Head of US particular ops in Africa likens Wagner Group to ‘terrorist group’

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Milton J. Sands III, Commander U.S. Particular Operations Command-Africa and Gen. Richard D. Clarke, Commander of U.S. Particular Operations Command, observe a coaching state of affairs throughout a go to to Flintlock in Côte d’Ivoire Feb. 25, 2022 (SSG Andrea Salgado Rivera/US Army)

SOFIC 2022: The Russian personal army group often called the Wagner Group is a “destabilizing power” on the African continent just like that of a terrorist group, the commander of US Particular Operations Command Africa stated Wednesday.

“For myself, I’ve begun considering of them as a terrorist group,” stated Navy Rear Adm. Milton Sands III on the Particular Operations Forces Business Convention. “They carry simply destabilization [and] instability wherever they go. They go away nations much less safe and poorer after they go away. They profit from governmental instability in Africa.”

The Wagner Group is a paramilitary group that Western governments suspect is a proxy power for the Russian army, finishing up the Kremlin’s international coverage objectives whereas sustaining believable deniability.  Wagner Group’s power of personal contractors have engaged in conflicts and in any other case operated throughout the Center East and Africa since its institution in 2014, in response to a report from the Brookings Institute.

The report stated Wagner Group fighters have deployed to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, and Mali — nations that typically have destabilized, risky governments.

“That makes governments extra vulnerable to reaching out for Wagner help,” Sands stated.

The US suspects the Wagner Group is financed by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian restaurateur reportedly near Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin has denied involvement with the group.

The group made headlines in 2018 when an estimated dozens of Russian fighters suspected of being linked to Wagner have been killed alongside tons of of Syrian troops in an ill-fated assault on a US place there. The Russian authorities publicly denied any involvement. Most just lately, an estimated 1,000 Wagner Group fighters have been preventing in Ukraine following the Russian army’s invasion of its neighbor, in response to an early April report in the Washington Submit. Likewise, earlier this month Russian International Minister Sergey Lavrov denied Wagner was in Ukraine and reiterated that it had no connection to the Russian authorities anyway.

Each Russia and China have labored lately to develop their affect all through Africa, and Sands stated many African nations don’t maintain the identical adversarial view of them that the US does.

“Lots of our African nations and companions … they don’t suppose the identical approach about China and Russia as we do,” Sands stated. “They’ve had long run relationships with Russia or the Soviet Union earlier than. It’s simply not at all times their precedence.

“What we do is actually work properly with them to focus on the disadvantages of working with organizations which can be going to make them much less safe. And so working in that vein is a big portion of our built-in deterrence effort,” he stated.

It’s a difficult effort, nonetheless, highlighted by the Malian authorities’s latest determination to make use of Wagner Group after French troops totally withdrew after 9 years. That call caught the attention of the four-star commander of the US army in Africa, who tried to persuade the federal government in any other case.

“They’ve invited Wagner in as a result of they consider that Wagner will change the French and do a greater job,” stated Gen. Stephen Townsend, the pinnacle of US Africa Command, in congressional testimony in March. “Once I realized of this, I traveled to Mali and I met with the president there… And I defined that I assumed it was a foul concept to ask Wagner in as a result of we’ve seen them — I’ve seen them in Syria and I’ve seen them in different places in Africa, and Wagner obeys no guidelines, they received’t observe the route of the federal government, they received’t companion extra successfully.”