Thousands demonstrate against U.S. drone strikes

These thousands of protestors do not hate us “because we are free; they hate us because we are killing their kids, wives, brothers, cousins, and friends; they hate us because we are putting absolutely no pressure on the Pakistani government to deal with the fundamental core problems that country is facing.

These include massive corruption, a failing infrastructure, lack of education, and lack of meaningful work. To those with nothing left to lose, insurgency can appear attractive.

Read the story HERE…

‘Prince of Mercenaries’ who wreaked havoc in Iraq turns up in Somalia

via Poor Richard’s Blog

By Guy Adams at independent.co.uk

Blackwater founder sets up new force to tackle piracy.

Erik Prince, the American founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, has cropped up at the centre of a controversial scheme to establish a new mercenary force to crack down on piracy and terrorism in the war-torn East African country of Somalia.

The project, which emerged yesterday when an intelligence report was leaked to media in the United States, requires Mr Prince to help train a private army of 2,000 Somali troops that will be loyal to the country’s United Nations-backed government. Several neighbouring states, including the United Arab Emirates, will pay the bills.

Mr Prince is working in Somalia alongside Saracen International, a murky South African firm which is run by a former officer from the Civil Co-operation Bureau, an apartheid-era force notorious for killing opponents of the white minority government.
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News of his latest project has alarmed, though hardly surprised, critics of Blackwater. The firm made hundreds of millions of dollars from the “war on terror”, but was severely tarnished by a string of incidents in post-invasion Iraq, in which its employees were accused of committing dozens of unlawful killings.

Mr Prince, a 41-year-old former US Navy Seal with links to the Bush administration, subsequently rebranded the company “Xe Services” and sold his stake in it. But he remains entangled in a string of lawsuits pertaining to the alleged recklessness of the firm.

For most of the past year, he has been living in Abu Dhabi, where he has close relations with the government and feels better positioned to dodge lawsuits. In an interview with a men’s magazine, he recently declared that the UAE’s opaque legal system will make it “harder for the jackals to get my money”.

The exact nature of his sudden presence in Somalia remains unclear. The Associated Press said yesterday that the army Mr Prince is training will focus on fighting pirates and Islamic rebels.

The leaked intelligence report which prompted the news agency’s story was compiled by the African Union, an organisation of African nations. It claimed that Mr Prince’s money had enabled Saracen International to gain the contract to train and run the private militia. But that element of the report was flatly contradicted by a spokesman for the Blackwater founder, who claimed that Mr Prince had “no financial role of any kind in this matter”.

In a written statement, the spokesman, Mark Corallo, added: “it is well known that he has long been interested in helping Somalia overcome the scourge of piracy. To that end, he has at times provided advice to many different anti-piracy efforts.” He declined to answer any further questions.

Whatever the exact details of Mr Prince’s role, his presence in Somalia will inevitably lead to renewed soul-searching about the growing privatisation of warfare. Critics of mercenary organisations, which are often prepared to operate where traditional armies fear to tread, claim they are often trigger-happy and lack proper accountability. In Iraq, Blackwater employees shot dead dozens of civilians; 17 people were killed in one incident alone in Nisour Square, Baghdad.

Criminal charges were eventually brought in the US against five Blackwater employees. However, they were dropped in 2009 after a federal judge ruled that the defendants’ rights had been violated during the gathering of evidence. Iraq’s Interior Ministry subsequently expelled all contractors who had worked with the firm at the time of the Nisour Square shooting.

Somalia, where the country’s UN-backed regime is fighting a civil war against al-Shabaab, a group of Islamic insurgents with links to al-Qa’ida, is, if anything, a more volatile country than post-invasion Iraq.

The government controls only a small portion of the capital, Mogadishu, where it has the support of 8,000 UN troops from Uganda and Burundi. It is training an army to extend its reach, but observers fear that its ranks will be weakened by the arrival of Mr Prince – who will pay his troops a far better wage.

Saracen’s shady corporate structure has not inspired confidence in its accountability. In 2002, the UN accused its Ugandan subsidiary of training rebel paramilitaries in the Congo. Recently, the firm has claimed to be registered to addresses in Lebanon, Liberia, Uganda and the UAE, some of which seemed not to exist when reporters tried visiting.

Read more articles at independent.co.uk

Lockheed Gets Big Bucks to Prep Soldiers for Urban War

By spencer Ackerman at wired.com

 

By the end of the year, the U.S. Army will leave Iraq. But Iraq isn’t going to leave the U.S. Army.
American soldiers spent seven years patrolling the urban neighborhoods of Iraq; its troops battled insurgents there block-by-block and house-by-house. Now that the Army is getting out of Iraq, it wants to make sure its urban combat skills don’t wither away. So it today it gave Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $287 million to build Urban Operations Training Systems — essentially, giant simulation facilities and modules to help soldiers get ready for life in the big, bad city.

Versions of those training systems can be as simple as shipping containers tricked out to resemble multi-story houses and arranged in village formations, so soldiers can practice how to seize a building without causing needless damage. The Army’s got an entire 1000-acre facility in Indiana it uses to train soldiers in urban combat.

The contract will include structures like those, which are known as Mobile Military Operations on Urban Terrain systems, or Mobile MOUTs. Lockheed says it’ll help soldiers drill on everything “from traditional war fighting tactics, to nation-building, to overseas contingency operations.” Overseas contingency operations is the new bureaucratic and budgetary term for what we used to call “wars.”

A statement from the company heralding the deal said that the new training systems were likely to include measures to simulate homemade bombs, an indicator that the Army doesn’t think the threat from the signature weapon of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is likely to diminish. That in turn has implications for other stuff the Army wants to buy — especially the new Ground Combat Vehicle, the service’s next-generation transporter. The Army and the Marine Corps have faced criticism for buying so many armored Humvees and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, on the assumption that they’ll rot in the motor pool if troops don’t have to roll through terrain laced with homemade bombs in the future. That may not be a chance the Army wants to take.

Training isn’t destiny, and just because the Army wants to keep urban combat in its toolkit doesn’t mean it’s looking to go stomping through any foreign capitals. One of the Army’s biggest internal criticisms after finding itself mired unexpectedly in Iraq was that its post-Vietnam officers deliberately unlearned how to fight insurgents. Look for the exact opposite to happen here: Army gadflies like Col. Gian Gentile of West Point warn that the Army’s assuming that unpredictable future land wars are going to look too much like today’s counterinsurgencies.

A different aspect to the urban-training scenario offered by Lockheed: “live, virtual and constructive mission domains,” the statement says. Whether that means, in part, videogame-based training remains to be seen. But at the Army’s recent annual conference in D.C., the service was showing off a sophisticated first-person-shooter modeled on eastern Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous terrain. If Call of Duty can rig up an urban-warfare videogame, presumably one of the world’s largest defense companies can too.

Read More Articles at wired.com

U.S. Contractor Accused Of Fraud Still Winning Big Projects In Afghanistan

WASHINGTON | On July 31, 2006, an employee of The Louis Berger Group, a contractor handling some of the most important U.S. rebuilding projects in Afghanistan, handed federal investigators explosive evidence that the company was intentionally and systematically overbilling American taxpayers.

Neither the whistle-blower’s computer disk full of incriminating documents nor a trail of allegations of waste, fraud and shoddy construction, however, prevented Louis Berger from continuing to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

In fact, two months after the government learned of the employee’s allegations, the U.S. Agency for International Development tapped Louis Berger — which has an office in Kansas City — to oversee $1.4 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.

The decision to brush aside the allegations and the evidence and keep doing business with Louis Berger, underscores a persistent dilemma for the Obama administration in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Cutting ties with suspect war-zone contractors in Afghanistan would threaten the administration’s effort to rebuild the country and begin withdrawing some of the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops there next July. However, as the recession, unemployment and budget deficits prompt belt-tightening at home, the billions the administration is spending to try to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq are receiving increasing scrutiny from Congress and the public.

Louis Berger’s alleged overbilling, a practice that dates at to least the mid-1990s, swelled to tens of millions in lost tax dollars, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who spoke to McClatchy Newspapers on the condition of anonymity because the allegations are the subject of a sealed court case.

Court documents, however, reveal that the Justice Department is negotiating a deal that would “aid in preserving the company’s continuing eligibility to participate” in federal contracting in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Founded in 1953, The Louis Berger Group does engineering and construction-related work domestically and in about 80 countries worldwide, according to the company’s website. It has more than 5,000 employees and is based in Morristown, N.J.

Holly Fisher, a Louis Berger spokeswoman, said the investigation into the company’s pricing shouldn’t taint its work for the government.

“While its work in Afghanistan was covered by that methodology, it is the methodology that is in question, not the work in Afghanistan,” she said.

Fisher declined to answer additional questions about the investigation or to make any corporate officers available for interviews.

USAID officials acknowledged last year in an internal report that they’d lost confidence in Louis Berger to oversee projects under the latest, $1.4 billion Afghanistan contract, which is jointly held with Black & Veatch of Overland Park.

USAID, however, didn’t respond for three weeks to repeated requests for interviews about why it continued to award contracts to Louis Berger or about the ongoing criminal investigation or on contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the agency issued a statement pointing to its internal report about the joint venture.

“The assessment found vulnerabilities, and we immediately worked to address the identified issues,” USAID said.

The agency said it began to hold weekly meetings with company officials, assigned monitors to every site and changed personnel involved in the contract.

“USAID continues to take necessary actions to protect U.S. taxpayer funds in this matter,” the statement said. “We are engaged in ongoing dialogue with the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to ensure that the corporation is in full compliance with our contracts.”

However, Ashley Jackson, the head of policy in Afghanistan for the international aid organization Oxfam, said little has changed despite the Obama administration’s pledge to revamp the agency.

USAID hasn’t been an aggressive watchdog in Afghanistan, partly because it’s under political pressure to pump billions into the country without regard to the quality of the work, Jackson said.

“A system has emerged where USAID is basically like a pass-through for these contractors,” she said.

Source: Kansas City Star

Another False Ending: Contracting Out the Iraq Occupation

Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But while thousands of US troops are marching out,
thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months. While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not, there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain. In the past decade, the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war – fewer soldiers and more contractors. Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19 percent more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in US history. According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress’ Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged
vehicles, policing Baghdad’s International Zone, providing convoy security and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.

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Profile: General Atomics

General Atomics.png
Type Private
Founded 1955
Headquarters San Diego, California, U.S.
Key people Neal Blue
Linden Blue
Website www.ga.com

General Atomics is a nuclear physics and defense contractor headquartered in San Diego, California. General Atomics’ research into fission and fusion matured into competencies in related technologies, allowing the company to expand into other fields of research. General Atomics and its affiliated companies are a leading resource for systems development ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to remotely operated surveillance aircraft, airborne sensors, and advanced electric, electronic, wireless and laser technologies.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, provides unmanned aerial vehicles and radar solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide. The company’s Aircraft Systems Group is a leading designer and manufacturer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including the Predator, Predator B, Sky Warrior and Predator C. The Reconnaissance Systems Group designs, manufactures, and integrates the Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)/GMTI radar into both manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as the CLAW sensor control and image analysis software, and integrates sensor and communications equipment into manned ISR aircraft.

MQ-9 Reaper in Afghanistan.

source: Wikipedia

Private Contractors and Covert Wars in Latin America

14pc061410cyril.jpgU.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) threatened to issue subpoenas against the U.S. Defense and State Departments last month if they continue to refuse to accurately account for billions of dollars spent on private contractors assisting Washington in the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. But McCaskill’s concerns raise broader questions about oversight and transparency of a controversial industry and its ever expanding role in Washington’s foreign policy.

Read the Story Here…