by Suzanne Kelly
"There are a lot of assumptions about contractors, and a lot of the assumptions are wrong." Those are the words of a private security contractor who asked to be referred to only as "Lloyd" for this story, because like most of his colleagues he is not authorized to speak to the media.
By Lloyd's count, he has spent some 1,000 days working in Afghanistan in the past four years. He, like many other well-trained military men, decided to leave his position as a Navy SEAL and take his chances finding employment in one of the hot spots around the world where highly skilled contractors were well-paid, and in demand.
Very few people outside the contracting industry really understood just what a private security contractor did before March 31, 2004. That was the day four American security contractors accompanying a shipment of kitchen equipment through Iraq were ambushed, killed, set on fire, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge before a cheering crowd in the city of Fallujah.
As shock subsided, questions arose. Who were these American men? If they weren't members of the military, what were they doing in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq? FULL POST
Mitchell D. Silber is the author of 'The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West'. He is also the Director of Intelligence Analysis for the NYPD. His thoughts do not necessarily represent the opinions of the New York City Police Department.
Just over two years since al Qaeda Core launched the most serious plot on American soil since 9/11 (the Najibullah Zazi NYC Subway Plot of September 2009), al Qaeda’s leader and founder Usama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s most recent “Number 3” Attiyah Abd al Rahman, and the al Qaeda instigators of the Zazi Plot – Saleh al Somali and Rashid Rauf – are all dead - a result of a combination of efforts by U.S. Special Forces and drone strikes. In addition, this fall, Anwar al Awlaqi, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s dual-hatted English language propagandist and chief of external operations, was also killed in a drone strike. The natural question to ask, as the calendar approaches 2012, is: wither the al Qaeda threat?
The recent past may provide some useful insights. One of the most important findings of a forensic study of the sixteen most serious al Qaeda plots against the West since 1993 is that al Qaeda plots against the West are almost always underpinned and manned by Westerners - who travel overseas to al Qaeda or an al Qaeda ally/affiliate and then are turned around opportunistically and sent back to target the West. Whether it was the 1999 LAX Millennium Bomber (Montreal), 9/11 Pilots (Hamburg), Shoe Bombers (London), July 7 and 21 2005 London transit system bombers (Leeds and London), 2009 NYC Subway Bombers (New York) or 2009 Underwear Bomber (London), the key operatives from the plot originated in one of the great cities of the West.