Archive for the ‘mercenary’ Category

The Libyan rebels are making progress, as well as robots. Some of them are reported to be within 40 miles of Tripoli, those being the ones who the French have been secretly arming, including with a number of light tanks. Now that’s what I call protecting civilians.

They are also about to take over the GSM network in western Libya like they did in the east. How do I know? I’m subscribed to the Telecom Tigers group on LinkedIn and so I get job adverts like these two.

ZTE BSC Job: URGENT send cv at [e-mail] for the job position or fw to your friends : Expert Telecom Engineer ZTE BSC.Location:Lybia,Western Area,1300USD/day,start immediate

URGENT send cv at [e-mail] for the job position or fw to your friends : ERICSSON MGW/BSS/BSC 2G/RAN Implementation Senior Expert Engineer.Location:Lybia,Gherian,Western Mountains,1300-1500 USD/day

In fact, one of the ads explicitly says that the job is in the rebel zone and the other is clear enough. What the rebels are planning to do is clear from the job descriptions:

must be able to install a ZTE latest generation BSC – platform to be integrated with 3rd party switching platform,solid knowledge of ZTE BSC build out and commissioning to connect up to 200 existing 2G/3G sites

To put it another way, they want to unhook the existing BTSs – the base stations – from Libyana and link them to a core system of their own, and in order to do this they need to install some Chinese-made Base Station Controllers (BSCs – the intermediary between the radio base stations and the central SS7 switch in GSM).

Here’s the blurb for the Ericsson post:

Responsible for commissioning and integrating an Ericsson 2G BSS network (2048-TRX Ericsson BSC plus Ericsson BTSs) in a multi-vendor environment. Will be responsible for taking the lead and ownership of all BSS commissioning and integration, leading the local team of BSS engineers, and managing the team through to completion of integration.

Experience of Ericsson MGW implementation, and integration of MGW with BSS, is highly desirable. Experience of optical transmission over A-interface.

Compilation, creation and coordination of BSC Datafill. This will include creating, generating, seeking and gathering of all Datafill components (Transport, RF Frequencies, neighbor relations, handovers, Switch parameters, ABIS mapping, etc.) based on experience and from examination of existing network configuration and data. Loading of Datafill into the BSC to facilitate BTS integration.

Working with the MSC specialists to integrate the BSC with the MSC. Providing integration support to BTS field teams; providing configuration and commissioning support to the BSC field team.

So they’ve got some Ericsson BSCs, the base stations are Ericsson too, and an MSC (Mobile Switching Centre, the core voice switch) has been found from somewhere – interesting that they don’t say who made it. That’ll be the “3rd party switching platform” referred to in the first job. They’re doing VoIP at some point, though, because they need a media gateway (MGW) to translate between traditional SS7 and SIP. They need engineers to integrate it all and to work out what the various configurations should be by studying what Gadhafi’s guys left. (It’s actually fairly typical that a mobile network consists of four or so different manufacturers’ kit, which keeps a lot of people in pies dealing with the inevitable implementation quirks.)

The successful candidate will also have some soft skills, too:

Willing to work flexible hours, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work under pressure in a challenging, diverse and dynamic environment with a variety of people and cultures.

You can say that again. Apparently, security is provided for anyone who’s up for the rate, which doesn’t include full board and expenses, also promised.

They already have at least one candidate.

Sultan al-Qassemi kicks in a data point to the ArseDex. Apparently Libyan agents are distributing flyers in Guinea and Nigeria calling for mercenaries to fight for $2,000 a day. Yesterday, loyalist thugs cost $500 a day in Libya. Even with the huge supply of potential thugs in sub-Saharan Africa’s demobilised militias being available, the ArseDex has gone non-linear – it’s risen by a factor of four in 24 hours. Arseholes now command a premium of four hundred times the average wage. Surely Gadhafi must be doomed now.

The data’s pretty sparse, but here’s a spreadsheet. The edit link is here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?hl=en_GB&hl=en_GB&key=0AjP2Zn6KkPUwdFpCd1ZITlpMU3FLYk91RExxaDZvUUE&output=html&widget=true

Thanks to reader Koranteng for this data point. You may recall this post about the market for thugs in Egyptian politics. Specifically, when the government needed arseholes to attack the protestors, it had to pay four times per capita GDP to get them.

In Libya this week, it is said that the government is using mercenaries recruited from its various allies’ wars in sub-Saharan Africa as arseholes, and that it’s paying $500 a day for their services. Libyan per capita GDP is $14,884 at purchasing-power parity, so the price of privatised violence is running at a premium of over one hundred times typical earnings. Clearly, either the regime has so much less real legitimacy, or the degree of brutality required and risk involved is that much higher. In fact, those options are both consistent, as a regime with less legitimacy would need to use more force and it does seem to be doing just that.

I made the point last time out that it’s typical for mercenaries to be very highly paid relative to the countries in which they operate. This is clearly an important point here. It’s also true that Gadhafi’s Libya has often got other people to fight its battles for it – they exported Palestinians into a variety of different wars in the 1970s and 80s, notably sending PLO volunteers to prop up Idi Amin (you bet they didn’t sign on for that). Later, in the 1990s, they trained and equipped fighters in the various West African civil wars (notably Charles Taylor – there’s an arsehole for you). Now they’re doing the opposite.

Of course, being an oil state, they can probably afford to keep hiring the arseholes.

However, here’s something interesting from the Egyptian elections last year, from Reuters.

Rates for hiring a thug start at 800 Egyptian pounds ($140) and can reach 40,000 pounds depending on the assignment, according to a study printed by the independent Wafd newspaper.The study, by criminologist Refaat Abdel Hamid, said thugs hired to attack large groups or candidates cost 25,000 pounds a day. Those hired to resist the authorities cost 6,000.

“The price of thugs includes compensation for custody and hospitalisation,” the study said. “Former and current ministers and the NDP party get special prices and discounts. Prices are hiked for businessmen and first-time candidates.”

That suggests that in October 2010, your entry-level goon came in at about twice the rate Mubarak was paying at the height of the revolution. Interestingly, if you were looking for goons who would be willing to assault a crowd of rivals – the same mission the camel riders had – you’d have had to pay much, much more. Thirty times more, or perhaps there’s a zero missing somewhere, in which case it would imply an even bigger price drop. Part of the difference might be explained by the NDP claiming mates’ rates as a large customer of long standing, and one who could offer valuable side payments in the event of success.

But it’s hard to think of any explanation why the NDP would have been paying less for thugs at the height of the revolution, when they would presumably have been in demand, and the party itself would have been desperate. Also, assuming the selling party could read the writing on the wall, they would surely have been likely to insist on payment in cash on the nail, rather than promises of future side-deals that would likely never be fulfilled. Perhaps the supply of potential thugs increased, but how? Was violence just a more salient possibility?

Or perhaps there was a radical shift in the supply curve between October and January. If the usual sources of goons were for some reason unavailable, and the recruiters were fishing in other ponds, it might be quite possible that wages would be dramatically lower and that the thugs would be much less effective. Of course, another way of saying that there was a radical shift in the supply curve for state violence is to say that there was a revolution.

Here’s something interesting.

We must also consider the alternative that many of the most prominent and powerful Afghans are in fact motivated by greed and opportunism. [harrowell: ya think?] It is therefore in their interest to maintain the status quo of massive US and international spending that fuels the Afghan “rentier state” economy.

This isn’t just recreational cynicism; they argue that the latest announcement of a clampdown on private security companies in Afghanistan is to be taken more seriously than the last six, and that this actually represents an effort to integrate them into the Afghan government’s forces or at least its allies. Importantly, and very differently from Iraq, the main players are local rather than foreign – like the 24,000-strong Watan Group. (Check out their Corporate Social Responsibility page.) Rather than just being part of the ISAF baggage train, they’re a significant nonstate actor in Afghan politics.

If you were feeling optimistic, you might consider this as being similar to the various political fixes the Soviets arranged in 1988 to keep the roads open for the Afghan government post-withdrawal. If you’ve been reading this since at least 2007, you’ll know that I think the absolute best that could happen in Afghanistan would be to get back to something like the 1989-1992 period, just without the continuing US/Pakistan/Saudi destabilisation and the cut-off of Russian aid that kicked off the civil war (and the destruction of Kabul, the invention of the Taliban, and so on). I agree this is pessimistic, but then, well, I wouldn’t start from here.

In Iraq, understanding the business/organised crime environment may have played a bigger role than is publicly acknowledged in getting the US Army out of town. For example, here’s a Joel Wing piece on the history of oil-smuggling (you’ll note that the Baiji refinery comes up. party like it’s 2005!). Interestingly, the initial Awakening Council leader Sheikh Abu Risha was an important oil smuggler, and you can bet those networks were of use.

Leaving aside the obvious Afghan export, the analogous business is probably selling stuff to ISAF. Bagram now has its own cement plant, inside the perimeter, but that’s a Turkish construction firm.

So, what if there was an airline that uses the Zimbabwean registry in order to get around most people’s idea of aviation safety, is almost certainly in cahoots with the Zimbabwean government, and was involved not just with running guns into the DRC in the late 90s but also with actual combat air missions, dropping napalm out of the back of Antonovs and operating Mi-24 gunships in support of the Zimbabwean army there?

You’d think it would be numero uno on the EU blacklist. But, incredibly, Avient Aviation (ICAO code SMJ) isn’t; even though it is widely suspected that some of the Chinese weapons shipment blacked by South African dockers was flown to Zimbabwe in their Il-76, Z-WTV, from a port in Angola. (The Il-76 is the last surviving T-model, and is therefore on its last legs; it came from a firm based in Sao Tome, using the 3C- Equatorial Guinea registry at the same time as Viktor Bout’s CET Aviation was.) You might be even more surprised to learn that Avient is actually allowed to base aircraft in the European Union – its pair of ancient DC-10s are regularly seen at Chalons-Vatry airfield in France.

What’s going on? Well, part of the answer may be the Gabonese angle to the whole thing. Avient had, for some time, a contract to handle cargo on behalf of Gabon Airlines. They took over, with the contract, an aged DC-8 imported from the Sudanese firm United Arabian Airlines, which is now registered Z-ALB with Avient. Now, it seems that Gabon doesn’t want Zimbabwe-registry aircraft, and neither does it want Avient bossAndrew Smith (“one of the most thoroughly despicable & unlikeable characters it’s ever been my displeasure to meet”). Fair enough, but you have to say that it probably had something to do with the French government threatening to put Gabon Airlines on a blacklist (President Bongo threatened to ban Air France from Libreville, but he was never likely to go through with it).

I can see the point in the French action, but what I don’t understand is why Avient are tolerated in their back yard, when they are apparently enough to warrant a diplomatic row with the darling of French African policy for the last forty years. And wipe that smirk off; Avient have done the Baghdad trail quite frequently, too.

I don’t know about you, but it strikes me that if you were looking for an economic sanction against Zimbabwe that was only likely to affect the elite, seizing the Avient DC10s on the ground at Vatry would be a cracker. Given their age and suspected condition, it could probably be put in effect just by having them ramp-checked by the safety inspectors.

Remember we wanted to know more about Asia Airways? This entity has solidified somewhat, and it now has a place of registry (Tajikistan, EY-) and some aeroplanes. There are four Il-76, registered EY-601 to 604, and three Antonov 12s, registered EY-401 to 403. Interestingly, all the aircraft we have any information on have been transferred from Click Airways (CGK), the now EU-banned operator that has been running quite a lot of Il-76s from the UAE to various war zones. There are still a few CGK and CKW codes coming up in the movements, but they are certainly dropping off by comparison with ASW, Transliz and BGIA; it looks like the fleet is being reshuffled.

Interestingly, on this day of 2004 retroblogging, they include An-12 serial number 8345607, which stopped a surface-to-air missile over Baghdad back then as EK-12555. So did 8346006, working for Phoenix Aviation as EK-12333. Built strong – Antonov strong. And the Il-76 EY-603 has been seen with Rus Aviation as well – yes, these guys.

Douglas Farah reckons the Russians are trying to press the US State Department to press for Viktor Bout’s release, or rather his extradition to Russia, which would amount to the same thing. It’s an interesting suggestion, although usual caveats apply to a story sourced to Bill “WMD to Syria!!” Gertz. I can imagine them pitching it as a sort of grown-ups’ conspiracy, driven by the prospect of sensational revelations.

Just how sensational might be judged by this fine piece of work by the South African Mail & Guardian on the Khalid Rashid case, from back in 2006 (I blogged). Meanwhile, everyone’s worried about the fact Bout was offering portable SAMs for sale. I’m not at all surprised that he could source them; hell, he had in the past sold complete attack helicopters. Further, the weapons used in an attempt to bring down an Israeli Boeing 757-300 in Kenya originated in Bulgaria via Somalia, at a period when Irbis Air Co was sending off several flights a day from the UAE to northern Somalia and to ports on the Yemeni coast.

The Economist has a good story on the whole affair; they take the line that Russia has decided to be more helpful on the arms trade, pointing to the arrest of Monzer al-Kassar and the extradition of Yar Klein. That can await early confirmation, as far as I’m concerned. The Economist also points out that it’s worrying that he apparently thought he could still use Bulgaria and Romania as he did in the late 90s, now they’ve joined the EU; some interesting reports are coming out of Romania, for example here. And if anyone could translate this one I’d be very much obliged.

In other news, Bout’s brother Sergei, founder of CET Aviation in Malabo back in the 90s, appeared on Russian radio protesting Viktor’s innocence and asking “How could the American authorities behave in such an unprincipled way?”. He must be the last man on earth who couldn’t answer that one.

Meanwhile, z-list wingnut barkie and professional fuckwit Gateway Pundit tries to sneak in on the glory as part of a smear. Glad I’m not you. (In fact, he has given me the germ of an interesting idea. More soon.)

Andrew Smulian’s arrest with Viktor Bout is interesting in a couple of ways; first, there was the investigation itself, as previously blogged. Then, there’s the fact that he was clearly well embedded in the system, as far back as 1997. Context; the accounts for Air Pass, a South African company Bout reversed Air Cess into in that year and left with its debts, are quite spread around. Even Richard Chichakli’s website shows a few pages from them – of course, none of the items that mention Viktor Bout, and certainly not the credit card bills with Richard’s name on them. I’ve had copies for quite a while.

A Smulian was the recipient of air tickets bought with the Air Pass AMEX card whilst Viktor Bout controlled the company, three times in the winter and spring of 1998; a total of R14,000 in tickets with Kenya Airways and SAA. He is also listed as receiving R1,025 in health insurance contributions a month at their Johannesburg offices. At the same time, another Smulian, E or Etienne, is down for R8,260 a month in salary under Flight Ops and the same health benefits. E Smulian received an R3,217 cheque from the company at the end of 1997; he was also claiming mobile phone bills and car rental on expenses.

We don’t know if there are two Smulians, but we do know that Andrew is a South African pilot, and that if there is another, this may explain the mystery Brit at the Bangkok Sofitel.

Viktor Bout arrested in Thai hotel room on charges of arming FARC.

And I didn’t even know he *was* doing. More, as they say, as we get it.

Update: Here’s the pic – it’s obviously him.

kill lourens horn.

Lourens Horn is a South African mercenary who figured in the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup attempt, and this post, which is what the homicidal googler landed on.

I’m really not sure what to make of this.