Foreign Mercenaries Guard United Arab Emirate’s Elite

News Brief — January 7, 2014

UAE cities like Dubai have attracted a large influx of expatriates. Click to enlarge

The oil rich Emirates rulers have reportedly hired foreign mercenaries to protect their palaces, according to sources in contact with Fars News.

Many have been employed through the U.S. security firm Academi, which is no stranger to mercenary military dealings. Formerly known as Xe services and before that Blackwater, the security firm recruited many former Special Forces personnel for its operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Near East.
According to Fars New’s source: “Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and a number of his brothers and UAE Sheikhs have assigned Blackwater to protect their palaces”.
The UAE media had earlier reported that the country’s rulers had signed contracts with a Western security firm to protect government buildings from possible popular uprisings and riots. The contract was reportedly worth US$579 million.
It has emerged however that Blackwaters founder, Erik Prince, signed the contract after he resettled in the emirates in 2010 following protracted legal difficulties his company faced in the United States.
According to a New York Times report, Blackwater’s founder then began forming an 800-strong battalion in the oil rich emirate in May 2011.
The force is thought to be intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, guard oil pipelines and installations from terrorist attacks and help contain internal civil unrest. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced insurrection among locals or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those that have swept the Middle East in recent years.
Moreover, like the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire — the elite imperial household guard who were deliberately made up of those from outside the Empire — the UAE rulers could be assured of the unit’s loyalty; in contrast to that of locally recruited security forces who they reportedly see as vulnerable to influences emanating from nearby Iran.
The UAE rulers also believe that the unit could be used to blunt the ambitions of Iran, the country’s biggest regional adversary, a former employee said.
The unit’s training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls topped with barbed wire. Beyond are said to be rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and other military vehicles.
Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are being trained by retired U.S. soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, a former employee of the Emirates security told the New York Times.
Another source told Fars News that this was not the first time that the UAE had hired former soldiers from overseas.
With an indigenous population of only 1 million out of total of over 8 million, the United Arab Emirates has a large contingent of foreigners serving in or advising its police, army, air force, navy and coastguard.
The source added that there has recently been a large influx of former Australian soldiers into the Emirates. Although it is unknown at this stage whether they will serve in Erik Prince’s newly formed battalion or some other security outfit, they represent another facet of the Emirates outsourced and growing security apparatus.

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