The Crazy Story Of A CIA-Backed Puntland Anti-Piracy Squad that Got Stranded InThe Desert With Their Guns Is Unbelievable !!
Michael Shanklin, a former C.I.A. station chief in Mogadishu, was reportedly hired to work his contacts both in Washington and East Africa to build support for the force while Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, made several trips to the Puntland camp to oversee the training of the counter-piracy force.
The Times notes that Prince, a former U.S. Navy Seal who had become an informal adviser to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, was simultaneously “involved in a project to train Colombian mercenaries at a desert camp in the emirates to carry out missions at the behest of the Emirati government.”
(Sidenote: According to leaked emails from the private U.S. security firm Stratfor, during this time period the former director of Blackwater, former CIA officer Jamie F. Smith, was aiding the Libyan opposition and subsequently sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee.)
The South African trainers bailed in June 2012 after one was shot by a Somali trainee, and recently about 500 former trainees—unpaid for weeks—were seen wandering the Puntland Maritime Police Force desert compound with two-years worth of weapons.
The Times notes that the options for the armed and semi-trained mercenaries included joining up “with the pirates or Qaeda-linked militants or to sell themselves to the highest bidder in Somalia’s clan wars.”
Well-Armed Fighters Left to Fend for Themselves as UAE Pulls Funds
It apparently seemed like a good idea at the time, but the United Arab Emirates has gotten sick of throwing money at the operation and pulled the plug. Now, the hundreds of mercenaries are sitting on a secret desert base with potentially millions of dollars in heavy weapons illegally smuggled into Somalia and nothing to do. The decision apparently came after an April incident when the fighters attacked and killed a South African trainer. The corporation put in charge of the mission, the shadowy Sterling Corporate Services, insisted at the time that it was an isolated incident, but quickly withdrew its trainers, leaving the recruits stranded on a base in the Puntland desert.
But they likely won’t stay on that base for long, as those familiar with the situation say that the fighters, who were not ideologically motivated to join the anti-piracy fight in the first place, are liable to take their weapons and head out looking for new employers, with pirates among the likely bidders.
The monitors also revealed four unarmed and unmarked ‘CIA helicopters’, used to ferry troops into Puntland from a base in neighbouring Djiboutiat Camp Lemonier, a US base in Djibouti, according to the report. The UN even published a picture of the aircraft.
Alongside the CIA helicopters, private contractors hired by the US flew ‘sixty-five flights to Puntland between August 2011 and March 2012,’ adds the report. The monitors believe these were in support of the Puntland security services, and ‘the US confirmed that on one occasion’.
The full extent of these operations remains a mystery. Despite spending seven months on the ground, the monitors’ study is limited by what its researchers could uncover.The vast majority of surveillance flights, whether operated by drones or manned aircraft, are not declared to civil aviation authorities and go undetected from the ground.
As the Bureau’s data shows, CIA S Forces have been carrying out out covert operations in Somalia since just after 9/11.
CIA Used Blackwater For Secret Assassination Program during the Bush Administration
NYT: The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.
Leon Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, has already ended the program and Blackwater’s role was eliminated when C.I.A. officials questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in an assassination operation. Still, Blackwater’s controversial past raises questions whatever role the firm played:
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.
What a strange world we live in. The government is doing everything the private sector used to do–like run car companies and fund banks–while the private sector is going all those traditonally governmental tasks–like killing people and running jails.
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