me that private military contractors would need to clear all such operations with the FSB, which would mean that the FSB has placed Syria on the list of nations where foreign operations were approved. Galeotti went even further. When asked whether he thought there were more Russian mercenaries fighting for the Assad government inside Syria, he said that this was “likely,” and it’s not just mercenaries who are helping Assad:
“I anticipate that ‘mercenary’ is merely a cover story for Russian soldier or spook, just as the “Russian engineers” working on Syrian air defense systems are going to be military.”
There is significant reason to believe that the FSB knew about the mission. But as Thursday’s story in Foreign Policy explains, the Russian government had good reason to clip the mercenaries’ wings:
It’s not hard to surmise why the FSB would have turned on a company it may have given tacit support to send men into Syria. The mercenaries performed poorly in the field, and proof of their illicit activity had been plastered all over the Internet, so not tossing Gusev and Sidorov in the clink might have caused the kind of scandal that even an unembarrassable Kremlin would want to avoid. Moscow has been outspoken in its criticism of U.S. and Arab arms transfers to Syria’s rebels, even as its own state arms export company dispatches more and more sophisticated hardware to Assad, according to the State Department’s Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria. The Kremlin is also trying to ensure that the imperiled Geneva II peace conference takes place in December, just in time for the regime to be in a much-strengthened negotiating position after a series of tactical gains on the battlefield.

So with that said, I think the Russians were anticipating that the West was going to make this into an ‘embarrassing deal’ by plastering it all over the news. So for them, as soon as the whole thing went bad, they took the side of shock and disgust. Check out how they tried to whitewash this incident when these guys came back.

Despite the fact that, according to the contract, the assignment was supposed to last five months, in the last days of October the personnel were loaded onto two chartered planes and sent to Moscow. They were not expecting such a reception to be awaiting their arrival at Vnuknovo. As they disembarked the aircraft one by one, each fell into the hands of FSB officers. There was a quick inspection, the removal of SIM cards and any other media, and a brief questioning as witnesses. Then followed the removal of their passports, non-disclosure forms, and tickets home. Vadim Gusev, who had flown in business class and left the plane first, remained in the hands of the investigators. As they explained at the Moran Security Group, he and another employee of the company, Evgeny Sidorov, who was responsible for human resources, were arrested in a criminal case brought by the FSB’s metropolitan command under the never-before applied Article 359 of the Criminal Code – mercenary activities.

Did I mention that the contractors involved will not be getting paid the 4,000 dollars they were promised!…. Yikes, what a soup sandwich.

Well, that is about all I have on this one. Just some commentary on what has already been reported. If anyone has any interesting side notes on this story, I would be curious to hear about it. I also posted some links to the companies involved in this story and some good posts about the Slavonic Corps below. -Matt

Foreign Policy story on the Slavonic Corps.

Moran Security Group is a member of the ICoC (number 385) and is a member of SAMI

The Slavonic Corps website here.

War is Boring post about it here.

Pieter Van Ostaeyan’s blog about it here. (he was able to dig up some interesting stuff)

Youtube video of one of the contractors thought to be dead, that survived and posted this.

 

 

The Last Battle of the “Slavonic Corps”
The story of the Russian mercenaries who went to war against Syrian rebels.
By Denis Korotkov
Originally published by Fontanka on November 14, 2013
Translated by Pierre Vaux November 16, 2013
A Syrian rebel group claims that it has ambushed and killed a group of Russian mercenaries who may have been working for a Chinese security contractor. The jihadist fighters from an Al Qaeda affiliate “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)” claim to have killed the mercenaries in a battle near Homs. At least one of the mercenaries, however, has been videotaped alive and well, and living back in Russia.
The large and well-respected St. Petersburg newspaper, Fontanka, has published an article, translation by The Interpreter, entitled “St. Petersburg Sends Contractors to Syria.” It details the investigation that uncovered the existence of Russian mercenaries defending sensitive installations important to the Assad government in Syria. The contractors appear to have been recruited in St. Petersburg by a company based in Hong Kong.
We also know that the mercenaries appear to have been operating in As-Sukhnah, east of Palmyra, on the road between Deir Ez Zor and Homs. Jihadists have long wanted to capture the town, and nearby Palmyra, because securing this road would link their forces from the east to the west. The Assad regime, on the other hand, has had difficulty sparing the resources to defend the position, as it is far away from the major cities which are heavily embattled. According to the initial investigation by Fontanka, the mission of the mercenaries was to secure key regime assets, away from the front lines, in order for Assad forces to concentrate on removing “bandits” in other areas. However, it appears that the oil fields that the Russians were supposed to be guarding were in rebel control, and the team was really tasked with getting them back.
The following translation is an update from Fontanka. It says that one of the key players in the military contracting company is a reservist officer in the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), lieutenant colonel Vyacheslav Kalashnikov. The FSB, therefore, were aware on some level that the Moran Security Group was sending Russian mercenaries to Syria to fight for Assad. However, the mercenary group was shut down and several mercenaries were arrested upon their return to Russia. A major Russian contractor says that this was not an FSB mission, but a mission designed to look like an FSB mission. The insinuation is that a pro-rebel group hired the Russians in order to lead them into a trap, kill them, and show their bodies on television.
All of the pictures on the original Fontanka article were also posted in the one we already translated. Instead, these pictures of the Russian mercenaries were posted on a Russian social network (except the one that states it was from Fontanka). – Ed.

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Weapons: Can Your Defensive Plan Counter An Armored VBIED?

This is a pretty disturbing trend when it comes to patterns of attacks by jihadists in Syria. The reason why I pay attention to this stuff is that what is learned on that battlefield, could easily be applied by the jihadists elsewhere. A big hat tip to Matt over at Screaming At Strangers for all the help in this one.

So with that said, let me introduce to you the armored vehicle born improvised explosive device or Armored VBIED. It is simple in design and concept, but extremely effective against defenses that are not prepared for such a weapon. Does your entry control point or defense plan have a counter for this? How about obstacles or munitions that can stop a BMP packed with explosives?

Check it out below, and in both videos, you can see exactly the stunning effects of this weapon. They can literally drive under a hail of bullets and place the vehicle exactly where they want it for detonation. If guys have other videos, please feel free to post those links in the comments section.

Will companies be outfitting contractors or military folks at entry control points around the world, with M-3 Carl Gustavs or similar anti-tank munitions, just to counter such a threat? Yikes…. -Matt

Edit: 12/30/13 I wanted to add this first video to this compilation. It is not an armored VBIED, but a ‘remote controlled’ VBIED.

Edit: 01/16/14 Another siting of a BMP VBIED in Syria. This time in Daara. Video here. h/t Matt from Facebook.

 

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Industry Talk: SOFREP Buys SpecialOperations.com

This is some interesting news.  Apparently SpecialOperations.com was sold to SOFREP. Here is the quote from Soldier Systems.

Now, SOFREP plans to take SpecialOperations.com back to its roots and reinvigorate it as a SOF wiki that contains history, education and serves as a learning portal for worldwide SOF. If anyone can do it, it’s the staff at SOFREP.

I asked Brandon Webb if they were going to keep the forum and at this point he was unsure. Brandon updated me that SOCNET is a separate entity and will remain in place.

If you are not familiar with SpecialOperations.com, you should really check it out if you are interested in researching this industry or special operations. A big hat tip to Soldier Systems blog for the heads up on this.

The other really smart thing about this move is the URL of specialoperations.com has some incredible search value. Type ‘special operations’ into Google and it captures first page of search for those key words.

So will this will be a paid for subscription or a free service? According to SOFREP, it will continue to be free and open to the public as a special operations academic and historical resource. Congrats to SOFREP and good luck with revamping the site. -Matt

Edit: 08/27/2013 The owners of SOCNET forum have contacted me to say that their forum is a completely separate thing from specialoperations.com and that SOFREP does not own it.

 

 

 

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Industry Talk: US Embassy In Iraq Reducing Staff From 10,500 To 5,500 By End Of Year

Wow, that is a pretty substantial cut in personnel. Although from the sounds of it, there will still be a significant security force to support the fewer than 1,000 diplomats that remain. Which makes sense, because the embassy is still a large area to cover down on, regardless of how many folks are in it.
If anything, the reduction in security folks would be WPS personnel who would normally provide PSD teams to go out into the countryside. But even that might not see too much of a reduction just because the diplomats that are left, still have to go outside the wire. I also wonder how many missions they were really doing ever since the troops pulled out and the threats not going away in Iraq? If anyone with an inside track on this would like to comment, feel free to do so below.
I also think it is telling that we have had this massive presence at the embassy in Iraq, and the return on investment has been so poor. Meaning recently, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq and got into it with Iraq about their policy of supporting the Assad regime with cargo/weapons flights coming out of Iraq into Syria. Obviously this is a source of contention, and Iraq could care less what the west wants them to do. So much for having a thousands of diplomats and a $750 million dollar embassy? lol -Matt

 

Massive American Embassy in Baghdad cutting staff sharply decade after war in Iraq began
March 20, 2013
A decade after the start of the war in Iraq, the American diplomatic footprint here is shrinking fast.
As recently as a year ago, the immense U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other sites around the country were staffed by more than 16,000 personnel. Today, that number has fallen to about 10,500, U.S. Ambassador Robert Stephen Beecroft said this week.
By the end of the year, Beecroft said he expects to have just 5,500 employees in Iraq. Most of them will be security personnel and other outside contractors assigned to support the fewer than 1,000 diplomats who remain. More cuts are expected beyond the end of the year.
“That number will continue to go down. . And they’ll go down largely on the contracting side,” Beecroft said in his residence on the heavily guarded compound on the banks of the Tigris River.
The sprawling, fortress-like U.S. Embassy officially opened in early 2009 at a cost of more than $730 million as the largest American mission in the world. But it has been under pressure to cut costs.
The downsizing in many ways reflects how sharply wartime assumptions about the extent of American influence in Iraq have shifted since construction on the Vatican City-sized compound began in 2005. Sweeping reconstruction and nation-building efforts championed early on are much less of a priority today, even as Iraq’s Shiite-led government forges stronger ties with neighboring Shiite powerhouse and U.S. foe Iran.
America still has influence here, with Iraq-based diplomats and officials in Washington in frequent contact with Iraqi political and military leaders. But Washington was unable to win Iraqi guarantees that would have allowed a continued military presence — something that deprived the U.S. of important leverage in Baghdad, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently told a government watchdog.

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Industry Talk: Afghanistan Seeks Taxes From Contractors To US

These guys kill me. What part of this bilateral agreement do the Afghans not understand? Here it is again, just to emphasize how stupid this is.

A 2003 bilateral agreement states the U.S. government, “its military and civilian personnel, contractors, and contractor personnel shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar fees assessed within Afghanistan.” A subsequent 2004 Military Technical Agreement also carved out a tax-free status for contractors to the U.S., a view that has been reinforced by U.S. officials in correspondence with Afghan officials.

Not only that, but because of this dumb APPF force, these companies are forced to used government security. I don’t know if the APPF was protecting Contrack International or not during this latest attack, but I do know that according to the business folks in that area, they have been screaming for more security in that area for awhile. It is a logistics hub, and attacks on such sites are part of the Taliban goal of inflicting economic damage.

We will see if the US can press back and protect these companies that are essential to the war effort. I think this quote says it all, if the US cannot square this away.

A person involved in logistics issues said the matter could come to a head if the Afghan government imposes fees or restrictions on cargo that slows the delivery of goods to forward operating bases, or FOBs.
“We’ve been told [by the coalition] to reduce stocks. So they’ll run out of fuel and they’ll go on MREs on some of these FOBs,” the person said, referring to the military’s packaged rations. “And little Johnny’s going to call Mom, and that’s now going to be all over the press.”

We will see how it goes? -Matt

 

 

Afghanistan Seeks Taxes From Contractors to U.S.
By NATHAN HODGE
Afghanistan has launched tax audits of major contractors to the U.S. military, government officials say, in a bid to shore up the country’s finances as the international military presence winds down and reconstruction funds dry up.
In particular, Kabul is focusing on the U.S. military’s main food supplier in Afghanistan, Supreme Foodservice GmbH, alleging that the company and similar logistics firms are abusing their status to illegally bring taxable goods into the country for resale.
Supreme says it isn’t engaging in any commercial activity in Afghanistan that should make it liable for taxes.
Kabul’s move potentially puts the Afghan government at odds with Washington, which has viewed, with limited caveats, materials imported to support the 66,000 U.S. forces here as exempt from taxation and customs fees. Since 2005, the Pentagon spent more than $7.9 billion on its food-supply contract with Supreme alone, awarding the company an additional $1.5 billion extension contract this past summer.

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