There have been numerous reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is using mercenaries to try to quell the unrest in his country. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s employed outside fighters.
Retired army Lt. Col. Robert Brown is editor and publisher of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. It reports on what it calls “news and adventure.” The magazine’s editorial policy is stated as pro-military, pro-strong U.S. defense, pro-police and pro-veteran.
Brown says Mr. Gadhafi has a history of using mercenaries.
“You’ve had Gadhafi employing mercenaries way back in the late 70s, when he had Americans, when he had employed two notorious individuals – Frank Terpil and Ed Wilson - who served as advisors to him. And they had brought in a number under false pretenses, I do believe, Americans that had been discharged, or some which were actually on active duty taking leave working for him. It became quite a scandal back then. So, it’s not something unusual,” he says.
Both Terpil and Wilson were former CIA agents accused of many crimes, including illegal arms dealing.
Not all mercenaries alike
Brown says mercenaries are easy to be found in Africa.
“Africa is a very open ground, if you will, for recruiting. You had a lot of your South African soldiers, after the apartheid government fell, serving in Executive Outcomes, which actually did a very good job in suppressing the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) in Sierra Leone. You had a lot of Chadians I think that are now with Gadhafi’s forces,” he says.
Brown says mercenaries can be motivated by any number of things to fight, including adventure and especially money. But he says not all mercenaries are alike.
“Well, it’s hard to say what their level of training is,” he says, “whether they’re just thugs that can go around and beat people as an irregular force or whether they’ve been trained. This I don’t think anybody knows. And certainly their effectiveness is going to be predicated on what type of training they have and what their capabilities are. Certainly, it doesn’t take a great deal of training to go around and beat civilians or shoot civilians.”
He says they do know that if they are caught by the opposition that their lives are at stake. And if reports from Libya are true, suspected mercenaries have not been treated kindly.
He says there can be a big difference between those called mercenaries and those called contractors, like those we’ve seen in Iraq working on behalf of the U.S.
Brown says, “People that Gadhafi has certainly don’t have the training or the capabilities as the people who’ve been hired as contractors. Because whether you approve or disapprove of contractors, it’s been my experience that these people for the most part are very well trained, or they wouldn’t be hired.”
Robert Brown has been the editor of Soldier of Fortune Magazine since its founding 35 years ago.