By Sam Vaknin
SKOPJE, Macedonia, July
17 (UPI) -- Dutch Radio, based on reports leaked by a
Dutch military analysis firm, had accused the United
States government of aiding and abetting terrorists in
Not for the first time, the Americans were rumored to
have hired the services of MPRI -- Military
Professional Resources Inc. -- to train and assist the
rebels of the NLA, the Albanian National Liberation
Army, which skirmished for months with the Macedonian
police and military throughout last year.
MPRI is a leading private military company whose
presence was espied in other Balkan trouble spots,
such as Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia. The absurdity is
that MPRI has been training the Macedonian army -- to
little avail it would seem -- since 1998 under a
"Stability and Deterrence Program."
Croatian former Foreign Minister Tonino Picula
described to InternationalReports.net MPRI's role
thus: "We started at the beginning of the 1990s
lacking all kind of assistance. We faced a war of
aggression. We needed all kinds of friends to enhance
our capability to keep a schedule. I know that it (MPRI)
did a significant job in Croatia as a part of U.S.
assistance to Croatia during the 1990s."
Other governments -- notably Colombia's and Nigeria's
-- were less sanguine about the utility of MPRI's
services. Colombian officials complained "the
MPRI's contributions were of little practical
use," while according to the Center for Democracy
and Development, the vociferous objections of the
Nigerian military led to the dismissal by the
president of senior army officers, among them General
Malu, the Nigerian chief of staff.
The end of the Cold War spelled the termination of
many an illustrious career in the military and the
secret services -- as well as the destabilization and
disintegration of many states. The Big Powers are
either much reduced (Russia), militarily
over-stretched (Europe), their armies ill-prepared for
rapid deployment and low intensity warfare (everyone)
or lost interest in many erstwhile "hot
spots" (United States). Besieged by overwhelming
civil strife, rebellions and invasions, many
countries, political parties, politicians,
corporations, and businessmen seek refuge and
More than 5 million soldiers were let go all over the
world between 1987-1994, according to Henry Sanchez of
Rutgers University. Professional soldiers, suddenly
unemployed in a hostile civilian environment, resorted
to mercenariship. A few became rogue freelancers. The
role of the Frenchman Bob Denard in the takeover of
the Comoros Islands is now mythical. So is the failed
coup in Seychelles in 1981, perpetrated by Colonel
"Mad" Mike Hoare, a British ex-paratrooper.
Private armies for hire proliferated in the 1990s.
Executive Outcomes acted in Sierra Leone, Congo and
Angola, Sandline International in Sierra Leone and
Papua New Guinea, DynCorp in Colombia, Haiti, Kosovo,
and Bosnia and, of course, MPRI in Bosnia, Croatia,
Kosovo, and, lately, Macedonia. Aviation Development
Corp. flies surveillance planes for the CIA. Its
involvement was revealed when, in Peru, it
misidentified a civilian light plane as carrying
narcotics. It was shot down by the Peruvian air force.
But these are only the tip of a growing iceberg. A
quick survey of company Web sites, annual reports and
news clippings reveals Vinnell Corp. was established
in the United States during the Great Depression and
currently is owned by TRW. It has coached militaries,
operated facilities and provided logistical support in
more than 50 countries, starting in Saudi Arabia in
1975 where it won a controversial $77 million contract
to train oilfield guards.
BDM International, Betac, Logicon and SAIC are
competitors, but Kroll of New York and Saladin
Security of London do mainly intelligence gathering.
Brown and Root of Houston, Texas, provides logistical
support to peacekeeping operations, for example in
Pacific Architects and Engineering furnishes
logistical support and private security to armies the
world over, mainly to the ECOMOG West African
multilateral peacekeeping force. Control Risks Group
offers corporate security, research and intelligence
solutions. It specializes in hostage situations and
boasts having advised in more than 1,200 kidnappings
and extortion cases in 80 countries.
Armor Holdings was founded in 1969 as "American
Body Armor and Equipment" and incorporated in
1996. It is a private security company. Its
London-based subsidiary, Defense Systems Ltd., guards
industrial and other sensitive sites, such as
embassies and the headquarters of international
organizations, mainly the U.N.'s.
Armor itself manufactures police and other
"non-lethal" equipment. It is a leading
maker of armored passenger vehicles and the prime
contractor to the U.S. military for the supply of
armoring and blast protection for high mobility
multi-purpose wheeled vehicles.
Gray Security is another private security company with
clients in both Africa and among Latin American
immigrants in Florida.
Some private military companies are ethnically pure.
Succumbing to market realities, the legendary Gurkhas
now offer their services through Gurkha International.
The oil-rich region of Cabinda is air-patrolled by
AirScan -- Airborne Surveillance and Security
Big money is involved. The Los Angeles Times quoted,
in its April 14 issue, Equitable Services, a security
industry analyst. In 1997, it predicted the
international security market would mushroom from $56
billion in 1990 to $220 billion in 2010. This was long
before the boost given to the sector by Sept. 11.
"The top five executives at Science Applications
International Corp. of San Diego made between $825,000
and $1.8 million in salaries in 2001, and each held
more than $1.5 million worth of stock options,"
the Times reported.
Control Risks Group's turnover last year exceeded $50
million. Armor Holding's 1999 revenues exceeded $150
million. Prior to its controversial demise, Executive
Outcomes of South Africa was said by Corporate Watch,
The Weekly Mail, the British non government
organization, The Corner House, and Toward Freedom
Magazine to have earned between $55 and $80 million in
its last 4 years -- excluding the $1.8 million per
month contract it has signed with Sierra Leone, most
of which went unpaid. There were unsubstantiated
allegations of securing a share of the diamond trade
in the ravaged country as well.
Sandline's contract with Papua New Guinea amounted to
$36 million for the first three months with just under
$1 million for any consecutive month -- or a total of
about $45 million the first year. The country's new
government at first refused to honor the commitments
of its predecessor -- hurling at it vague corruption
charges, but then compromised with Sandline and agreed
to dole out $13 million.
Nor are these small ensembles. MPRI, now in its 14th
year, employs more than 800 people, most former high
level U.S. military personnel. It draws on a database
of 12,500 freelancers, former defense, law enforcement
and other professionals from which the company can
identify every skill produced in the armed forces and
public safety sectors. Many of its clients work under
the government's Foreign Military Sales program and
abide by the General Services Administration tariffs.
Control Risks Group, founded in 1975 as a subsidiary
of the Hogg Robinson insurance group, claims to have
had "more than 5,300 clients, including 86 of the
Fortune 100 companies, in more than 130 countries.
Eighty-three percent of the firms comprising the FTSE
100 use one or more of CRG's services. It has 400
employees in 16 offices around the world and recently
acquired Network Holdings Ltd., the U.K.'s largest
private forensic laboratory.
The Armor Holdings Products Division is made up of
nine operating companies in eight geographic
locations. It offers its branded security products
through a network of more than 500 distributors and
agents internationally. ArmorGroup employs 5,500
people in 38 countries.
Modern private military companies, such as Sandline,
are veritable -- though miniature -- armies, replete
with staff military ranks, uniforms, doctrine,
training syllabi, cohesion, unit spirit and
Smaller, ad hoc outfits from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus,
France, the United Kingdom, Israel, Croatia, South
Africa, the United States and other nations scour the
Earth for emerging conflicts. Such units often are
infiltrated by criminals on the run, terrorists in
disguise, sadistic psychopaths and intelligence
These "dogs of war" are known for their
disloyalty and lack of discipline. Many have committed
acts of banditry, rapes, and an array of atrocities in
the mutilated host countries. Still, these are
marginal groups and in the minority of private
military companies -- the last resort -- often hired
by undesirables and failed states.
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