SHAFAQNA – A report in the New York Times has claimed that the Emirati government has deployed hundreds of handpicked Colombian mercenaries into Yemen, the first overseas deployment for a “second army” which they have apparently been building out of Latin American mercenaries for several years.
According to the NYT, the cash rich UAE has found it nearly impossible to fill its regular army with experienced soldiers, and for a number of years has been building this alternative force. Originally, Blackwater’s Founder Erik Prince was hired to organize this force in the desert, though the UAE insists he hasn’t been involved in the program for some time.
The initial plan was to create a force of some 3,000 Colombian troops, a move that angered Colombia’s own military, which has a lower wage for mercenary work, The exact number sent to Yemen is unclear, but believed to be significant.
The report says that the UAE has sent 450 Latin American troops, predominately Colombian mercenaries, to Yemen last month. Additional Colombian troops remain in the UAE and are completing training with grenade launchers and armored vehicles, which are currently operated by Emirati troops in Yemen. The Latin American troops in Yemen have not yet entered combat. A recent UN report has also claimed that 400 Eritrean soldiers are also embedded with Emirati troops in Yemen, in potential violation of UN restrictions on Eritrean military actions.
“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.
The Colombian troops now in Yemen, handpicked from a brigade of some 1,800 Latin American soldiers have had military training at an Emirati military base, were woken up in the middle of the night for their deployment to Yemen last month and ushered out of their barracks as their bunkmates continued sleeping, and were later issued dog tags and ranks in the Emirati military. Those left behind are now being trained to use grenade launchers and armored vehicles that Emirati troops are currently using in Yemen.