Security and Defense: A fix-it firm for ailing nations

Hugo Chavez may see it rather differently. But CST, founded by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yisrael Ziv, refers to it as a consulting agency.

November 12, 2010 16:42
ISRAEL ZIV, back in his uniformed days. Combining

Ziv 311. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)

What is Global CST? The short answer is that it depends on whom you ask. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims it is a group of mercenaries who work for the Israeli government, operating throughout Latin America by establishing militaries which conduct operations for Israel. The company, however, refers to itself as a consulting agency that provides advice and services for political leaders around the world facing critical challenges.

A review of Global’s operations by The Jerusalem Post, including a series of interviews with former employees and contractors, reveals a firm that has succeeded in doing what not many others have – becoming one of the leading consulting companies, not for militaries or companies but for countries. Something of a McKinsey for nations.

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Global CST was founded by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yisrael Ziv, the former head of the IDF Operations Directorate, in 2007. A longtime paratrooper, Ziv was commander of the Gaza Division and joined the General Staff in 2003, serving until shortly before the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Its concept is quite simple. Invited mostly to countries facing acute national security problems, Global creates a multistep plan that, as a first stage, aims to solve the acute threat, and then moves on to large-scale national/civil plans with the objective of strengthening the country’s economy, for example, to prevent a resurgence of crime or terrorism.

Take Afghanistan. Alongside its security and civil divisions, Global also maintains an agriculture branch. In 2008, its agriculture branch manager created a plan, that was adopted by the US military, to teach 600 families how to grow high-quality vegetables instead of opium.

The same model was applied in Colombia, one of the first countries advised by the company and a place where it continues to work. Global entered Colombia in 2007 amid the country’s growing disarray as it faced a powerful drug industry and an expanding terror network led by the revolutionary FARC.

“Global is about combining national security and civil growth,” Ziv has been known to tell his employees, many of them former senior officers in the IDF, Israel Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Another project was in Guinea, where the company assisted the government in building a $10 million water purification plant to provide 12 million liters of water a day for residents of the capital city of Conakry. The idea was to improve the quality of life.

“For the Guinea government this project was of critical importance, since it helped the government meet it’s national objective of providing electricity and water for all citizens in light of the fact that unpurified water was one of the main causes of death in Africa,” a former contractor who worked on the project said.

CEO of Global is Maj.-Gen. (res.) Meir Klifi, until 2009 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s military aide. Other employees include former Tel Aviv police chief David Zur and Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, a former senior officer in the IDF’s elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit. A former top executive was Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly head of Military Intelligence’s Research Directorate and today a deputy director-general in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

The company is active in close to a dozen countries on three continents.

Recent news reports have put it in Mexico, Peru, Guinea and a number of countries in Europe. Zur runs a subdivision called GLS which is currently advising Brazil on security issues ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.

The model Ziv and his cadre of top employees came up with in most cases includes training special forces to be able to counter the most immediate threat, usually of a terror or criminal nature. The next step involves a comprehensive analysis of the country’s geopolitical and strategic standing and its economic problems, culminating in a long-term plan aimed at overall economic and security revival.

While it sounds pretty ambitious, the model has succeeded in several countries.

ONE KNOWN example, written widely about in the international media, is Colombia. In September, the Colombian military struck a deadly blow to FARC and killed one of its top leaders, Mono Jojoy, in a raid on his jungle camp. The operation was a political and military victory for new President Juan Manuel Santos, the former defense minister, who took office in August and has led a crackdown on the rebel group, which is at its weakest in decades.

Just a few years ago, this would have been difficult to achieve. While the Colombians were launching dozens of military operations, they were not causing FARC serious damage, since the military did not adapt itself to fight guerrilla warfare and was using conventional means, very similar to the way Israel fought Hizbullah in the summer of 2006.

When Global came into the picture in 2007, one of its first steps was assisting in the reformation and training of Colombia’s Special Forces to enable them to launch effective operations against FARC deep in the jungle.

In 2008, for example, Ziv was reported to have been instrumental in helping launch Operation Jaque, which resulted in the freeing of 15 hostages from FARC rebels, including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Global CST, which refused to cooperate with this article, did however stress that 100 percent of the credit for the operation belonged to the Colombian security services.

It then moved on to build a comprehensive plan for homeland security, aimed at creating national and civil resilience to prevent a resurgence of the terror group and to weaken the drug trade.

According to a UN report this year, drug traffickers have begun to focus their operations in neighboring Ecuador, after Colombia successfully regained control of most of its territory.

“The idea is to create security by training and teaching security forces how to crack down on terrorist or criminal elements, but also in creating national and economic resilience by, for example, creating alternatives for cocaine growers,” a top former Israeli security official who has worked with the company said.

In other countries, the focus was on establishing a strong intelligence apparatus and teaching the military and government how to effectively collect intelligence and translate it into effective operations. In still other places, the work was mostly training the political leadership to identify strategic challenges independently and without assistance.

In most cases, the work can take up to four years.

In Colombia, Global is assisting in formulating a plan to get Chinese banks to invest $7 billion in erecting a cross-country railroad that will expedite the export process along the Pacific Coast. This could enable Colombia to improve relations with neighboring countries by offering them the use of the system for exports. This is of particular importance in light of reports of a rise in tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.

GLOBAL’S WORK can be diplomatically tricky and, in May, the company was reported to have been fined NIS 90,000 for deviating from the permit it was granted by the Defense Ministry and signing a contract with the government of Guinea to set up and train a dignitary protection force.

In all cases, the company first receives approval from the Defense Ministry’s Export Licensing Authority, known as API. What happened in Guinea started off with a request by then president Moussa Dadis Camara to help him solidify his new government and transform the country from a dictatorship to a democracy.

Global submitted a request to the Defense Ministry and, after receiving approval, visited Guinea and began drafting a security-civil-economic rehabilitation plan, which included the water purification plant. The security angle was to first establish and train an elite force for protection of the president, who was under threat of assassination.

After submitting the final request, a team from Global traveled to Guinea to sign the contract, which it did after receiving confirmation by phone that API had approved the request. The problem was that while the request had been approved, the company had yet to officially receive it in writing.

In the end, the company was not fined but was instructed by API to hold a seminar for employees to review export regulations.

It also never followed through with the security side of the deal due to French pressure on the Foreign Ministry, but continued to work in Guinea on civilian issues.

Defense Ministry officials familiar with the Guinea affair claim that it was blown out of proportion and that the mix-up was due to a technical mistake by Global, which signed the contract before actually receiving the written approval.

Nevertheless, in a market saturated with defense contractors, what makes Global unique is that it does not sell weaponry but knowledge.

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