Ugandan security guards remain deployed at the United States Embassy in Iraq which was attacked by members of the Shia group Kataib Hezbollah militia on Tuesday.
The militia was protesting recent U.S. military airstrikes on five Ian-backed Hezbollah sites in Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. airstrikes were in response to Kataib Hezbollah militia attacks on Iraqi bases hosting Operation Inherent Resolve coalition forces including U.S. military personnel, according to a statement released Sunday by chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
ChimpReports has learned that Ugandan private security guards were on duty when the militia stormed the U.S. Embassy.
This was revealed by former Pentagon official and combat veteran, Alex Plitsas.
Reacting to a video shared by a news outlet about the nationality of security guards at the Embassy, Alex observed: “For clarity: These are not U.S. Marine Embassy Guards. These are armed security guards contracted by the State Department who have staffed the embassy for the last 10+ years. Most of them are Ugandan nationals.”
Alex further clarified that the Ugandan security guards “are inside the embassy compound and are safe at the moment.”
David, a Ugandan who previously served as a guard at U.S. installations in Iraq told ChimpReports on Thursday morning that his colleagues “are safe because the embassy has the highest level of security in the country.”
Asked if the Ugandan guards were trained to defend themselves in case of a full-scale military attack on the embassy, David responded: “They are well trained but it depends on the U.S. forces’ capacity. They can hold fire while waiting for backup.”
Pressed to shed more light on their safety in case they came under fire from long-range artillery attacks, David noted: “The incomings (indirect fires and rockets) can’t hit the embassy because it has enough security features to withstand such attacks. The incomings are the most dangerous.”
For clarity: These are not U.S. Marine Embassy Guards. These are armed security guards contracted by the State Department who have staffed the embassy for the last 10+ years. Most of them are Ugandan nationals. https://t.co/vsDAhOnqej
— Alex Plitsas (@alexplitsas) December 31, 2019
David, who didn’t want his full identity disclosed for security reasons, also clarified that while Ugandan guards access specialized training in providing high level security, they remain noncombatants.
“They can’t go on a frontline. But they manage all security checkpoints. The U.S. Marines are always on call in case of any attacks.”
The sprawling U.S. embassy complex cost $750 million to build and reached a peak staffing of 16,000 employees and contractors in 2012.
United States president Donald Trump has since ordered military reinforcements to secure the embassy located in the heavily-guarded Green Zone.
The Pentagon has been sending more forces, including roughly 100 Marines, to provide additional security to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command deployed to Baghdad Tuesday from Kuwait, according to the Pentagon.
Additionally, an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division are headed to U.S. Central Command.
Role of Ugandans in Iraq
According to a 2016 article by Bloomberg, in Iraq, Ugandans protect U.S. diplomats in Baghdad and Basra.
They also guard businessmen and aid workers in Afghanistan and Somalia.
They patrol government installations in Qatar and will likely stand watch when the country hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Some Ugandan recruits have drilled at an elite counterterrorism training center in Jordan funded by the Pentagon.
Others are sent abroad with virtually no training at all, just a requirement that they stand at least 5-foot-7.
As of 2016, a conservative estimate was 20,000 Ugandan mercenaries working abroad, according to Interpol figures and industry insiders.
In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 1,635 civilian contractors had died in Iraq since the start of the conflict.
The same report counted 142 deaths since September 2001 among four large contractors, including SOC—all of whom have recruited heavily in Uganda. However, the report doesn’t detail the nationalities of these casualties nor where they died.
The hiring boom began during the Iraq War. Returning guards use earnings to buy land, build homes, and start small businesses.
Ugandans appear likely to continue guarding American diplomats in Iraq and elsewhere.
On Feb. 12, 2016 the State Department awarded the next phase of its five-year, $10.2 billion Worldwide Protective Services contract to shield diplomatic personnel, guard embassy buildings, and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.
Among the seven winning companies, at least five—SOC, Triple Canopy, Sterling Global Operations, GardaWorld Government Services, and Aegis Defence Services—recruit or have previously recruited in Uganda.
The Pentagon likes mercenaries because they can be scaled up and demobilized quickly.
In Uganda, David told this website that Ugandans providing security at the Embassy are paid about $1,000 per month or even more.
They work for about six to eight hours per day.
Having worked with Uganda security guards, former U.S. combat operations officer, Alex Plitsas described them as “very tough, brave men from my experience”
He added: “Ugandan guards were some of the nicest people working there. Some of the greatest guys around. Couldn’t have been any kinder or more professional. If you run across any of them tell them I said “Jambo, rafiki!”’