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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Richard Perle, MPRI and Bosnian Arms Shipments

Connoisseurs of elaborate Bosnia conspiracy theories will love this (and don't think I don't know you're out there).

Controversial neocon philosopher Richard Perle led an obscure nongovernmental organization tasked with hiring a private company to run the U.S. State Department's "Train and Equip" program in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996.

Perle's group, the "Acquisition Support Institute," hired Military Professional Resources Inc., essentially a professional mercenary company nearly as controversial as Perle himself. It's not at all clear what or whom is responsible for the Institute, or why a "non-governmental, non-profit organization" would be responsible for selecting the recipient of a massive State Department contract on one of the most sensitive issues of the day.

Equipped with a collection of retired military officers, MPRI set itself up as a virtual extension of the U.S. government in both Croatia and Bosnia, as documented in an extensive set of Freedom of Information Act documents I will be publishing over the next several weeks.

MPRI operatives were given the run of the country -- receiving payments and arms from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Muslim countries, which underwrote operations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In many cases, these payments were brokered directly by the State Department. In some instances, funds and arms were routed into Bosnia without State's explicit approval but often with its knowledge, as documented in the newly declassified records. Unauthorized assistance appears to have come from Pakistan, UAE and Turkey, among others.

Bosnia was a hotbed for al Qaeda in the early 1990s. I am still tracing the extent of how al Qaeda-linked people and groups operated after the T&E program launched in 1996. However, al Qaeda-linked mujahideen were trained by former American military officers prior to the T&E program's launch.

Train and Equip was (nominally) intended to marginalize extremists and Islamic radical networks by replacing them as the primary source of weapons, training and funding to Bosnians. Instead, the program ran parallel to somewhat lower-profile extremist networks over the course of several years, and al Qaeda still maintains a strong presence in the country.

Look for more documents in the near-term future. There are more than 500 pages total. In the meantime, enjoy this teaser:

State Department Cable, 5/21/96: Demarche to Bosnian Federation on Train and Equip Training Contract (Richard Perle, MPRI)

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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