The New Venture of Erik Prince: Reflex Responses Private Army
Carlos Díaz Bodoque
Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater Worldwide, now formerly known as Academi and belonging to the Constellis Group, is currently the Chairman of Frontier Services Group Ltd, a company defined as a provider of integrated security, logistics and insurance services for clients operating in frontier markets. In recent years, Prince has participated in the creation of Reflex Responses, a private army founded in August 2010.
In January 2011, several Arab countries contracted Erik Prince to help train a private army of 2,000 Somali recruits. In May 2011, The New York Times reported that the UAE had signed a $529 million contract with Reflex Responses to recruit and train the “Security Support Group,” a foreign legion for counterterrorism and internal security missions. According to the New York Times report, the mercenaries underwent training at a secret facility in the desert sands of the United Arab Emirates, about 20 miles outside Abu Dhabi.
In Abu Dhabi, free of charge and with strong support from emirates authorities, Prince helped to recruit troops for the Reflex Responses, also known as R2
Prince’s ties to the United Arab Emirates are intense. He moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010 in order to wash his image due to the Blackwater scandal and the many legal problems the company was involved in United States, which led him, in the same year, to sell Blackwater Worldwide. In Abu Dhabi, free of charge and with strong support from Emirati authorities, Prince helped to recruit troops for the Reflex Responses, also known as R2.
Led by Mike Hindmarsh, a former senior Australian military officer who has been listed as commander of the UAE’s Presidential Guard, Reflex Responses participated in several military missions on behalf of the UAE. According to some sources, private contractors working for R2 have been flying Emirati military aircrafts in Libyan airspace and reportedly targeting critical infrastructure in bomb raids throughout the country.
Foreign private security contractors are another volatile element plaguing the Middle East, further desestabilizing the region
The UAE has not only used Reflex Responses for self-defence but has also used the private military contractor in their participation in foreign conflict, notably in Libya and Yemen., R2 is focusing its efforts to assist and dynamize the proxy war in Yemen- a convoluted conflict between Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Irani-backed Houthis. Recent reports allege that R2 has engaged in acts of domestic repression as well as suffering substantial casualties within their combat personnel.
Foreign private security contractors are another volatile element plaguing the Middle East, further destabilizing the region as can be observed in the privatization of warfare in Iraq since 2003. According to the former R2 employees, most of the enlisted combat and non-combat personnel are former military specialists from Colombia and South Africa, and have been extensively trained by retired US soldiers, as well as veterans of the British, German and French Special Forces.
PMSC leaders and their administrations have made significant political gains in the United States
Alarmingly, PMSC leaders and their administrations have made significant political gains in the United States. US politics are being increasingly influenced by current and former PMSC leaders, such as Erik Prince and Stephen A. Feinberg, owner of the military contractor DynCorp International. In fact, more appointed and elected officials alike are connected to the private security industry and positions of significant political power. For example, Erik Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, was appointed as the United States Secretary of Education in the President Donald J. Trump’s administration. This move and close tie to White House affairs, could potentially augment Prince’s ability to infiltrate US security policy.
In fact, Prince is rumoured to have advised and consulted President Trump in security policy. Both men have developed and pushed independent proposals to increase the budget for military contractors with the US Department of Defence, especially in the United States role in Afghanistan conflict. This agenda has been largely pushed at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law.
The privatization of more foreign conflicts is a lucrative venture for Erik Prince. Privatizing another war will not only increase the military activity of security contractors, but also signify a financial victory for Prince himself, and many investors he brings along for new, private conflicts in foreign jurisdictions.
Despite the dismissal of Stephen K. Bannon from the Trump administration in August 2017, the agenda has not changed significantly. Under the support and guidance of Mr. Bannon, Erik Prince is rumoured to be organizing a campaign to run for public office in Wyoming, challenging Republican incumbent, John Barrasso. By gaining a seat at the United States Senate, Prince has the potential to dramatically influence policy and cement his business ventures in US security policy as an insider. With increased connections to the United States political machine and hard-line ties to the private military and security industry, security contractors are infiltrating politics while substantially increasing their business ventures.