My latest article, "The Wild West in East Africa," appeared Foreign Policy today, co-authored with maritime security analyst James Bridger. In it we detail the transition of northern Somalia's mercenary-trained Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) from counter-piracy force to al-Shabaab hunters:
The Wild West in East Africa
It's not easy to be a mercenary these days. The once-booming markets in Iraq and Afghanistan have shrunk, while lingering controversy surrounding the mercenary poster-boy company Blackwater (or whatever they're called these days) has served to paint private security contractors as reckless and unaccountable war junkies. A good gig as a soldier of fortune is harder and harder to come by.
Yet there's one war-torn country where demand for guns-for-hire is still high. A contingent of mercenaries has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the failed state of Somalia. Initially brought on in an internationally controversial mission to combat pirates terrorizing Somalia's coastal waters, the mostly South African corps have now turned to fighting Somalia's al Qaeda-linked terrorist menace, al-Shabab. In the anarchic world of failed states, private contractors are often able to accomplish what goverments are not. But the consequences are hard to predict.