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Al-Qaeda hated corporation

For five years until 1997 it was owned by the Carlyle group, a defence and investment house close to the Bush family.


By Marian Wilkinson
Washington


May 15 2003: (The Age) The bloody attacks in Riyadh are telling because of their targets, in particular the Vinnell Corporation. The residential compound and the offices used by Vinnell were hit, killing nine of the company's employees and injuring several others, two critically.

Al-Qaeda has a particular hatred for the US Vinnell Corporation because it trains the Saudi Arabian National Guard, the country's internal security force and an integral part of the Saudi military forces.

Vinnell, under contract to the US Army, employs about 800 people in Saudi Arabia including 300 Americans. Vinnell recently came under the financial control of giant US defence contractor Northrop.

Vinnell's relationship with Saudi Arabia over nearly three decades has been intriguing and controversial. For five years until 1997 it was owned by the Carlyle group, a defence and investment house close to the Bush family. Several former Republican cabinet ministers sat on Carlyle's board.

In 1975 the Pentagon hired Vinnell on a $US77 million ($A118.8 million) contract to train Saudi troops to protect the country's oilfields. About 1000 US Special Forces were recruited, says Dan Briody, author of a new book on the Carlyle group.

In 1992 Vinnell was taken over by the Carlyle group, whose chairman was Ronald Reagan's former defence secretary, Frank Carlucci. George Bush snr would later act on behalf of Carlyle and in 1993 Mr Bush snr's former secretary of state, James Baker, joined the company.

By then, Vinnell had trained the Saudi National Guard, and had worked alongside them during the first Gulf War launched while Mr Bush snr and Mr Baker were in office.

Indeed Vinnell, says Briody, "paved the way for co-operation between the United States and Saudi Arabia during the (first) Gulf War". It was this co-operation that infuriated Osama bin Laden.

 


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