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Russia claims US replacing soldiers with mercenaries in Syria

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova delivers a speech during a press conference at the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, Russia on 16 March 2017 [Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency]
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova delivers a speech during a press conference at the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, Russia on 16 March 2017 [Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency]

The United States (US) is reportedly replacing some of its regular troops in northern Syria with mercenaries from private military companies (PMC), the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova has announced.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Zakharova said: “The number of personnel of PMCs in Syria exceeds 4,000. It is notable that in the second half of June alone, 540 people had already arrived in the country, including 70 commanders and instructors. The transfer of mercenaries is carried out by car in groups of 12-16 people.”

The main tasks of the mercenaries in Syria consist of training militant groups allied to the US, such as those of the Kurds, and to protect valuable assets such as oil sites across the war-torn country.

The US is renowned for employing mercenaries to be involved in the ground work in its various conflicts around the world due to their cost-effectiveness and the deferral of harm to regular US soldiers. The practice particularly started gaining momentum following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, after which private military companies (PMCs) – such as the infamous organisation Blackwater – were hired to perform operations and maintain a military presence.

READ: 200 bodies uncovered in Syria’s Raqqa

The use of mercenaries is not only limited to the US, but has also become popular with various actors in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which have both recruited PMCs in their war against the Houthis in Yemen over the past few years.

Mercenaries have proven to be reliable assets, namely due to benefits such as flexibility, a lack of bureaucratic involvement, cost-effectiveness, and the hiring state’s freedom from blame in the case of an incident.

Apart from direct conflicts, mercenaries have also been recruited for tasks such as the upkeep of prisons and the conducting of torture and “enhanced interrogation” tactics on behalf of their recruiters. The UAE was found last year to have hired mercenaries, particularly from Colombia, for such operations in Yemen.

READ: Regime attacks kill 14 in Syria’s de-escalation zones

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Asia & AmericasEurope & RussiaMiddle EastNewsRussiaSyriaUAEUSYemen
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