Prince is the modern architect of private military firms
latest venture is in training security personnel in China
he's been all over the world, outsourcing militaries to cheap
Bawaba has provided a partial map to track Erik Prince's
activities over the years
Prince, the brain behind the infamous private military firm
Blackwater, is now in China training security forces.
is partially responsible for modernizing the private army for the post
9/11 world, outsourcing militaries to cheap, specialized labor pools and
skirting traditional regulations meant to ensure accountability for
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
has become a global figure, roaming between conflicts zones to sell
various governments his expertise on private armies.
document his journey thus far, Al Bawaba has compiled a partial list of
countries/regions in or for which he has done business.
trip around the world starts in the United States.
in an affluent Michigan family, his family maintained deep ties to the
Republican establishment and several conservative, religious
organizations like American Values. His sister, 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
marriage, which tied the Prince and DeVos family together, has given
Erik unprecedented political access into the federal government. 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 Trump himself.
became a Navy SEAL and then established his own private military firm in
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 government.
bloodied car in Nissour Square, Iraq, 2007 after the Blackwater
activities in Iraq are infamous and account for Prince’s self-imposed
exile from the United States.
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 world.
incident stands as a cautionary tale for when mercenary groups such as
Blackwater are able to operate without sufficient legal or logistical
oversight. Facing a wave of scrutiny, Prince left Blackwater and the
firm changed its name twice (to Xe and then Academi) to escape the heat.
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. built to train Prince’s 800-member
mercenary battalion (Google Earth/New York Times)
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.
In documents obtained
by the New York Times, the mission of this privately commissioned
battalion included “intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing
of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special
operations ‘to destroy enemy personnel and equipment,’ and
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 Muslims.
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.
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.
single missile reportedly killed 45 mercenaries from the U.A.E.
initial battalion of 800 soldiers had blossomed into almost 2,000
specialized troops hired mostly from Latin America to do the U.A.E.’s
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.
U.A.E. keeping and even expanding Prince's blueprint for a private,
outsourced army demonstrates just how influencial he and his mercenary
business model has become.
militarily-modified crop duster, called the T-Bird (LASA Engineering)
his stint in the U.A.E., Prince began doing more business with Chinese
executives at the Frontier Services Group (FSG), which he heads.
this new enterprise, Prince said it
“is not a patriotic endeavor,” rather, it is intended “to build a great
business and make some money doing it.”
enough, Prince’s business with FSG took him to Azerbaijan, where he was
paid by the government to help it deal with its Armenian problem.
Armenians are concentrated into Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region,
which seceded from Azerbaijan and formed a semi-recognized, de
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.
never made it to Azerbaijan after an investigation shut the sale down.
is because the deal may have broken several laws. The Washington
Post found that
“executives were 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 countries.”
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.
region’ (Frontier Services Group)
public focus is on providing security and logistical help to eastern
African countries such as South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and the DRC.
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.”
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.
project will include an integrated solution of air-land-sea logistics
capabilities and advanced security management.”
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.
is partially owned by CITIC, a Chinese-government own investment firm.
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.
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 the International Security Defense College that trains security
personnel and is overseen by FSG.
share is decreasing. The Chinese are in charge, so it won’t matter.”
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.
are routinely targeted by the state due to continuous attempts by some
to break away from China and form an independent state.
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.
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.
also reportedly sent thousands of Uyghurs to Chinese ‘re-education’
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.
Prince has transformed battlefields everywhere and fundamentally altered
the way governments construct security apparatuses.
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 Ukraine. To beat back the nascent extremist group Boko
Haram, Nigeria hired private, Apartheid-era security forces from South
Africa to do the job.
to Erik Prince, outsourcing military and intelligence labor is now the
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 explains is “the
kind of place where you can have a good time away from the media.” The
meeting was allegedley to set up a backchannel between Trump and Russia
in order to facilitate clandestine communications.
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 do.
to Dr. P.J. Brendese, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and expert
on democratic accountability, private military
firms “have greater 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."