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Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Hicks

Emirates Secretly Sends Colombian Mercenaries to Yemen Fight

It is inevitable: Easy wealth leads underdeveloped countries with non-sustainable institutions into practicing their favourite pastime: war.

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 was decided, supplied and supported by the United States.

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.

(A thorough embargo on foodstuff and health provision are denied the civilians in Yemen, by sea, land and air.

Every single infrastructure has been destroyed by daily air bombing, including hospitals and schools)

(You can see the hands of the US in every phase of this genocide pre-emptive war where only thousands of Yemeni babies are dying from famine, malnutrition and lack of medical care)

Photo

At least 32 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Sana, Yemen, in September.
Dozens have been killed in similar bombings over the last six months, carried out by Sunni Islamic extremists targeting mosques where Shiite Yemenis worship. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

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.

“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.”

“The private military industry is global now,” said Mr. 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.

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 gunmen of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the jungles of Colombia.

In addition, a recent United Nations report cited claims that some 400 Eritrean troops might be embedded with the Emirati soldiers in Yemen — something that, if true, could violate a United Nations resolution restricting Eritrean military activities. (Eritrean are fleeing their country and are being picked up for mercenary jobs)

The United States has also been participating in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, providing logistical support, including airborne refueling, to the nations conducting the airstrikes.

The Pentagon has sent a team to Saudi Arabia to provide targeting intelligence to the coalition militaries that is regularly used for the airstrikes. (The US and France have sold weapons to these “wealthy states” in the tens of billions)

The Obama administration has also in recent years approved the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware from American contractors to the Saudi and Emirati militaries, equipment that is being used in the Yemen conflict.

This month, the administration authorized a $1.29 billion Saudi request for thousands of bombs to replenish stocks that had been depleted by the campaign in Yemen, although American officials say that the bombs would take months to arrive and were not directly tied to the war in Yemen.

The Saudi air campaign has received widespread criticism from human rights groups as being poorly planned and as having launched strikes that indiscriminately kill Yemeni civilians and aid workers in the country.

Last month, Saudi jets struck a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Saada Province in northern Yemen, and in late September the United Nations reported that 2,355 civilians had been killed since the campaign began in March.

On the other side in Yemen is Iran, which over the years has provided financial and military support to the Houthis, the Shiite rebel group fighting the coalition of Saudi-led Sunni nations. (Just rumors spread by the US and its allies who have the monopoly of the media)

The divisions have created the veneer of a sectarian conflict, although Emirati troops in southern Yemen have also been battling members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Sunni terrorist group’s affiliate in Yemen.

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 United States 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, American officials and several people involved in the project.

A 2011 intelligence briefing for senior leaders involved in the project listed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Somali pirates and domestic riots as some of the biggest threats to Emirati stability.

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 to provide 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. They rise every day at 5 a.m. for exercise and military training — including shooting practice, navigation and riot control. A number of Westerners, including several Americans, live at the camp and serve as trainers for the Latin American troops.

But by late morning the sun burns so hot at the windswept complex that the troops move into air-conditioned classrooms for military instruction.

The troops live in typically austere military barracks, hanging their laundry out the windows to dry in the hot air. There is a common computer room where they can check their email and Facebook pages, but they are not allowed to post photographs on social media sites.

Meals are basic. “It’s the same food all the time, every day,” one member of the project said several weeks ago. “Chicken every single day.”

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.

Mr. McFate said that the steady migration of Latin American troops to the Persian Gulf had created a “gun drain” at a time when Latin American countries need soldiers in the battle against drug cartels.

But experts in Colombia said that the promise of making more money fighting for the Emirates — money that the troops send much of home to their families in Colombia — makes it hard to keep soldiers at home.

“These great offers, with good salaries and insurance, got the attention of our best soldiers,” said Jaime Ruiz, the president of Colombia’s Association of Retired Armed Forces Officials.

“Many of them retired from the army and left.”

Faltered: Another U.S.-Backed Alliance to Counter ISIS in Syria.

They new fictitious created factions are all of the “Democratic” kinds in name

Financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Gulf Emirates

And logistically relying on Turkey that is killing its own Kurdish citizens.

I just had the pleasure of spending 10 days cruising around northern Syria with Tyler Hicks Kamiran Sadoun Eziz Garis and some other trouble-makers. Here’s the first product.

After the high profile failure of a $500,000 million program to train rebels to fight the Islamic State, the US has thrown its support behind a newly announced alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces. Sounds promising, except that the alliance exists in name only.

EIN EISSA, Syria — Weeks after the Obama administration canceled a failed Pentagon program to train and arm Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State, American officials announced a new effort to equip ground forces in Syria to fight the jihadists.

But 10 days of interviews and front-line visits across northern Syria with many of the forces in the alliance, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, made clear that so far it exists in name only, and that the political and logistical challenges it faces are daunting.

One Arab commander, sitting near the earthen wall that separates this deserted town in Syria from the Islamic State’s front line, bitterly recalled being chased from his Syrian hometown by the jihadists and said he would do anything to reclaim that territory. But then he detailed a list of things his forces needed: ammunition, radios, heavy weapons and more American airstrikes.

“This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means,” he said, pointing to a fighter in broken boots, tattered fatigues and a dirty sweatshirt that read “Skateboarding ruined my life

Ben Hubbard shared this link Nov. 5, 2015
Ten days of interviews and front-line visits made clear that an alliance entrusted with beating jihadists in northern Syria faces daunting political and logistical…
nytimes.com|By BEN HUBBARD

Beyond the early logistical factors, the new alliance faces what is perhaps a more serious challenge in the long term: Though it is intended to begin clawing back territory from the Islamic State in mostly Arab areas, nearly all of the group’s fighting power comes from ethnic Kurdish militias.

That demographic reality is likely to further alarm Turkey, a vital American ally that considers Kurdish autonomy near its southern border a security threat.

It also limits the forces’ ability to strike the jihadists in predominantly Arab communities — Kurdish fighters have less motivation to fight for those areas, and could deeply anger residents by doing so.

“The backbone of these forces are the Kurdish groups because of their experience fighting ISIS and their numbers,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman for Syria’s dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G.

But he talked about how that could be a limiting factor in fighting for cities like Raqqa, the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria: “We have to be realistic that the Y.P.G. can’t go by itself into Raqqa, or people will say, ‘What are you doing there?’ ”

A newly appointed spokesman for the alliance briefed reporters in Syria beneath a yellow banner bearing its name in Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian. But the meeting took place inside a Kurdish militia facility because the alliance does not have its own bases yet, nor flags to put on its cars or a defined command structure, said the spokesman, Talal Sillu.

The combined force is to be commanded by a 6-person military council, Mr. Sillu said. But he acknowledged that only one member had been selected so far — Mr. Sillu himself.

Last week, President Obama announced plans to deploy dozens of Special Operations troops to support the new alliance. And before that, American officials said 50 tons of ammunition had been airdropped for Arab fighters with the new group.

But already, things have not always gone as planned.

Since the ammunition airdrop, American officials have privately acknowledged that the Arab units it was intended for did not have the logistical capability to move it. So, again, the Kurds were called to help.

An array of smaller groups have allied with the Kurds, including Arab and Turkmen rebels, Christian militias and Bedouin fighters loyal to a sheikh who considered the Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi a friend.

While these groups hate the Islamic State, most are small, and some have been repeatedly routed by the very jihadists the United States now hopes they will defeat.

While the Kurds have become used to securing territory, with uniformed forces and a clear chain of command, their Arab allies often leave teenagers with Kalashnikovs at checkpoints who stop and release cars at random, scaring drivers.

A commander of one Arab group lamented that while Kurdish commanders could simply order their fighters to move, he could only make suggestions and hope his men complied.

Some of the alliance’s forces have cooperated before, but relations are not always smooth. The Kurdish military strength in the area means that Kurds set the agenda, and many clearly look down on their Arab partners.

For their part, Arab rebel fighters (do you mean Syrians or a combination of other Arabic States?) say they worry about their partners’ close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which the United States, Turkey and others list as a terrorist organization.  (They are PKK)

They also distrust the motives of the thousands of Kurdish fighters who have come to Syria from Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

ISIS brings foreign fighters for an Islamic State, while they bring foreign fighters for a Kurdish project,” said one Arab commander with the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade who goes by the name Abu Hamza. “But if that is how they think, they’ll fail.”

At another position near Ein Eissa, a swaggering Kurdish commander listed his militia’s victories against the Islamic State before acknowledging that he — like many of his fighters — was not Syrian. He was from Iran, and unabashed about being another foreign fighter in Syria’s civil war.

“I came to bring democracy, while ISIS came to kill,” said the commander, Gali Cilo. “That is the difference.” (That’s a huge declaration, bringing democracy)

The roots of the Syrian Democratic Forces lie in Syria’s northeast corner, a long-neglected region where most of Syria’s Kurdish minority lives alongside other ethnic groups in impoverished towns scattered among wheat fields dotted with aging oil wells.

While world attention since the Syria conflict began has focused on fighting between the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, Sunni rebels and the Islamic State, the Kurds have taken advantage of the chaos to carve out an autonomous zone.

Much of that has been done over the last year, as the Y.P.G. — the Kurdish abbreviation for the People’s Protection Units, the dominant Kurdish force in Syria — has closely coordinated with the United States and its allies to seize land from the Islamic State in a long strip along the Turkish border.

Evidence of the Kurdish group’s dominance is obvious. The militia runs ubiquitous checkpoints; photos of its “martyrs” adorn billboards; and its fighters hold most of the more than 280-mile-long front line with the Islamic State.

Parts of it have come to resemble an international border, with deep trenches and high berms running for miles, lined with bright lights to prevent jihadist infiltrators. The whole line is dotted with heavily sandbagged positions to protect against machine gun and mortar attacks by the jihadists.

A senior United States military official said the United States had encouraged the Kurdish militia to create an umbrella group that would make more sense to an international audience, and Kurdish leaders decided to call it the Syrian Democratic Forces.

But the name of a subgroup of Arab brigades called the Syrian Arab Coalition was “an American invention,” the senior official acknowledged. It had about 5,000 fighters, and roughly 20% of them said they would defend their land but would not go on the offensive against the Islamic State.

The dominant Kurdish force, the Y.P.G., meanwhile, is believed to have about 40,000 fighters — including thousands from neighboring countries and many linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

“The Y.P.G. is a very effective fighting force, and it can do a lot,” said Barak Barfi, a research fellow at the New American Foundation, a policy group in Washington, who recently spent time with Kurdish units in Syria. “But these Arab groups are weak and just a fig leaf for the Y.P.G.”

The alliance sought to help the Kurds by dampening fear among Arabs of Kurdish domination, and the United States hoped it would play down its close relationship with the Kurds so as not to alarm Turkey, Mr. Barfi said.

But the alliance itself has internal tensions.

“There is no deep-rooted alliance between these groups; this is a shifting, tactical alliance,” Mr. Barfi said.

The motivations of the Kurds’ allies varied. Some lived in Kurdish majority areas, so attached themselves to the dominant power. Others had lost their communities to the Islamic State and hoped that Kurdish military might help them go home.

“What is important for us is to protect our area, and the security of our children, our homes and our women,” said Sheikh Hmeidi Daham al-Jarba, whose Arab tribal militia, the Sanadeed Forces, has joined the alliance. “We have the Kurds on one side and ISIS on the other, so who should we choose?” (How about the official Syrian army?)

Seated in the vast reception hall of his 5-story palace, Sheikh Hmeidi said his tribesmen, living in a collection of poor farming and herding villages, formed an armed group in 2011 when rebels attacked their area.

The sheikh’s son, Bandar, the force’s military commander, said they would consider fighting the Islamic State elsewhere but needed support. Many of his fighters had sold land to buy ammunition, he said.

At a front-line position on the road to Raqqa, Abu Hamza of the Raqqa Revolutionaries Brigade explained his group’s long path to its alliance with the Kurds.

It had formed in Raqqa Province in 2011 to fight Mr. Assad’s forces, sometimes alongside Islamist rebels including the Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda. For awhile, they even fought against the Kurds.

But early last year, Islamic State militants kicked his men out of the city of Raqqa, and then out of a nearby village. So they sought refuge with the Kurds.

Four years of fighting had worn them down. Scores of their colleagues had been killed, and the group had to blow up two valuable tanks it had captured from the Syrian government so that Islamic State militants would not take them.

Now, Abu Hamza said, they hoped their alliance with the Kurdish forces would let them get back at the jihadists, and perhaps open a new line of support.

“We need uniforms, we need ammunition, we need everything,” he said.


adonis49

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