Posts Tagged Mercenaries

Legal News: Did Russia Just Legalize PMSC’s?

I am at the ends of my research on this. What I wanted to do is put this out there to see if anyone has anything to add to this? I do not speak or read Russian or follow Russian legal stuff. I do try to follow what countries are actually doing with private forces though.

In the past I have posted about Russia wanting to legalize PMSC’s and the legal effort seemed to go nowhere. The Slavonic Corps in Syria highlighted the idea that legally speaking, Russian law had not caught up with Russia’s use of PMSC’s.  I believe that Ukraine and Syria have become testbeds for Russia’s use of private forces, and it makes sense that their use would finally be legalized.

The other reason why I bring this up, is apparently Russia has been awarding medals to contractors that were killed in places like Syria? That sounds like official recognition of private forces to me.

Back to this Law No. 53 mentioned below. Does it cancel out Article 348 of the Russian Criminal Code, which makes mercenary work illegal? I only have this one article from Zeit Online that talks about this deal. Here is the clip below.  –Matt

Edit: 02/08/2017 RT reported that the Duma passed some legislation in December of last year, which aligns with the time period that Zeit discusses. Check it out here.

A Little Known Change in the Law (February 6, 2017)

Two days before the new year, Vladimir Putting signed a legal amendment. The state-aligned media reported very little about the development and the foreign press hasn’t covered it at all yet. But it could have far-reaching consequences. The change was made to Law No. 53, pertaining to military conscription in Russia. Following the change, the law now states that anyone who has completed basic military service or is a reservist is to be considered a member of the Russian military if that person “prevents international terrorist activities outside the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Given that almost every man in Russia completes military service after finishing school, the new law pertains to almost all Russian men. If they fight against terrorists, they are now considered to be members of the military, even if they don’t officially belong to a unit of the Russian military under the control of the Defense Ministry. In other words: Law No. 53 permits the deployment of Russian mercenaries around the world and allows for augmenting the Russian military with private military firms. The law went into force on Jan. 9, 2017.

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Strategy: The Future Of War, By Sean McFate

I really liked this presentation because it brings in all of the elements that I have been talking about on this blog, into a nice format that Dr. Sean McFate has put together. It is definitely worth your time to watch and absorb.

The thing that stood out to me was the discussion of the strategic uses of private forces or PMSC’s. He presents the case that A. the industry is not going away B. we are reverting back to a pre-westphalian era, and C. that the west might not want to use PMSC’s for waging war, but other countries like China or Russia have no issue with them.

It is that dynamic that is interesting to me. That countries are slowly going towards the use of PMSC’s to wage war, and they are doing it as a part of their national interest. Russia for example used their little green men hybrid warfare strategy in the Ukraine. Iran uses mercenaries in Syria. And then there is China and their use of maritime militias. Even with the west, contractors have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to supplement manpower shortages in this wars. The common theme here is that private forces are used as a part of a larger ‘strategy’, and this presentation challenges those who are closed minded or unaware of those uses. It forces the viewer to think about how PMSC’s are used, or could be used, strategically.

In the past, I have discussed all sorts of interesting ways that private forces have been used for the sake of national interest. The very first overseas land operation of the US was the Battle of Derna (Shores of Tripoli from the Marine Hymn) in Libya, where a small contingent of Marines/Army commanded several hundred Christian and Islamic mercenaries to fight in the First Barbary War. The early privateers that the US used in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were another example of the use of PMSC’s as a part of a larger strategy to support national interest. The Flying Tigers was another example of modern aviation PMSC’s, or Britain’s Watchguard International Lmtd. in Yemen, or even recently with STTEP in Nigeria. Private forces can be used to great effect, and there are historical cases that make this point.

Sean covers a broad scope of ideas, and they are provocative to the say the least. What I wanted to post was the ten ideas of this future war he describes. Bear in mind, he is mostly referencing what is going on right now, and trying to envision where this goes with each point.

1. There will never be ‘symmetry’.

2. Technology won’t save us.

3. States matter less.

4. Warriors are masked and may not fight for states.

5. Laws of war and international law don’t apply.

6. There will be a market for force with mercenaries.

7. Others will wage war and new kinds of superpowers will emerge.

8. Plausible deniability is power.

9. Hearts and minds matter very little.

10. There will be more war.

I won’t ruin the whole thing for the reader, but I did want to comment on one deal he brought up that is not discussed a lot out there. He mentioned ‘hack back‘ companies, or basically cyber companies contracted to attack hackers or countries that used hackers to attack those companies. To me, this is pure cyber privateering, and we are getting close to the concept of state sanctioned hacking as this becomes more of a problem. I am reminded of the attack on Sony, and how brutal that was. Or worse, hacks on nuclear facilities…. In the past I have talked about how the Letter of Marque could be used for this as a means of keeping it in check. As more companies or countries get attacked by hackers who are sponsored by states, the idea of attacking back becomes more and more a thing to consider. For a further exploration of cyber privateering, I suggest the Morgan Doctrine blog. Interesting stuff and check it out below. If you are interested in further exploring this topic, I highly recommend Sean’s book called The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order. –Matt

 

The future of war points.

A screen shot of the future of war points.

 

 

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Yemen: UAE Deploys It’s Colombian Mercenaries To Yemen

Very interesting news and I thought I would put this up on the blog incase someone has any other information to add to this news. I held off on talking about this when news of it first trickled out, all because I could not find any legitimate news group to confirm it. The New York Times was the group that originally broke the story about Reflex Responses and I put that up on the blog back in 2011. I haven’t heard much about it since.

I do know that the whole thing switched from a PMSC scheme with Reflex Responses as the recruiting company, to just a recruitment of Latin Americans directly to fight for the UAE armed forces. I talked about that transition here and here. It has been quite the drain on the Colombian market of force. Those guys must have been pretty bored all of these years.

Now that the UAE actually has a war to fight in Yemen, and they have lost a few of their own in that war, I am sure the idea of using more foreign troops to do that job will be more appealing to the locals of the UAE. The houthis and Saleh’s guys are definitely giving them a fight, and even launching ballistic missiles.

Back to the deployment of mercenaries in Yemen. What is interesting is that there is some history of mercenaries being used in that part of the world. Former SAS guys were recruited to fight there back in the sixties and did quite well. I imagine the current coalition will use these Colombian/Latin forces for basic infantry tasks, like guarding facilities or light patrolling. We will see how far they will go in their usage. Here is a quote about the make up of this force and what they are getting paid.

The Emiratis have spent the equivalent of millions of dollars equipping the unit, from firearms and armored vehicles to communications systems and night vision technology. But Emirati leaders rarely visit the camp. When they do, the troops put on tactical demonstrations, including rappelling from helicopters and driving armored dune buggies.
And yet they stay largely because of the money, receiving salaries ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, compared with approximately $400 a month they would make in Colombia. Those troops who deploy to Yemen will receive an additional $1,000 per week, according to a person involved in the project and a former senior Colombian military officer.
Hundreds of Colombian troops have been trained in the Emirates since the project began in 2010 — so many that the Colombian government once tried to broker an agreement with Emirati officials to stanch the flow headed to the Persian Gulf. Representatives from the two governments met, but an agreement was never signed.
Most of the recruiting of former troops in Colombia is done by Global Enterprises, a Colombian company run by a former special operations commander named Oscar Garcia Batte. Mr. Batte is also co-commander of the brigade of Colombian troops in the Emirates, and is part of the force now deployed in Yemen.

I could not find Oscar’s company online and if anyone has a link, I will update it here. I did find him on Linkedin, but no mention of Global Enterprises. Interesting stuff and we will see how it goes for them. I imagine we will see more of this kind of thing amongst the wealthy gulf nations. ISIS and Al Qaeda are both expanding and morphing into hybrid terrorist armies, and Iran continues to meddle and cause trouble. The middle east will continue to require manpower for it’s wars and security, and private industry will certainly answer the call. –Matt

 

Emirates Secretly Sends Colombian Mercenaries to Fight in Yemen
By EMILY B. HAGER and MARK MAZZETTI
NOV. 25, 2015
The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.
It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has quietly built in the desert over the past five years, according to several people currently or formerly involved with the project. The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.
The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.
It is also a glimpse into the future of war. Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010. But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

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History: George Washington On Starting His Own PMSC To Combat The British

Mr. President, I am a soldier and believe in being prepared. For that and other reasons, I will give my vote for the resolutions of the gentleman from Hanover. Rather than submit to the present condition of things, I will raise one thousand men, subsist them at my own expense, and march myself at their head to the relief of Boston.– George Washington

This is a cool quote from American history that you don’t hear much about. Obviously Washington did not have to raise an army in this fashion, but it is interesting that he put it out there. That he was willing to finance such an army if no one else was going to act.

What is also interesting is that George Washington was very familiar with concept of privatized warfare from his experience fighting with the Royal American Mercenary Regiment (RAMR) during the French and Indian War. He was also a champion of actually paying soldiers as opposed to asking them to do what they did, purely out of love of country. Washington found out that with a volunteer militia, it’s a little hard to keep guys focused when they can’t be home to make money or grow food to support their family. Paying a salary kept their heads in the game, and helped reduce attrition.

The other area of privatized warfare that Washington was involved with was privateering. He actually owned stock in privateering ventures and was a supporter of issuing the Letter of Marque to privateers to fight wars.

The artwork posted below is also interesting. That would be the uniform he wore during the French and Indian War. I noted in the past that this war was significant because this is where Washington learned how to fight and lead men in combat. He learned from the various mercenaries that came to fight in the RAMR, and he used that knowledge and experience and applied it later on. –Matt

 

Charles Willson Peale is the Artist. This is the earliest authenticated portrait of George Washington and shows him wearing his colonel’s uniform of the Virginia Regiment from the French and Indian War. The portrait was painted about 12 years after Washington’s service in that war, and several years before he would reenter military service in the American Revolution. 1772

 

Patrick Henry: “Liberty”

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience.”

As the British army tightened the noose around Boston, the Virginia Assembly met in an extralegal session to discuss what steps to take in the wake of what was happening up North. The British hoped that by isolating Boston, they could stamp out the revolution. As the speech below demonstrates, the effect was the opposite of what the British desired, for Virginians—and other colonists—realized that “If they can do it to Boston, they can do it to us.”

The words of the debate were later written from memory by William Wirt, and though they may not be the exact words spoken by Patrick Henry and others, the general consensus among historians is that they certainly contain the spirit of Henry’s remarks and are consistent with what we know of his eloquence. He was, in many ways, the voice of the American Revolution. Likewise, the authenticity of the remarks by George Washington has been called into question, but again, they probably accurately reflect his feelings. Loyal almost to the last, he was now thoroughly fed up with the British.

The members address the president of the meeting to gain the floor. The President acknowledges each by the jurisdiction which he represents.

Mr. Pendleton: Mr. President.

The President: The gentleman from Caroline.

Mr. Pendleton: I hope this Convention will proceed slowly before rushing the country into war. Is this a moment to disgust our friends in England who are laboring for the repeal of the unjust taxes which afflict us, to extinguish all the conspiring sympathies which are working in our favor, to turn their friendship into hatred, their pity into revenge? Are we ready for war? Where are our stores—where our arms—where our soldiers—where our money, the sinews of war? They are nowhere to be found in sufficient force or abundance to give us reasonable hope of successful resistance. In truth, we are poor and defenseless, and should strike when it becomes absolutely necessary—not before. And yet the gentlemen in favor of this resolution talk of assuming the front of war, of assuming it, too, against a nation one of the most formidable in the world. A nation ready and armed at all points; her navy riding in triumph in every sea; her armies never marching but to certain victory. For God’s sake, Mr. President, let us be patient—let us allow all reasonable delay, and then if the worse comes to the worst, we will have no feelings of blame. There is no man in this Convention more attached to the liberties of this country than is the man who addresses you. But think before we sacrifice perhaps everything to the spirit of indignation and revenge. Think of the strength and lustre which we derive from our connection with Great Britain—the domestic comforts which we have drawn from the same source—the ties of trade and business—the friends and relatives we have in England. The tyrannies from which we suffer are, after all, the tyrannies of a party in temporary possession of power. Give a little time, take no hostile action, and these tyrants will be overthrown in England and men in sympathy with America will assume authority. Our ills will pass away and the sunshine of the halcyon days of old will come back again. We must arm, you say; but gentlemen must remember that blows are apt to follow the arming, and blood will follow blows, and, sir, when this occurs the dogs of war will be loosed, friends will be converted into enemies, and this flourishing country will be swept with a tornado of death and destruction.

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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 website here.

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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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.
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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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