by Ty Joplin
May 08, 2018
is the modern architect of private military
venture is in training security personnel in
been all over the world, outsourcing militaries
to cheap labor markets
has provided a partial map to track Erik
Prince's activities over the years
Erik Prince, the brain behind
private military firm Blackwater,
is now in China training security forces.
Prince is partially responsible for modernizing the private army for
9/11 world, outsourcing militaries
to cheap, specialized labor pools and skirting traditional
regulations meant to ensure accountability for armed forces.
His journey from hiring mercenaries to help bolster the U.S.
occupation in Iraq to China is long, dizzying and includes stops
around the world to train Colombian mercenaries to help make a
private army for the U.A.E. and outfitting crop duster planes with
missiles to be fired at Armenians.
He has become a global figure, roaming between conflicts zones to
sell various governments his expertise on private armies.
To document his journey thus far, Al Bawaba has compiled a
partial list of countries/regions in or for which he has done
Prince's trip around the world starts in the United States.
Born in an affluent Michigan family, his family maintained deep ties
to the Republican establishment and several conservative, religious
organizations like American Values.
Betsy DeVos, married into one
of the most influence political families in the Midwest, the DeVos's,
and began helping to run the Republican party machine in Michigan.
That marriage, which tied the Prince and DeVos family together, has
given Erik unprecedented political access into the federal
His list of close allies
including Steve Bannon, U.S. President Donald Trump's former
chief strategist. His sister gives him a direct line of access to
Erik became a Navy SEAL and then established his own private
military firm in 1997, Blackwater.
Once the U.S.
invaded Iraq in 2003, Blackwater
received billions in contracts from the U.S. government to help
supplement the official mission with private boots on the ground,
relatively free from accountability or laws from any particular
Damaged and bloodied car
in Nissour Square, Iraq, 2007
after the Blackwater massacre
in Iraq are infamous and account for Prince's self-imposed exile
from the United States.
Apart from harassing Iraqi civilians and running them off of roads
with their armored personnel carriers, they also indiscriminately
gunned down 14 innocent people in Baghdad in 2007, drawing an
investigation and heavy criticism from media outlets around the
The incident stands as a cautionary tale for when mercenary groups
such as Blackwater are able to operate without sufficient legal or
Facing a wave of
scrutiny, Prince left Blackwater and the firm changed its name twice
(to Xe and then Academi) to escape the
Many thought they had seen the end of Erik Prince, but he resurfaced
later at the helm of a different private military company.
A satellite image of the camp in the U.A.E.
to train Prince's 800-member mercenary battalion
Earth/New York Times)
In 2011, Erik Prince was appointed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi
to make a secret, private army. For this, he was paid $529 million.
documents obtained by the New
York Times, the mission of this privately commissioned battalion
gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive
materials, humanitarian missions and special operations 'to
destroy enemy personnel and equipment,' and crowd-control."
Prince hired Colombians
and nationals of other countries thousands of miles away to fill his
ranks from two reasons.
First, Prince was looking
to pay them as little as possible. Second, they weren't Muslims.
Prince surmised that Muslims could not be trusted to kill other
A few years later in 2015, Saudi Arabia began its military
intervention in Yemen and recruited a host of other Arab nations to
join its coalition.
Abu Dhabi's crown prince,
business partner to Erik Prince, Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan,
signed up for the cause in order to destroy any creeping Iranian
influence in the war-torn nation.
Erik Prince and his U.A.E. private military firm helped recruit and
train over 1,000 soldiers from Latin American countries. Then, their
bodies started appearing on battlefields in Yemen.
A single missile reportedly killed 45 mercenaries from the U.A.E.
Prince's initial battalion of 800 soldiers had blossomed into almost
2,000 specialized troops hired mostly from Latin America to do the
Although officials say Erik Prince's formal business role with the
U.A.E. had ended several years before the intervention into Yemen,
his corporate blueprint to partially outsource the U.A.E.'s military
is doubtlessly still in use.
The U.A.E. keeping and even expanding Prince's blueprint for a
private, outsourced army demonstrates just how influential he and
his mercenary business model has become.
A militarily-modified crop duster,
After his stint in the U.A.E., Prince began doing more business with
Chinese executives at the Frontier Services Group (FSG),
which he heads.
On this new enterprise, Prince
"is not a patriotic
endeavor," rather, it is intended "to build a great business and
make some money doing it."
Prince's business with FSG took him to Azerbaijan, where he was paid
by the government to help it deal with its Armenian problem.
concentrated into Azerbaijan's
Nagorno-Karabakh region, which
seceded from Azerbaijan and formed a semi-recognized, de facto
Azerbaijan called on Erik Prince and FSG to help it keep watch on
the Nagorno-Karabakh region, also called the
Republic of Artsakh.
In response, Prince
wanted to show the government two crop duster planes meant for
agricultural use but refitted for military purposes. The planes were
meant to be outfitted with state-of-the-art surveillance technology
and were supposedly able to fire missiles.
They never made it to Azerbaijan after an investigation shut the
sale down. This is because the deal may have broken several laws.
The Washington Post
concerned that the company might be skirting U.S. law - known as
International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)
- requiring Americans to obtain special permits before
defense-related technology can be transferred to foreign
In response to this
controversial arms trade, all but two Americans on the FSG executive
board quit due to concerns that he was not serving U.S. interests.
This has freed Prince to
deal more closely with the Chinese.
FSG's 'focus region'
(Frontier Services Group)
FSG's public focus is on providing security and logistical help to
eastern African countries such as South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and
"When you want
logistics done in Africa, you call DHL," said Sean McFate, a
former military contractor in Africa and current expert on
mercenaries at the Atlantic Council.
"When you want
muscle, you call Erik Prince."
One of FSG's ventures
appears to help oust the extremist militant group,
Al Shabaab, from southwest Somalia
- an area it has largely controlled for years.
"We have brought
together strong international business leaders to team-up with
talented Somali entrepreneurs to make development in South West
Somalia a reality," an FSG statement reads.
"The project will include an integrated solution of air-land-sea
logistics capabilities and advanced security management."
FSG's headquarters is in Hong Kong, and though it publicly states
that its focus is on eastern Africa, FSG is now reported to be doing
domestic work on behalf of the Chinese government.
FSG is partially owned by
CITIC, a Chinese-government own
CITIC is slowly taking
more and more control of FSG and is reportedly already the dominant
shareholder, meaning it has greater power than Prince to determine
the company's vision and business deals.
"The Chinese are
gradually taking more control" of the company.
CITIC is now playing a
larger role as Frontier's dominant shareholder, said Xin who heads
International Security Defense College
that trains security personnel and is overseen by FSG.
"Prince's share is
decreasing. The Chinese are in charge, so it won't matter."
One of FSG's most recent
missions has been to train thousands of security personnel in
China's northwest Xinjiang province, where millions of ethnically
Turkic Muslims called Uyghurs live.
Uyghurs are routinely targeted by
the state due to continuous attempts by some to break away from
China and form an independent state.
Thousands of Uyghurs are part of an extremist group called the
Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP),
whose leaders are hiding in Pakistan and whose members have a heavy
presence in Syria fighting against the Syrian regime.
Human Rights Watch
accused the Chinese government of
"deploying a predictive policing program," using massive
surveillance technology and a web of high-tech surveillance cameras
and compulsory data collection.
They've also reportedly sent thousands of Uyghurs to Chinese
This list only details a few of Erik Prince's ventures, and does not
include an attempt by Prince to send thousands of mercenaries into
Afghanistan and reform the political structure of the entire country
be a colony for the United States.
However, Prince has transformed battlefields everywhere and
fundamentally altered the way governments construct security
Iran is heavily reliant on outsourced Afghani mercenaries to be
cannon fodder in the war in Syria. Russia is supplementing its own
intervention into Syria with mercenaries hired by the state-backed
Wagner Group who also sends troops
To beat back the nascent
Boko Haram, Nigeria hired private,
Apartheid-era security forces from South Africa to do the job.
Thanks to Erik Prince, outsourcing military and intelligence labor
is now the norm.
Currently Prince appears to be under investigation by Special
Counsel Robert Mueller, thanks to meetings he had arranged
with a close aide to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Kirill
Dmitriev in the Seychelles Islands, a place its own government
"the kind of place
where you can have a good time away from the media."
The meeting was allegedly
to set up a backchannel between Trump and Russia in order to
facilitate clandestine communications.
Sean McFate told Al Bawaba that Prince's use of
mercenaries allows countries to enter into and escalate conflicts
without having to report it to their citizens.
His tactic gives
governments "plausible deniability" to anything that the mercenaries
According to Dr. P.J. Brendese, a professor at Johns Hopkins
University and expert on democratic accountability, private military
independence to exercise their own prerogatives and 'we the
people' don't get a say. That's the most dangerous thing,
because they're profiting.
Their motivation is
not God and country; their motive is money."