Panetta concerned but confident about US row with Pakistan
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to reporters during his most recent overseas trip. (Getty Images)
December 12th, 2011
08:20 PM ET

Panetta concerned but confident about US row with Pakistan

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mastered the obvious Monday when speaking about the current state of U.S. relations with Pakistan in the wake of a cross-border shooting that Pakistan said left 24 of its soldiers dead. "What took place has complicated that relationship," Panetta said to reporters at the start of his latest overseas trip.

The major complication has been Pakistan closing down the supply routes the U.S. military uses to carry everything from food to fuel to troops in Afghanistan.

Panetta said Monday, "We feel pretty confident that our troops have the supplies they need to continue their operations in Afghanistan. And our command structure has done an incredible job ensuring that one way or another we are able to get those supplies in."

But even though Panetta said the route closures haven't hurt the U.S. mission in Afghanistan yet, that doesn't mean he isn't worried.

"We are concerned about the closure of the routes through Pakistan," Panetta said.

He did say he hoped the situation wouldn't be permanent.

"We continue to work with them to see if we can get those re-opened as soon possible. I am confident that that will happen. I can't tell you when, but I remain confident that at some point we're going to be able to restore our normal supply routes."

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Pakistan • Panetta • Pentagon • Secretary of Defense
December 12th, 2011
04:54 PM ET

Controversy over upcoming transition in Iraq

As the U.S. military continues its complete withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the month, the State Department is set to oversee what some critics are calling a "private army" in Iraq. Jill Dougherty reports.

Q/A: Inside the murky world of arms dealing
Former ANC member Andrew Feinstein's new book delves into the dark world of arms dealing
December 12th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

Q/A: Inside the murky world of arms dealing

Andrew Feinstein's new book "The Shadow World" uncovers the inner workings of the global arms trade. Written with an insider's tone, the book describes backroom weapons deals, including an arms deal between the British and Saudi governments and the guns-for-diamonds deals in Africa. Feinstein was a member of the African National Congress from 1997 to 2001, resigning when the ANC declined to investigate corruption claims regarding a major South African arms deal. Feinstein is an Open Society fellow and the founder of Corruption Watch in London.

Feinstein e-mailed with about how the arms trade has mushroomed since World War II, its role in the Arab Spring uprisings, and what he thinks can be done about all those unchecked weapons in Libya. What is the global arms trade?
Feinstein: It is the trade in conventional arms, so not (weapons of mass destruction), but everything from small and light weapons to aircraft carriers and jet fighters. It accounts for sales of about $60 billion a year on average, and is responsible for around 40 percent of all corruption in all world trade. Why is it important to understand the distinction you make in your book between government to government trading and illicit weapons dealing? What is the "grey market?"
Feinstein: Governments and defense contractors argue that the government-to-government trade is "clean," whereas in fact it is riven with corruption, and also supports the illegal or black market trade. The grey market is where governments attempt to influence foreign policy covertly through the use of illegal dealers to undertake arms transactions on their behalf. A well-known example would be the Iran-Contra deal, perhaps the most cynical arms deal of all time. Your book isn't an academic history, though you do explain how and why the military industrial complex grew after World War II. Your book is mostly packed with thriller-type stories about arms dealers and corrupt government officials, backroom wheeling and dealing. Much of that is based on top secret information you obtained. How did you manage to get that information?
Feinstein: The book is intended as an accessible, narrative account of the trade that is hopefully entertaining to read. But it is also backed by extensive research – there are between 2,500 and 3,000 endnotes in the book for anyone who wants to check where any piece of information was sourced. This information came from a wide variety of sources: interviews with arms dealers who have never been reported on or interviewed before, massive investigation archives that have not been in the public domain, whistle-blowers and publicly available sources. You joined the African National Congress during Nelson Mandela's administration when you were a student and you resigned in 2001 when the ANC wouldn't investigate a major arms dealer. Was this your first up-close introduction to the world of arms dealing? What was that experience like?
Feinstein: That's correct. I was committed to the ANC from the mid-1980s when it was still a banned organization in South Africa. After working as a facilitator in the negotiations that led to our first democratic elections in 1994, I became a Member of Parliament for the party in those elections. It was an extraordinary experience to serve under Mandela but it was disappointing how quickly his successor adopted the tawdry norms of global politics. The point at which the ANC lost its moral compass was when they decided to spend $10 billion on weapons the country didn't need, and barely use today, with $300 million in bribes being paid to senior politicians, officials and the ANC itself. My financial oversight committee was stopped by President Thabo Mbeki from investigating this corruption, which led to my resignation, and the writing of a book on the deal and its devastating impact on South Africa's young democracy. It was a sad time for me personally and politically, as I saw at first hand how an extraordinary liberation movement was prepared to undermine the democracy it had created to protect its leaders from the consequences of their corrupt behavior. It was also the first of myriad grand corruption scandals in the country and the demise of the early years of hope.


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Filed under: Africa • Arab Spring • Arms Control • Gadhafi • Libya • Libya • Mexico • Military • Security Brief • UK • United Nations • weapons
Trying to overcome Blackwater: the case file on ACADEMI CEO Ted Wright
December 12th, 2011
09:48 AM ET

Trying to overcome Blackwater: the case file on ACADEMI CEO Ted Wright

by Suzanne Kelly

Programming note: Watch Erin Burnett's exclusive TV interview with ACADEMI CEO Ted Wright on OutFront. Monday night 7pET.

Editor's note: This is part of a Security Clearance series, Case File by CNN Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly profiling key members of the security and intelligence community.</em>

Traffic out of DC was at a standstill on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but it wasn't a bad thing for Ted Wright. The newly-hired CEO of the company once known as Blackwater, (and later renamed Xe Services) could use the time to think. Wright had taken the helm of the world's most notorious private contracting company less than five months earlier and was about to make an incredibly bold move: changing the name of the company to help revamp it's tarnished image.
Before the company was sold to a group of anonymous investors a year ago, Blackwater had earned a public reputation for breaking the rules.

"It was just this huge sense of arrogance that I don't have to follow the rules of the United States government, I don't have to follow the rules of business, I don't have to follow any of that crap," said Wright. "That was my initial impression from the outside looking in and I knew that is behaviors, that is not culture. Their culture was, they're darn good operationally. And they cared about what they were doing. Their behaviors were what made them appear to be arrogant. It's a lot easier to change a behavior than it is to change a culture."

A lot of the heavy lifting when it came to changing the culture had been done by the time Wright arrived this past June. A name change had been tried to create distance from Blackwater. The company was renamed Xe. Most of the company's original top management team had been relieved of their duties when the new owners came in, but many of the people at the lower levels stayed.

Some of them had been there almost since the beginning a decade earlier, when Blackwater got its start a training business. Owner Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, used a sizable inheritance to start the company and then started pressing for more government contract work. The first financially significant customer was the U.S. Navy, which came knocking after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, when the Navy realized how poorly its seamen were prepared at warding off, or responding to terrorist attacks. Then came the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and business boomed. Prince found success providing private security teams for some of the top U.S. Diplomats working in Iraq.

But Afghanistan and Iraq in the early days of war, were the epitome of the wild west, and Prince's men were seen as acting as if they were the new sheriffs in town. Effectively accountable to no one in those early days, because of an incredibly complex legal and oversight structure, some of Prince's men began earning a reputation for being heavy-handed in their actions against Iraqi civilians.


Filed under: Case File • Iraq