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Viewing cable 09DJIBOUTI113, DJIBOUTI APPROVES BLACKWATER FOR COMMERCIAL COUNTER-PIRACY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09DJIBOUTI113 2009-02-12 16:04 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nytimes.com
VZCZCXRO0641
RR RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDJ #0113/01 0431600
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 121601Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0099
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/CJTF HOA
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000113

SIPDIS SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
SBU DELIBERATIVE PROCESS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF AND AF/E
CJTF-HOA AND AFRICOM FOR POLAD
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA-WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019-02-12
TAGS: PREL PHSA MOPS BEXP DJ SO XA
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI APPROVES BLACKWATER FOR COMMERCIAL COUNTER-PIRACY
OPERATIONS

REF: a) LONDON 62 (NOTAL)

CLASSIFIED BY: Eric Wong, DCM, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy, Djibouti; REASON: 1.4(D)

1. (C) SUMMARY.  U.S. security firm, Blackwater Worldwide (BW), has
received permission from the Government of Djibouti to operate an
armed ship from the port of Djibouti, to protect commercial
shipping from pirates off the coast of Somalia.  Blackwater's
U.S.-flagged ship is expected to arrive in early March, and will
have a crew of 33 AmCits, including three 6-man armed teams who
will operate in continuous shifts.  The Djiboutian Navy will secure
Blackwater's weapons (i.e., .50-caliber machine guns) while ashore
in Djibouti.  Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into
custody, but will use lethal force against pirates if necessary; it
is developing an SOP that is currently under legal review and will
be shared with the USG.  Blackwater's counter-piracy operation does
not have any clients yet, but Blackwater expects business to
develop following a public launch in Djibouti in March with GODJ
officials.  END SUMMARY.

2. (C) On Feb. 8, ex-FSO Robert Emmett Downey, Blackwater
Worldwide's Development Manager for Africa, provided the following
update to Amb. Swan, DCM, and Bob Patterson (TDY from Embassy
Nairobi):

a) Hassan Said Khaireh--triple-hatted as Djibouti's national
security advisor, head of the security/intelligence service, and
director of President Guelleh's Military Office--has given BW
permission to operate its armed ship in Djibouti.  BW met with
Hassan Said on Feb. 7, following an earlier meeting in WashDC
between BW's CEO Erik Prince and Cofer Black with Djiboutian Amb.
to the U.S. Robleh Olhaye.  This is the only such arrangement so
far that BW has made with a host government in the region, but BW
will likely engage Oman and Kenya in the future (e.g., in the event
of a mechanical malfunction, the only facilities capable of
repairing BW's ship are located in Mombasa.)  Within the USG, BW
has briefed AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and Embassy Nairobi officials.

b) BW's ship is the 'McArthur," a U.S.-flagged 183-foot ex-NOAA
vessel.  While it has landing space for two helicopters, it will
have an unarmed UAV, but no helicopters (which BW considers too
expensive).  The ship will be armed with .50-caliber machine guns,
and is able to protect a 3-ship convoy.  The Djiboutian Navy will
secure BW's weapons, once ashore, and will inspect BW's weapons
lockers.  According to Downey, BW's business concept--having its
armed ship escort other ships requiring protection--is consistent
with recent IMO/industry recommendations discouraging the carriage
of firearms, or the presence of embarked armed security teams,
aboard commercial ships themselves (e.g., see reftel, on the 85th
session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee).  The 'McArthur' will
dock in Djibouti for 36-72 hours every 30 days, to replenish its
stores.  According to Downey, BW is the only such firm with its own
ship.

c) All personnel on BW's ship will be U.S. citizens:  comprising 15
crew and 18 armed security personnel (three 6-man teams who will
operate in continuous 8-hour shifts).  These 33 "operators" will
rotate every 60 days.  For medical contingencies, BW has
arranged--through its local agent in Djibouti, Inchcape
(London-based international shipper with numerous business
activities in Djibouti)--access to Bouffard, the French military
hospital in Djibouti.  The 'McArthur" will arrive in Djibouti in
early March, after transitting Gilbraltar and Acaba, Jordan.  BW
CEO Erik Prince plans to travel to DJ for its public launch.

d) Downey underscored BW's emphasis on compliance with U.S. laws,
including defense trade controls:  BW has a VP for export
compliance, and depends on the USG (DOD) for contracts.  BW's ship,
the 'McArthur", will have video cameras to record BW counter-piracy
activities.

e) BW has no intention of taking any pirates into custody.  While
the French have previously put pirates ashore in Puntland, Downey
said BW had no plans to do so, either in Somalia or Kenya (noting
that Kenya's bilateral PUC agreements with the USG and HMG were
government-to-government).  BW will share its SOP with Embassies
Djibouti and Nairobi once approved; SOP is currently under legal
review, as there is "no precedent for a paramilitary operation in a
purely commercial environment."  While asserting that international
maritime law allows the use of lethal force against pirates, BW

DJIBOUTI 00000113  002 OF 002

also recognizes the need to respect international humanitarian
obligations.  Of concern, for example, is whether BW would be
responsible for assisting injured pirates, if doing so endangered
BW's ability to protect its client(s).

f) BW's local agent in Djibouti is Inchcape.  Bruno Pardigon,
general manager of the newly formed "Djibouti Maritime Security
Services" (DMSS), will provide BW with a license, following
completion of an MOU with DMSS.  Downey was unsure whether DMSS was
a parastatal or a quasi-government agency of the GODJ.  [COMMENT:
Pardigon is favorably known to the Embassy as a French-Djiboutian
businessman and marine conservationist who runs a diving operation
in Djibouti.]  While Downey will remain in Djibouti until March
2009, BW has no plans now to establish an office in Djibouti.

g) While protection is estimated to cost less than $200,000 per
trip, BW's Djibouti operation has no contracts yet for clients.
Downey commented that the shipping industry may assess that piracy
is declining:  only 3 ships were pirated in January 2009; there are
at least 4 foreign naval vessels currently docked in Djibouti
conducting counter-piracy operations; and the EU's Operation
Atalanta is providing military escort of ships.

3. (U) COMMENT.  Djibouti's decision to permit Blackwater to begin
counter-piracy operations follows ongoing GODJ efforts aimed at
addressing the piracy threat.  Djibouti recently hosted an IMO
conference on Somali piracy that, inter alia, recommended Djibouti
serve as a center for maritime training.  Numerous foreign military
counter-piracy operations are based in Djibouti--involving units
from Spain, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and other EU members.
Japan (septel) and Korea are also considering military deployments
to Djibouti to support counter-piracy efforts.  Djibouti is a
founding member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of
Somalia (CGPCS) and has offered to host the group's planned
Counter-Piracy Coordination Cell.

4. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED.  Blackwater's presence in Djibouti would
make it one of the largest U.S. businesses operating in the
country.  As the host of the only U.S. military base in Africa, as
well as a country with extensive commercial port facilities,
Djibouti has a commercial interest in supporting foreign investors,
including U.S. contractors.  Blackwater executives seek to involve
both Djiboutian and USG principals in a high-profile March 2009
launch; Post would appreciate Department's guidance on the
appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater, while also
fulfilling the USG's commercial advocacy responsibilities to
support U.S. firms.  END COMMENT.
SWAN