Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yemen is the Future of War

No, no, they don't mean the sick and starving kids.....

"Emirates secretly sends Colombian mercenaries to fight in Yemen" by Emily B. Hager and Mark Mazzetti New York Times  November 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — 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 in 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, 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.

And the past!! There have been mercenaries since the days of Greeks.

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.

Not interested in fighting the wars themselves, just interested in hiring others to do it while they live the good life far removed from it all.

So what happened?

“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight,” said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “The Modern Mercenary.”

Atlantic Council is the Sunni Islam equivalent of AIPAC. Think Chuck Hagel, remember him and that sound and furry?

“The private military industry is global now,” said McFate, adding that the United States essentially “legitimized” the industry with its heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade of war. “Latin American mercenaries are a sign of what’s to come,” he said.

The Colombian troops in Yemen, handpicked from a brigade of some 1,800 Latin American soldiers training at an Emirati military base, were woken up in the middle of the night for their deployment to Yemen last month. They were ushered out of their barracks as their bunkmates continued sleeping, and were later issued dog tags and ranks in the Emirati military. Those left behind are being trained to use grenade launchers and armored vehicles that Emirati troops use in Yemen.

Emirati officials have made a point of recruiting Colombian troops over other Latin American soldiers because they consider the Colombians more battle tested in guerrilla warfare, having spent decades battling the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the jungles of Colombia.

The exact mission of the Colombians in Yemen is unclear, and one person involved in the project said it could be weeks before they saw regular combat. They join hundreds of Sudanese soldiers whom Saudi Arabia has recruited to fight there as part of the coalition.

Dozens of Emirati special operations troops have died since they arrived in southern Yemen in August. A single rocket attack in early September killed 45, along with several Saudi and Bahrani soldiers.

The presence of the Latin American troops is an official secret in the Emirates, and the government has made no public mention of their deployment to Yemen. Yousef Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to Washington, declined to comment. A spokesman for US Central Command, the military headquarters overseeing America’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, also declined to comment.

The Latin American force in the Emirates was originally conceived to carry out mostly domestic missions — guarding pipelines and other sensitive infrastructure and possibly putting down riots in the sprawling camps housing foreign workers in the Emirates — according to corporate documents, US officials, and several people involved in the project.

The troops were told that they might one day be called for foreign combat missions, but until the deployment to Yemen the only external missions they were given were as security on commercial cargo vessels.

Those missions were rare, and soldiers involved in the project describe years of monotony at the desert camp, housed within a sprawling Emirati military base called Zayed Military City. A number of Westerners, including several Americans, live at the camp and serve as trainers for the Latin American troops.

They stay largely because of the money, receiving salaries 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.

That only motivates for so long. When people are fighting for the homes and families (as we see in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well the past lesson of Vietnam) they are far more committed, and the money angle tends to dry up when your actual life is on the line. I'm outta here tends to come to mind.


"Recruiting mercenaries for Middle East fuels rancor in Colombia" by Matthew Bristow and Nafeesa Syeed Bloomberg News  December 31, 2015

BOGOTA — Colombia’s government is frustrated at having its top soldiers lured to the Middle East as mercenaries for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates when they are still needed to fight insurgents and drug traffickers, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said.

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has deployed Colombian contractors, according to a former army officer who has been involved in recruiting contractors and a senior government official, who asked not to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Soldiers are persuaded to quit the army when their terms of enlistment end by the prospect of earning about seven times as much in the Middle East, the former officer said.

Colombia’s efforts to negotiate with Middle East governments over the hiring of mercenaries have so far failed, Villegas said in a Dec. 22 interview in Bogota. While Colombia has reached a tentative peace accord with the country’s biggest rebel group, its special forces are targeting new mafia groups seeking to fill a void left by a planned demobilization.

‘‘My complaint is why, for instance, the U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia have not been able to negotiate a treaty with Colombia to regulate that relationship,’’ Villegas said. ‘‘Every time we approach those governments, the answer is no, we’re not interested in a treaty.’’

Under a treaty, Colombia could send instructors to the Middle East on a temporary basis, he said. This would be preferable to the current situation, whereby ‘‘someone in the underground of Bogota tries to reach our armed forces to see how 20 of our special forces can go undercover to the Middle East,’’ he said.

No Saudi or U.A.E. government officials were available to comment about their use of Colombian soldiers and the potential for an agreement with the South American country’s government.

Colombian troops are among the most battle-hardened in the Americas, having fought in jungles and mountains for five decades against a guerrilla insurgency. In an operation in October, special forces tracked down and killed Victor Ramon Navarro, known as ‘‘Megateo,’’ a cocaine trafficker with a private army who dominated a mountainous region bordering Venezuela. Elite troops ‘‘are key for the moment we are living,’’ Villegas said.

An experienced former Colombian soldier can earn $90 per day in the Middle East, compared with about $375 per month back home in the regular army, while someone of officer rank who speaks English can earn $250, according to the former army officer. The ex-officer estimates that there are about 2,000 Colombians working as contractors in the U.A.E., and said he knew of about 200 being sent to Yemen for roles such as guarding bases. The troops haven’t yet been involved in combat, he said.

Asked whether Colombia could mitigate the problem by increasing its soldiers’ wages, Villegas said, ‘‘I can’t compete with Abu Dhabi.’’

The Saudi-led coalition, which includes the U.A.E., is fighting Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen who drove President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi out of the country early this year.

Villegas said he’s aware of former troops being hired to guard infrastructure. The government hasn’t yet received any information about Colombian citizens having died in fighting in Yemen, according to a senior official in the Foreign Affairs Ministry who asked not to be named because she is not authorized to speak publicly.

Colombia’s troops have few peers in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to their battlefield experience, the country’s troops have won seven of the last 10 ‘‘Fuerzas Comando,’’ an annual competition among special forces soldiers from the Americas, including the U.S.

Hiring foreigners or contractors to wage war or defend installations is an age-old military practice.

Gee, I was told it was a glimpse into the future!

Nepalese Gurkhas have long been a part of the British and Indian armies. The French Foreign Legion, founded in the early 19th century, includes foreign citizens and has been deployed everywhere from Algeria to Kosovo. The U.S. relied on contractors to provide security to bases and personnel following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Like they don't know wherever a base may be.

That history carries little weight with Villegas. He said Colombia needs to maintain its army at full strength even after a peace deal, to prevent a surge in crime and disorder, and that its special forces are vital.

‘‘They are the best special forces on the continent,’’ he said. What’s happening now with the Gulf states is ‘‘not illegal, but it’s unfriendly.’’


Related: Up and Down in the U.A.E.

Also see:

First Day of Ramadan

Lunch Break

Hardly a mor$el on the plate if you were lucky enough to get one. Maybe you can eat that.