At a military complex amid the sands of the United Arab Emirates, Blackwater founder Erik Prince has set up a hundreds-member-strong, $529-million private army designed to suppress internal revolts, protect high-rises and oil infrastructure from terrorist attack, and conduct special operations both in and out of the UAE, reports the New York Times. This private militia, housed in a base about 20 miles from Abu Dhabi, features soldiers from Colombia, South Africa, and other countries, and retired American, British, German, and French soldiers as instructors—but it also has a strict no-Muslim rule, as Prince reportedly believes Muslims cannot be trusted to kill other Muslims.
Prince's name rarely appears on documents associated with his new company, and he is referred to by the code name "Kingfish." But the Times spoke with five sources who confirmed his pivotal role. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi reportedly hired Prince to assemble the 800-member battalion (a number that his since been reduced to 580), which costs $9 million a month to run. Although some analysts consider the private military force to be potentially destabilizing, and say any Americans training the troops could be breaking federal law, it has some support in Washington, as the UAE is a US ally and fiercely hostile to Iran. “The gulf countries, and the UAE in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said an Obama administration official. One Colombian mercenary who arrived in the UAE last summer and has since left the group describes 5am wakeups, luxuries (a chef hired from Colombia to make traditional soups), and secrecy. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.” Click to read the piece in its entirety.