Posts Tagged Libya

Libya: Parsons Corporation Destroys All Of Libya’s WMD

Using $45 million from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has helped rid the former Soviet Union of thousands of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon and its Defense Threat Reduction Agency tapped the Parsons Corporation, a construction firm based in Pasadena, Calif., to work with Libya to oversee the rebuilding and safeguarding of the Libyan disposal site, which had been ransacked during the civil war.
Remarkably, the mustard agents stored in bulk containers at the site were untouched and their inspection seals unbroken, American and international officials said. These have all been destroyed, too.
Canada donated $6 million to help restore water, sewage service and electricity to the site, and to build living quarters for Western and Libyan contractors. Germany agreed to fly international inspectors to the site.

This is quite the story and it got very little attention. Libya apparently had some nasty stuff and thanks to some serious wheeling and dealing here, the west and their Libyan allies were able to collect it all and destroy it at this site. All this in a country that is still unstable with lots of folks that would love to get their hands on those weapons.

No word on who the guard force was and perhaps Parsons Corporation contracted that out to a local militia? Although I have to imagine that there was some adult supervision when it comes to the security for this site.  Having worked on similar sites in Iraq that were tasked with destroying munitions, security is paramount. You always have the outer ring of security, and then you have the trusted security covering down on the client and living areas, and their movements around the site. Who knows how this was set up and if anyone was a part of this contract, I would love to add to the record on this.

Either way, good deal and I wouldn’t be surprised if Parsons Corporation applies this same model to Syria. I could also see the furnace that Dynasafe made will also be used in Syria. -Matt



Libya’s Cache of Toxic Arms All Destroyed
Even as the international effort to destroy Syria’s vast chemical weapons stockpile lags behind schedule, a similar American-backed campaign carried out under a cloak of secrecy ended successfully last week in another strife-torn country, Libya.
The United States and Libya in the past three months have discreetly destroyed what both sides say were the last remnants of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s lethal arsenal of chemical arms. They used a transportable oven technology to destroy hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds filled with deadly mustard agent, which American officials had feared could fall into the hands of terrorists. The effort also helped inspire the use of the technology in the much bigger disposal plan in Syria.
Related Coverage
Since November, Libyan contractors trained in Germany and Sweden have worked in bulky hazmat suits at a tightly guarded site in a remote corner of the Libyan desert, 400 miles southeast of Tripoli, racing to destroy the weapons in a region where extremists linked to Al Qaeda are gaining greater influence. The last artillery shell was destroyed on Jan. 26, officials said.

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Publications: Contractor Support Of USCENTCOM AOR, 3rd Quarter FY 2013

This is the latest DASD program support report. Here are the highlights from the report.

In 3rd quarter FY13 there were approximately 101.8K DoD contractors in Afghanistan. The overall contractor footprint in Afghanistan decreased by 5.5% from 2nd quarter FY13.
The contractor to military ratio in Afghanistan is 1.43 to 1 (based on 71.5K military as of June 7, 2013).
There will be substantial contractor reductions over this fiscal year, as a result of base closures, the return to expeditionary standards, and transition of security to the APPF.
Local Nationals (LN) currently make up 36.7% of the DoD contracted workforce in Afghanistan. The use of LNs remains important to COIN strategy.

The big one in Afghanistan is that there are more contractors than military folks there. It’s a contractor’s war now and local nationals make up a huge portion of that work force.

In 3rd quarter FY13, the total number of contractors supporting the U.S. Government in Iraq (DoD + DOS) was approximately 10.3K. There will be substantial contractor reductions in 2013 reflecting consolidation of sites, completion of ongoing activity, and increased utilization of host country service and labor.
The DoS and DoD continue to refine the requirements for contract support. Some contractor personnel employed under DoD contracts are supporting State Department and other civilian activities under the Chief of Mission, Iraq. These DoD contractors are provided on a reimbursable basis.

In Iraq, the name of the game is DoD and DoS working with one another and using each other’s resources in order to accomplish the mission. Which makes sense because the former military resource everyone depended upon is gone, so now it’s all about supporting one another with the limited resources that are there.

The other thing to factor into the contractor equation is all the turmoil going on throughout these regions. For Iraq, Syria is being closely watched and monitored. The current presence in Iraq is vital for that mission and contractors will be very much in need to secure that effort and supply the beans/bullets/bandages.

Not to mention that as Al Qaeda gets stronger in Syria, they will be taking that capability back into Iraq to clean house. The raids they are doing in Syria and becoming more complex and bold and they are using that knowledge and applying it in Iraq. As a result, Iraq is definitely seeing a pick up in violence and complex attacks. A great example is the recent prison assault at Abu Ghraib in which 500 Al Qaeda prisoners escaped as a result. But check out how they did it.

Monday’s attacks came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launched a “Breaking the Walls” campaign that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, the group said in a statement.Sunni Islamist militants have in recent months been regaining momentum in their insurgency against Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, which came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.The group said it had deployed suicide attackers, rockets, and 12 car bombs, killing 120 Iraqi guards and SWAT forces in the attacks in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.Interior ministry and medical sources said 29 police and soldiers were killed, and 36 wounded.

 12 car bombs? That is quite the assault! (the Taliban were able to release 400 prisoners in the Sarposa prison escape.)DoS is concerned about the surge in violence as well. Here is a quote.

The attacks on the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Taji were carefully synchronized operations in which members of the Qaeda affiliate used mortars to pin down Iraqi forces, employed suicide bombers to punch holes in their defenses and then sent an assault force to free the inmates, Western experts said.

We are concerned about the increased tempo and sophistication of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq,” said a senior State Department official, who requested anonymity because he did not want to be seen as commenting on Iraq’s internal affairs.

The use of mortars is interesting and we saw this weapon used in the Benghazi attack. An effective mortar team can do a lot of damage very quickly if they are able to get in close and have the targeting data.

I wanted to bring these examples up in this post because it is relevant to contractor usage. With increased danger comes more dependence on solid security and defenses. If we want a presence in Iraq to monitor Syria or Iran or the internal developments in Iraq, then security contractors and support will be needed to continue that mission. Or we could pull out altogether….or send troops back in, and I don’t think neither of these options are of national interest.

For Afghanistan, the Taliban will continue to apply the pressure as more troops pull out. They will also do all they can to test the government and show how ineffective they are by making things more chaotic and dangerous. Much like what is going on in Iraq now. Contractors will be there to fill the vacuum left by these departing troops and they will have to deal with this increased danger. (contractor deaths are up to 3357 as of June)

Contractors will continue to train, continue to finish building projects, and continue as normal. We are essential to the massive logistics game of leaving Afghanistan as well. From breaking down camps or equipment deemed too costly to ship, or supporting those who are left, contractors will keep the machine running. -Matt


Contractor Support Of USCENTCOM AOR, 3rd Quarter FY 2013

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Libya: Americans Killed Defending Consulate Were On Contract To Hunt Down MANPADS

One of the Americans killed alongside Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya Tuesday told ABC News before his death that he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to round up dangerous weapons in the war-torn nation.
In an interview with ABC News last month, Glen Doherty, a 42-year-old former Navy SEAL who worked as a contractor with the State Department, said he personally went into the field to track down so-called MANPADS, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, and destroy them. After the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the State Department launched a mission to round up thousands of MANPADS that may have been looted from military installations across the country. U.S. officials previously told ABC News they were concerned the MANPADS could fall into the hands of terrorists, creating a threat to commercial airliners.

Rest in peace to the fallen. These men fought with every measure of their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They were also contractors, tasked with hunting down MANPADS in Libya, which is of vital national interest…and world wide interest.

Also, my condolences go to Brandon and SOFREP for losing a friend and fellow SOFREP team member. He was the ‘resident Naval Special Warfare’ editor there. Go to this link to read more.

As to the company these men worked for and the specific details of the contract, I haven’t a clue. The three articles I posted below give a background of these two men and a background of the MANPADS task force. Supposedly this same task force which was established in 2006, is looking at Syria to do the same thing. -Matt



Two ex-SEALs from SD killed in Libya
By Debbi Baker, Gretel C. Kovach, Nathan Max
September 13, 2012?
Two of the four Americans killed Tuesday after an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya were former Navy SEALs from San Diego County.
Glen Doherty, 42, of Encinitas, and Tyrone Woods, 41, of Imperial Beach, were working at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi as security and intelligence contractors. Also killed were the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and information officer Sean Smith. Three others were wounded.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that Doherty and Woods “died helping protect their colleagues.
“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest gratitude are with their families and friends. Our embassies could not carry on our critical work around the world without the service and sacrifice of brave people like Tyrone and Glen,” she said in a statement.
The two former SEALs settled in San Diego County after initial training in Coronado, where all the elite naval special operators must pass a grueling 21-week test of mental and physical endurance.
Doherty, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Winchester, Mass., was a gregarious outdoorsman and high-octane adventurer, a self-proclaimed “high priest” of “The Cult of Recreationalism,” friends and family said.
The pilot, former ski instructor, surfer and trainer at the CrossFit/SEALFIT gym in Encinitas served nine years as a SEAL before getting out in 2005.

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Syria: What About Those Chemical Weapons And MANPADS?

QUESTION: We’re seeing more and more reports about opposition fighters getting their hands on anti-aircraft weapons, mostly being seized from the Syrian army. I know this was a big concern of the U.S. in Libya, and that a lot of effort and a lot of money went into finding out where these weapons were going. Is that possible even in Syria, and how concerned is this Administration about the possibility of those weapons getting out there?
MS. NULAND: Well, if what you’re talking about it MANPADS, Cami, you know that around the world we have been very concerned about the proliferation of MANPADS and about their use in – on conflict and combat.
That said, we have a Syrian opposition that is facing some of the most egregious and horrific violence we’ve seen exacted on a civilian population anywhere. We have reports, as you know, over the weekend of summary executions by the Syrian regime. We have reports of aerial strafing of people lined up waiting for bread outside of Aleppo.
So, while it is difficult, it’s not surprising that unfortunately the opposition is fighting back in whatever way it can to try to protect civilians. And this is a direct result of the fact that the Assad regime is not stopping its assault and, in fact, is continuing its assault and using increasingly horrible and brutal methods.
QUESTION: But this will be a big problem if, as you say, the Assad regime is going eventually, and then you have all of these weapons out there, and not knowing who all the various opposition people are, you’ve got all these weapons again.
MS. NULAND: Right. Well, as we’ve said a number of times here, and as the Secretary said in Istanbul, as we look at what we’re calling day-after planning – planning on the U.S. side but also internationally for how we can support the Syrian people after Assad goes and when they’re in that transition phase – one of the key issues we’re looking at is how we might be able to offer support in securing, safeguarding some of the most dangerous weapons from the Assad era. So it would not only be some of these kinds of things, but also chemical weapons, et cetera. That’ll certainly be a very, very big job for them, and we are looking at how we can be ready to help if we’re asked. -State Department Briefing by Victoria Nuland, August 27, 2012

Syria is definitely a troubling problem when it comes to weapons, and losing control of them. This country actually has large stores of chemical weapons, along with a scattering of MANPADS like SA-7’s throughout the country at various bases. As more terrain is gained by the rebels, the chances of these weapon sites being exploited by the rebels and anyone else in the area is high. Losing control of those weapons is not good, and the fear is that they will find their way into other parts of the world and be used in terrorist attacks. Or even used in all out assaults against countries like Israel.

The question is, what will be done about it?  That is the million dollar question.

For one, I believe we will just have to assume that some of this stuff will be taken and smuggled away to wherever. I don’t think we can prevent that unless we have troops and folks on the ground, physically going in there and securing or taking these weapons.  As it stands now, it seems like we are dependent upon the honesty of those rebels in Syria that are involved in the fighting. But any jihadists with them could care less about what the west thinks, and yet the jihadists are there on the ground and actively fighting along side these guys.

If we were to put folks on the ground, what would be more politically feasible–military or contractors? That is a question I have thrown around on Facebook and have received lots of interesting feedback. Some say the military is better equipped and other say that contractors are equally capable and politically more feasible than the military. Who knows, and both resources could do the job. Hell, a combination of both would be even better. Someone to take the sites in the initial phases (military) and someone to hold the site after things have cooled down (contractors).

With any intervention we do, it will certainly require a partnership with the locals. I suggest using the CMC projects in Iraq as a possible model of operation for any contractor based solution. In Iraq, the Coalitions Munition Clearance program was a contract completely run by civilians and Army Corps of Engineers to secure old Iraqi Ammo Supply Points that were damaged in the war, and ‘clear’ or destroy those weapons on site. The program was highly successful and helped to remove tons of weapons from the battlefield that could have otherwise been used by the insurgents.

But a program like this is highly dependent on areas that are not contested in war zones. In other words, a project needs to be set up in territory that has been taken from the Syrian government. If not, that contracted security force could end up doing some heavy duty fighting or defending and be outgunned. But in zones being loosely held by local forces, negotiations can be made and the security of that site can become a priority and even a cash cow for the locals. I think the locals would also appreciate someone willing to go in there and destroy that nasty stuff.

What can be done is to ready private forces to move in as soon as territory has been gained, or to move in as soon as there has been a complete collapse of the government. Because then at that point, arrangements can be done with local leaders, tribes, etc.–much like how the CMC projects worked. The project can also employ local Syrians in doing some of the non-technical work. The guard force can be a combination of Syrians and expats. Like I said before, the CMC projects are a great model of operation for something like this.

Besides, companies are already being tasked with chemical munitions management and destruction. In the US, Tetra Tech just won a 489 million dollar CMA contract to do just that. Hell, they are even going to Vietnam to clean up agent orange sites. Here is a  quote:

Tetra Tech, Inc. recently announced that it has secured an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract worth $489 million from the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) and is a part of Integration Support V (PAIS V) contract.

As per the contract, the company will be providing program management and technical support to the CMA and the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program at facilities across the U.S for the next five years.

Tetra Tech will also support a variety of program management, integration and technical services support for aiding efficient destruction of chemical warfare and related material. This support comprises environmental studies, design, monitoring, operations and maintenance, quality assurance, safety and logistics support services.

Simultaneously, the PAIS V contract activities enable the U.S. Army to fulfill the international chemical weapons conventions and move toward disintegration of chemical agent disposal facilities and stockpile storage areas.

Apart from this, Tech will also be helping CMA in managing its non-stockpile chemical material program and chemical stockpile emergency preparedness program.

In addition, Tetra Tech recently received a contract for the excavation and construction activities related to the environmental decontamination of Vietnam’s Da Nang Airport, affected by dioxin pollution. This contamination was the result of the use of chemical herbicides and defoliant during the Vietnam War.

Tetra Tech was also one of the companies used in Iraq for the CMC projects. So the private side of this solution is there and it is capable.

One final note is about these MANPADS in Syria. It is very difficult to get a fix on who has them or where they are at. There are a few folks out there that are putting together a picture for public consumption. Especially with all of these videos and social media related bits of news. CJ Chivers is one of those guys doing an awesome job, and he goes into how to properly view and pick apart these videos. Here is another blogger that is tracking the locations of Syrian MANPADS that have been identified in news stories.

As this develops, we will see the direction it takes. The west is definitely interested in securing this stuff, and the real question will be ‘how’. Perhaps we will see a repeat of how we did things in Libya, or this might require a different direction…Who knows? I do know that the clock is ticking and the rebellion is not waiting for anyone. -Matt


Destroying munitions in Iraq.


Worries intensify over Syrian chemical weapons
By Joby Warrick
September 6, 2012
Western spy agencies suspect Syria’s government has several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components scattered among as many as 20 sites throughout the country, heightening anxieties about the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say.
Officials are monitoring the storage sites, but they expressed growing fear that they have not identified every location and that some of the deadly weapons could be stolen or used by Syrian troops against civilians.
“We think we know everything, but we felt the same way about Libya,” said a former American intelligence official who was briefed on U.S. preparations for both conflicts. “We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations.” The former official was one of several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

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Industry Talk: FBO News– US Trade And Development Agency ‘Definitional Missions’, Libya

Man, they should have done this awhile back. But this is cool none the less. Libya has the money and has plenty of reconstruction projects that companies can assist in. So this is great that the USTDA is making this happen.

Now of course the NTC is still trying to get everyone under the same tent and they will be dealing with internal issues for awhile. But as life normalizes throughout the country and services/jobs are brought back into the fold, then perhaps people will have better things to do than fight amongst each other.

On another note is the strategic use of contractors or private industry. The solicitation even mentions this. Check it out.

The Libyan sectors targeted for review under the new USTDA initiatives are: (1) Oil and Gas; (2) Power Generation; (3) Transportation, and: (4) Information and Communications Technology.
USTDA’s stated purpose behind the sector evaluations is to increase “strategic opportunities for the utilization of U.S. goods, services, and technologies as the country rebuilds its economy…”

‘Oil and gas’ is of utmost strategic importance to the west, and especially Europe. So hemming up those other sectors are key to supporting this oil and gas sector. It’s a little hard for engineers to drive out to the plant, if the roads suck or they can’t make a phone call to arrange a meeting as an example.  All of these sectors help support one another, and together they help in stabilizing the country and getting that oil and gas production humming along. Or at least that is the idea behind this stuff, and private industry is key to make that happen.

Not only that, but a country like Libya is perfect for today’s contingency operations companies. Especially as Iraq or Afghanistan continues to wind down. It is also great for US companies who are wanting to expand their opportunities into other markets, and Libya is prime for that.  Below this first article, I also posted a quick snippet of all four USTDA solicitations on FBO with links. Check it out. -Matt


Obama eyes rebuilding business – in AFRICA!
Sending contractors to evaluate plans by National Transitional Council
By Steve Peacock
April 2012
The Obama administration is considering future funding of industry modernization ventures in Libya, and has proposed sending contractors to assess U.S. investment prospects.
Four separate “definitional missions,” or DMs, soon will be carried out by private vendors on behalf of the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, an independent White House entity.
According to planning documents that WND located via routine database research, USTDA has issued Requests for Proposals from contractors capable of identifying and evaluating industry projects that Libya’s National Transitional Council is proposing.
The USTDA-funded missions come at a time when the council is struggling to contain divisive conflicts between tribal and regional militias.
As WND reported last month, the NTC is threatening to use force to keep those opposing forces in check, a move seen by some as necessary to avoid fracturing the nation.

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Syria: In Syria, Send In The Mercenaries, By J. Michael Barrett

This perked me up, just because Syria is the new ‘Libya’ when it comes to any kind of western involvement. But involvement is a lot more precarious in this case, and the folks we would be supporting are questionable. And like the piece below mentioned, we tend to arm and train folks that end up turning against us down the line. So the author below presents the alternative, or using mercenaries, as opposed to arming rebels and forever losing control of the weapons we throw at the problem.

What makes this article so interesting to me, is the author. This guy is not some yahoo. He is the CEO of Diligent Innovations and a former ‘Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council(Feb.-Oct., 2007) , Intelligence Officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Senior Analyst for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff‘ . You might also recognize him from all of the interviews he has done on the various cable news shows.

Not only that, but he is a Wikistrat expert. Wikistrat has quite the pool of experts and to be one of them, you have to have some game in the beltway. Some of his fellow Wikistrat experts include such names as John Robb of Global Guerrillas, Dr. Ann Marie-Slaughter (R2P), Dr. Thomas PM Barnett (Sys Admin), Professor Allison Stanger, and the list goes on….

So back to this deal in Syria. I would be curious if this concept of using mercenaries instead of arming folks has been mulled around at Wikistrat?  Or if Michael has actually given this some serious thought on how this would work?

Or it could be just a piece that raises an idea for those to either support or strike down based on it’s merits. From a technical point of view, I guess a company could be called upon to perform offensive operations.  MPRI definitely helped in the planning and strategy for Croatia during the Balkans crisis. Executive Outcomes was contracted to fight and win wars both in Sierra Leone and Angola. So technically, a company or companies could provide this service. (the author mentioned The Flying Tigers, and he gets kudos for that!)

In Libya, contractors and mercenaries were used on both sides of the conflict, and they are still there. Hell, contractors were calling in targets for the air campaign and individuals were joining the rebel army. Here is a quote from Simon Mann about Libya.

In the Libyan revolution further lines of demarcation – between government forces and PMC forces – became more blurred. From Tripoli it has been reported that UK ex-Special Forces were used, in some places, instead of regular troops. This came about because of the uncontrolled and the ‘everywhere’ presence of war correspondents, accredited and otherwise. Their prying eyes made the covert deployment of SAS and SBS troops difficult.

Even so, the need for trained laser designator operators to bring in air dropped laser bombs, with as much precision as possible, had to be met. Therefore designator kits were supplied to ex- UK SF contractors. These were men whose salaries were being paid for by the oil companies, for oil field site security. They were already in country, already on contract.

Even for Syria, there have been reports of contractor involvement. During the whole STRATFOR data breach deal, emails detailed that SCG International has been involved with helping the opposition in Syria.

So I guess my point is that the waters are being tested for how best to approach Syria. Do we do nothing and allow a brutal regime to murder their own people? Do we arm and train the opposition, with the possibility that some day those weapons and training might be used against the west?  Or do we send in mercenaries because sending troops is something a war weary west is not that interested in or willing to pay for?  Or maybe we do nothing at all, and watch a massacre take place. Not a lot of easy answers.

One thing is for sure. If Syria falls, then jihadists would be able to capitalize on the situation.  If weapons and munitions are captured or liberated during the course of the revolution (much like what happened in Libya), they will find their way into other wars and terrorist operations.

Jihadists will also find their way into the politics of Syria, much like how the Muslim Brotherhood gained political market share in Egypt. So basically we would see extremists replace a dictator. The question here is can the west win over a rebel group and gain influence by assisting them, or will we be demonized despite our actions and contributions, just because of the islamic extremist influence within that revolution?  Can we compete in that kind of environment and should we be involved?

Might I also add that Saudi Arabia and GCC nations are getting involved and adding money to the pot. Upper level leadership in the US are getting involved and pushing to do something in Syria. Of course Russia is sending folks to support Assad, and China is showing their support for Assad as well. So things are happening and who knows how this will turn out.

It is also important to bring up this responsibility to protect deal as well. If the west feels it has an obligation to intervene–to stop a massacre, then something more than talk needs to happen. It takes action and the will to make it happen, and it also requires a realistic look at what we want to accomplish strategically in the region. Sending troops is a bridge too far for a war weary, cash strapped, and politically paranoid/sensitive west, and maybe contractors paid by GCC donors is the ticket? I will keep a look out for further industry involvement in Syria and this one will be interesting to follow. -Matt



In Syria, send in the mercenaries
J. Michael Barrett
April 10, 2012
The world community, including the United States, is at a crossroads about the right steps to forcefully prevent the further slaughter of civilians in Syria. There are many good reasons to intervene — to stop the death, detention and probable torture of any number of innocents; to support the democratic right of people to consent to rule by a freely elected government; and to avoid a repeat of the U.S. inaction that allowed Iran’s dictatorship to prevail in 2009.
There are just as many reasons not to intervene — the sovereignty of nations; the moral hazard of providing U.S. troops where our national interest does not dictate; and the uncertainty about those we would be helping take power. All the while, do-nothing diplomatic talks and easily ignored cease-fires continue to fail because the talking doesn’t change the facts on the ground.
But is there another way — something more effective than merely clamoring for calm, but less direct than intervening militarily or arming and training the rebels?
In fact, there is. Throughout the ages, the answer to such situations has been to raise an army for hire and send in the mercenaries. This was done throughout the great power struggles of the first and second millennia across the globe, and in more recent decades across Africa. Libya’s Gadhafi tried to use mercenaries to defend his regime just last year. We also placed many guns-for-hire in Iraq and Afghanistan, provided by the likes of Triple Canopy and the company formerly known as Blackwater.
Perhaps the most relevant example here is the World War II American Volunteers Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers.” Prior to Pearl Harbor, when America was not yet party to World War II, these combat pilots’ actions were known but not officially endorsed by the White House under President Franklin Roosevelt. They were pure mercenaries, pilots who resigned their U.S. military commissions to serve in a foreign air force for high pay — some received $600 a month in 1941 dollars and with the promise of $500 more for every Japanese plane they shot down.
The pay-for-service model suited the needs of the day. It allowed skilled fighters to side-step the moral and legal hazard of sending uniformed U.S. troops, whose duty is to uphold the Constitution by fighting our enemies, not to intervene in missions that lack a direct national security rationale.
One potential roadblock of note is the Neutrality Act of 1794, a centuries-old congressional effort to ensure the then-fledgling U.S. was not dragged into wars by citizens acting as mercenaries in conflicts where the United States was not engaged. However, this law, rarely enforced, reflects outdated thinking about the modality and nature of declarations of war. It also treats violations as a misdemeanor. If the imperative to save lives is so strong, Congress or President Obama could surely find a path around it, including a waiver or other injunction. Beyond that, the government’s only role would be to work behind the scenes to have Saudi Arabia and other interested nations pick up the tab, much as they did during the process of countering the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Given the perceived imperative to intervene in Syria, but the countervailing duty to respect state sovereignty and the lack of United Nations sanction (due to perpetual vetoes by China and Russia), mercenaries might well be the best prescription, Neutrality Act or no. They would allow the U.S. to avoid arming the locals directly, about whose character and intent we know little.
This would not resolve the underlying question of who comes to power after the regime falls, but it would allow for a humane defense of the Syrian population without committing America officially or putting American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at risk.
J. Michael Barrett, the CEO of Diligent Innovations, is a former Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council and a former Naval Intelligence Officer.
Link to post here.
J.Michael Barrett
Mike is a national security expert and noted author with an extensive background in defense policy, military intelligence, and support to US counter-terrorism operations. His extensive national security credentials include serving as the Director of Strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council, Intelligence Officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Senior Analyst for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Feb.-Oct., 2007).
Mike has been interviewed on television and radio by ABC, The Canadian Broadcast Company, Fox News, FRONTLINE, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, The New York Metro News, New York Sun, and The Washington Post. He also is the co-author of two books on security and counter-terrorism (including a New York Times Best Seller) and has authored more than a dozen journal and opinion-editorial articles.

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