UAE: Armed forces hire military contractor with alleged ties to former Blackwater chief
The armed forces of the United Arab Emirates acknowledged that it had hired a military contractor with alleged ties to controversial former Blackwater chief Erik Prince to help train its troops, said a statement published by the country's official WAM news agency.
Gen. Juma Ali Khalaf Hamiri, head of the UAE's armed forces, said in a statement published early Monday that it had retained the company R2 to provide "operational, planning and training support" for its armed forces.
The New York Times, citing former employees of the company, described R2 in a report Sunday as a "mercenary" army secretly led by Prince and hired to possibly put down civil unrest in the country.
Blackwater was dissolved after its contractors allegedly killed 17 people during a murky 2007 incident in Baghdad's Nisoor Square.
Hamiri's statement appeared to try to downplay the relationship with R2, noting that the UAE also had relationships with other private military contractors.
"International contractors providing planning, training, development and operational support have been integral to the successful development of what is a robust military capability of over 40,000 Emirati personnel at a high state of readiness," said the statement. "Importantly, these third parties have also played significant roles in supporting the UAE armed forces in training Iraqi and Afghani security forces with the aim of contributing to the stability of both countries."
It insisted that all its contracts with private contractors were "compliant with international law and relevant conventions."
The UAE has emerged as one of the top, if not the top, consumers of military hardware and training in the world.