Bookmark and Share

Friday, February 06, 2009

Kidnapping Security

I had the privilege of attending a program at the Greater Houston Partnership this week in which a company that conducts international kidnapping negotiations gave us a briefing. Very interesting. Their comments on the shifting kidnapping patterns --from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East -- were fascinating, and worth listening to.

Colombia used to be the kidnapping capitol of the world. Now it's come to Mexico, and even into the U.S. They talked about the difference between kidnappings -- some are for reprisal; others are kidnappings for ransom (as in M-O-N-E-Y).

In Nigeria, the kidnapped person is rarely killed. In a reprisal kidnapping (eg. Mexico), the victim is unlikely to live long. These reprisal kidnappings and killings by the Mexico cartels now extend into the U.S. - over 185 incidents so far!

As if to confirm it, news reports today are that another Mexican official was killed less than a day after taking over a job dealing with the narco-drug gangs. If they want you, they get you. If you have 5 bodyguards, they come for you with 15 people. If you have 20, they will bring 50. No matter how many you have, they will show up with a more massive force. It is a whole new, dangerous world.

We are too focused on our own financial mess and need to pay attention to these global threats before they get even worse, because without attention they will get worse. Pakistan just released the guy, A. Q. Khan, who was selling nuclear technology on the black market to any rogue --from North Korea to Iran -- with the money. "Hey, we got a 50% off sale on nukes this month!" Feel safer now?

We just lost our 1 square mile base in Kyrgyzstan that was the key to servicing our operations in Afghanistan over a measly $2 billion that the Russians were willing to pay to get it, but someone on our side wasn't willing to pay. What short sight thinking lost this vital base deal for us? We spend $10 billion a MONTH in Iraq! Now we've lost a key base for the entire war theater in Afghanistan. Penny wise. Pound foolish.

But I digress. The speakers discussed measures to avoid being a victim, and how they negotiate kidnappings -- different tactics are required in different countries. These guys do it full time. One of the speakers had negotiated over 30 kidnappings in Nigeria alone. If you ever think you need some good advice, I recommend you contact the offices of Clayton Consultants, which is now a part of Triple Canopy. They know what they are talking about. If you can't find them, I can get you their contact info.

I know a little about this unique occupation. When I was faced with an international kidnapping case in the Middle East in the 90's (a young girl from Texas), it was assumed that having a Ex-Delta Force "go in to do a snatch and grab" would be an option. It was not only too expensive, upon a closer look I decided NOT to use them in that case because of the real risk of getting the hostage (and some of us) killed. Even with a disguise, the chances of "gringos" getting into (and out of) Sidon, Lebanon undetected were about as good as snow stacking up in Tucson, Arizona. Sidon is where the Hezbollah were shooting rockets into Israel and the girl was living with relatives of the kidnapper.

These guys are too sophisticated to risk anyone's life by trying to be Rambo. They know what to do -- and how to do it. Check them out.

Oh yes, they also think as the Somalia's are pushed away from hijacking ships, they will turn more to land-based kidnappings. They have a point.

Another insecurity trend: We have turned a corner in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not a good one. We just finished the first month that more young soldiers died from suicides than from IED's and fighting in two wars.

The repeated demands made on the same group of soldiers, regular and national guard units, who had to go into combat repeatedly without body armor and serve multiple tours of duty while everyone else shopped, has started to take its toll. Stop losses kept them away from their families too long. Our government needs to change the conditions that led to these suicides. It needs to address the mental needs of our troops as much as their physical needs.

Those of us who didn't serve owe much to those who have.

No comments: