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Top 18 Secret Mercenary Armies of the CIA

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

The United States have a well known history of providing military support to countries in need. But from time to time, the US Government has provided secret forces. While many are successful, there have also been a number of failures. This is a list of the ten top secret armies of the CIA.

1. Ukrainian Partisans Wikipedia

From 1945 to 1952 the CIA trained and aerially supplied Ukranian partisan units which had originally been organised by he Germans to fight the Soviets during WWII. For seven years, the partisans, operating in the Carpathian Mountains, made sporadic attacks. Finally in 1952, a massive Soviet military force wiped them out.

2. Chinese Brigade in Burma Wikipedia

After the Communist victory in China, Nationalist Chinese soldiers fled into northern Burma. During the early 1950s, the CIA used these soldiers to create a 12,000 man brigade which made raids into Red China. However, the Nationalist soldiers found it more profitable to monopolise the local opium trade.

3. Guatemalan Rebel Army Wikipedia

After Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz legalised that country’s communist party and expropriated 400,000 acres of United Fruit banana plantations, the CIA decided to overthrow his government. Guatemalan rebels were trained in Honduras and backed up with a CIA air contingent of bombers and fighter planes. This army invaded Guatemala in 1954, promptly toppling Arbenz’s regine.

4. Sumatran Rebels Wikipedia

In an attempt to overthrow Indonesian president Sukarno in 1958, the CIA sent paramilitary experts and radio operators to the island of Sumatra to organise a revolt. With CIA air support, the rebel army attacked but was quickly defeated. The American government denied involvement even after a CIA b-26 was shot down and its CIA pilot, Allen Pope, was captured.

5. Khamba Horsemen Wikipedia

After the 1950 Chinese invasion of Tibet, the CIA began recruiting Khamba horsemen – fierce warriors who supported Tibet’s religious leader, the Dalai Lama – as they escaped into India in 1959. These Khambas were trained in modern warfare at Camp Hale, high in the rocky mountains near Leadville, Colorado. Transported back to Tibet by the CIA operated Air American, the Khambas organised an army number at its peak some 14,000. By the mid-1960s the Khambas had been abandoned by the CIA but they fought on alone until 1970.

6. Bay of Pigs Invasion Force Wikipedia

In 1960, CIA operatives recruited 1,500 Cuban refugees living in Miami and staged a surprise attack on Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Trained at a base in Guatemala, this small army – complete with an air force consisting of B-26 bombers – landed at the Bay of Pigs on April 19, 1961. The ill-conceived, poorly planned operation ended in disaster, since all but 150 men of the force were either killed or captured within three days.

Want to learn more? Read the whole story in Bay of Pigs Declassified at!

7. L’armee Clandestine Wikipedia

In 1962, CIA agents recruited Meo tribesmen living in the mountains of Laos to fight as guerrillas against Communist Pathet Lao forces. Called l’armee Clandestine, this unit – paid, trained, and supplied by the CIA – grew into a 30,000 man force. By 1975 the Meos – who had numbers a quarter million in 1962 – had been reduced to 10,000 refugees fleeing into Thailand.

8. Nung Mercenaries Wikipedia

A Chinese hill people living in Vietname, the Nungs were hired and organised by the CIA as a mercenary force, during the Vietnam war. Fearsome and brutal fighters, the Nungs were employed throughout Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Nungs proved costly since they refused to fight unless constantly supplied with beer and prostitutes.

9. Peruvian Regiment Wikipedia

Unable to quell guerrilla forces in its eastern Amazonian provinces, Peru called on the US for help in the mid-1960s. The CIA responded by establishing a fortified camp in the area and hiring local Peruvians who were trained by Green Beret personnel on loan from the US army. After crushing the guerrillas, the elite unit was disbanded because of fears it might stage a coup against the government.

10. Congo Mercenary Force Wikipedia

In 1964, during the Congolese Civil War, the CIA established an army in the Congo to back pro-Western leaders Cyril Adoula and Joseph Mobutu. The CIA imported European mercenaries and Cuban pilots – exiles from Cuba – to pilot the CIA air force, composed of transports and B-26 Bombers.

11. The Cambodian Coup Wikipedia

For over 15 years, the CIA had tried various unsuccessful means of deposing Cambodia’s left-leaning Prince Norodom Sihanouk, including assassination attempts. However, in March, 1970, a CIA-backed coup finally did the job. Funded by US tax dollars, armed with US weapons, and trained by American Green Berets, anti-Sihanouk forces called Kampuchea Khmer Krom (KKK) overran the capital of Phnom Penh and took control of the government. With the blessing of the CIA and the Nixon administration, control of Cambodia was placed in the hands of Lon Nol, who would later distinguish himself by dispatching soldiers to butcher tens of thousands of civilians.

12. Kurd Rebels Wikipedia

During the early 1970s the CIA moved into eastern Iraq to organize and supply the Kurds of that area, who were rebelling against the pro-Soviet Iraqi government. The real purpose behind this action was to help the shah of Iran settle a border dispute with Iraq favourably. After an Iranian-Iraq settlement was reached, the CIA withdrew its support from the Kurds, who were then crushed by the Iraqi Army.

13. Angola Mercenary Force Wikipedia

In 1975, after years of bloody fighting and civil unrest in Angola, Portugal resolved to relinquish its hold on the last of its African colonies. The transition was to take place on November 11, with control of the country going to whichever political faction controlled the capital city of Luanda on that date. In the months preceding the change, three groups vied for power: the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). By July 1975, the Marxist MPLA had ousted the moderate FNLA and UNITA from Luanda, so the CIA decided to intervene covertly. Over $30 million was spent on the Angolan operation, the bulk of the money going to buy arms and pay French and South African mercenaries, who aided the FNLA and UNITA in their fight. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, US officials categorically denied any involvement in the Angolan conflict. In the end, it was a fruitless military adventure, for the MPLA assumed power and controls Angola to this day.

14. Afghan Mujaheedin Wikipedia

Covert support for the groups fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and was stepped up during the administration of Ronald Reagan. The operation succeeded in its initial goal, as the Soviets were forced to begin withdrawing their forces in 1987. Unfortunately, once the Soviets left, the US essentially ignored Afghanistan as it collapsed into a five-year civil war followed by the rise of the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban. The Taliban provided a haven for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

15. Salvadoran Death Squads Wikipedia

As far back as 1964, the CIA helped form ORDEN and ANSESAL, two paramilitary intelligence networks that developed into the Salvadoran death squads. The CIA trained ORDEN leaders in the use of automatic weapons and surveillance techniques, and placed several leaders on the CIA payroll. The CIA also provided detailed intelligence on Salvadoran individuals later murdered by the death squads. During the civil war in El Salvador from 1980 to 1992, the death squads were responsible for 40,000 killings. Even after a public outcry forced President Reagan to denounce the death squads in 1984, CIA support continued.

16. Nicaraguan Contras Wikipedia

On November 23, 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed a top secret National Security Directive authorising the CIA to spend $19 million to recruit and support the Contras, opponents of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. In supporting the Contras, the CIA carried out several acts of sabotage without the Congressional intelligence committees giving consent – or even being informed beforehand. In response, Congress passed the Boland Amendment, prohibiting the CIA from providing aid to the Contras. Attempts to find alternate sources of funds led to the Iran-Contra scandal. It may also have led the CIA and the Contras to become actively involved in drug smuggling. In 1988, the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism, and International Operations concluded that individuals in the Contra movement engaged in drug trafficking; that known drug traffickers provided assistance to the Contras; and that ‘there are some serious questions as to whether or not US officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua’.

17. Haitian Coup Wikipedia

In 1988, the CIA attempted to intervene in Haiti’s elections with a ‘covert action program’ to undermine the campaign of the eventual winner, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Three years later, Aristide was overthrown in a bloody coup that killed more than 4,000 civilians. Many of the leaders of the coup had been on the CIA payroll since the mid-1980s. For example, Emmanuel ‘Toto’ Constant, the head of FRAPH, a brutal gang of thugs known for murder, torture, and beatings, admitted to being a paid agent of the CIA. Similarly, the CIA-created Haitian National Intelligence Service (NIS), supposedly created to combat drugs, functioned during the coup as a ‘political intimidation and assassination squad.’ In 1994, an American force of 20,000 was sent to Haiti to allow Aristide to return. Ironically, even after this, the CIA continued working with FRAPH and the NIS. In 2004, Aristide was overthrown once again, with Aristide claiming that US forces had kidnapped him.

18. Venezuelan Coup Attempt Wikipedia

On April 11, 2002, Venezuelan military leaders attempted to overthrow the country’s democratically-elected left-wing president, Hugo Chavez. The coup collapsed after two days as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and as units of the military joined with the protestors. The administration of George W. Bush was the only democracy in the Western Hemisphere not to condemn the coup attempt. According to intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen, the CIA had actively organised the coup: ‘The CIA provided Special Operations Group personnel, headed by a lieutenant colonel on loan from the US Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to help organise the coup against Chavez.

Source: The book of lists

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • Deuce

    The CIA didn’t even exist in 1945 nutjob!

  • jfrater

    Deuce: perhaps instead of criticising you ought to do some research? Then you won’t need to do any name calling. Up until 1946, the CIA was the OSS (Office of Strategic Service) – in 1946 President Truman created the Central Intelligence Group and transferred the assets of the OSS to them. In 1947 the National Security Act formally created the Central Intelligence Agency from the CIG.

    You may even want to read the wikipedia article on the CIA ( – it actually mentions the very story told here in point 1 (the point you are complaining about). It says:

    “In its earliest years the CIA, and its predecessor, the OSS, attempted to rollback communism in Eastern Europe by supporting local, anti-Communist political and para-military groups; none of the attempts were particularly successful. Attempts at instigating right-wing counter-revolutions in the Ukraine and Belarus, by infiltrating anti-Communist spies and saboteurs failed.”

    So, umm… nutjob!

  • Nabil Al-Murabit

    I’m not surprised. Just read about the GLADIO units that the CIA help create in both western and eastern Europe. These units were nothing more than terrorist groups that America help train and fund. Just like what some of the “rogue” countries like Iran is doing now

  • wikimynutts

    Bush + CIA + false flag terrorism = 9/11 + oil + economy boost + future control of energy reserves. Usa = martial law + tyranny and violation of rights. Operation liberate Iraq (OLI)or OIL


    Bush will probably die mysteriously one or 2 years after presidency is finished and all secrets will go to the grave. We need a patsy expect Rumsfield, Powell and Rice to have unexpected accidents within 3 years….perhaps covered by an act of terrorism carried out on a visit to britain….We are creating a hostile relations with russia to create confusion so that britain can secure its natural resources while the usa secures the middle east….Usa needs the oil to keep dollar strong… britain needs energy to maintain the strength against the euro… Today the dollar weakens tomorrow the pound strenghtens…….

    God bless America………..

    • Person

      So, you were saying??..

  • cp

    and the Arabs/Taliban that fought the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, who went on to do 911?

    Nowhere on your list?

    • DGMdragunov

      That’s under the Afghan Mujahideen section

  • Ian

    OMG CP must have direct proof the taliban pulled off 9-11! Amazing! Did Bush tell you that tidbit?And I thought they were all Saudi’s! Wow.

    • Zaye

      he should at least have listed the overwhelming amount of information about Al-Queda originating first as a CIA computer program

  • james

    The only thing this list needs is a reference to the CIAs actions in Iran- a chain of events whose blowback we are debating nationally right now.

    Great list though.

  • james: thanks :)

  • senilebiker

    Oh my Gosh. Does this mean the USA has been secretly arming insurgent/terrorist/counterrevolutionary groups in the same way that they accuse Syria and Iran of doing with respect to Hamas and Hizbollah.

    This policy of using surrogates to fight people you disagree with should be outlawed.

    • Guest

      Outlawed?? Haha, by who?

  • iraqileader

    This gives me a headache. I thought they were my friends. English fools.

  • A_guy_who_actually_studied_history: I am sorry you feel that way – I think you are being over-sensitive. I actually didn't consider this to be an Anti-American list – and you will see from my other lists that I don't write with an anti-American bias.

    Numbers 1-4, 6-8, 13-14 were to stop communist takeovers, number 5 was to help the Dalai Lama, 9 was to help at the request of the Peruvian government, 12 was to try to bring a border dispute to a peaceful resolution, 16 was quashed by the US government because it happened without permission,

    The only ones that are negative are 10, 11, 15, 17, and 18.

    Five negative actions out of 18 is hardly anti-American.

    Sometimes countries do things they shouldn't – America is not exempt from that – but this list has more positive actions than negative by far.

    You are, of course, more than welcome to provide links to the information that corrects my errors. This is an open forum.

    • Kris

      I know it’s been 4 years, but i need to clarify on the issue of #4. Sumatran rebel was simply used to overthrow Soekarno. Not because he is communist or anything, but because Soekarno did not want any US Presence in Indonesia. Soekarno was well know for his view of anti imperialism and colonialism.

  • A _guy_who_actually_studied_History

    This list has little or nothing to do with Mercenary groups. These are nationally or ethnically motivated groups of fighters with little interest in monetary gain. Perhaps the author should look up the definition of Mercenary.
    This is just another example of cliché USA bashing. There is more than enough appropriate and documented evidence out there without twisting facts and history.
    People like this author make me sick because genuine criticisms of U.S. foreign policy are lumped together with this garbage, thanks a lot.

  • mind

    you forgot al qaeda

  • rancor

    Don’t you mean al CIAeda ?

  • Lewis

    This just scares me!

  • Venezuelan

    The only bad thing about number 18 is that it didn’t succeed and my country is still ruled by an incompetent, self-centred, so called “president”. Americans should understand how venezuelans feel about this, your president is not worth a dime either…Also, I think we shared the feeling of choosing the wrong guy…

    Although, I have to admit that what hapenned on april 11th 2002 in my country was a coup…legally…but some of us hoped that things were gonna get better if “the wart” was no longer president, by all means necessary, but that wasn’t true. And maybe the other guys were really dumb and absolutly uncapable to do things the right way, the legal way.

    The reason why I’m writing this is because I want to tell you that president Chavez is not “cool” at all. People around the world are starting to believe that he’s the good guy ’cause he’s against Bush…

    • another venezuelan

      i'm a venezuela too and agreed with you 100% chavez is making venezuela a shithole just like cuba… now we even have an energy crisis… two hours a day without energy.. what come next???

  • Venezuelan

    And it pissed me off!!! by the way….

  • G-MAN PI

    Hugo Chavez is a deranged pretentious wannabe Simon Bolivar with a worrisome Napoleonic complex… to top it off Hugo Monkey-Face Chavez is a self-proclaimed “revolutionary” when in reality he is an extreme social-communist with obtuse principles and ideas. The fact is, Hugo Chavez is a street thug with presidential powers given by a a good percentage of the Venezuelan people (pueblo), albeit the elite class despise chavez, of course!

    However, if anyone is not worth a dime is Monkey-Face Chavez and not President Bush, who is criticized by mostly socialists and commies because, according to “them,” Bush is not an Internatiolist… well, tough luck! Down with Chavez! VIVA BUSH! VIA URIBE!

  • EZLN!!

  • ReconRick

    Your all a bunch of fucking retards…Have any of you been to the middle east? Held a fucking riffle and pointed it down range at someone shooting at you? Stop being little bitches, and relize that you don’t know anything about Contractors….

  • jonny

    ReconRick – hey dude. While you were in the ME pissing your pants as some 14 year old was throwing rocks at you…I was the guy showing your wife a good time! Biatch.

  • Copaface

    Wow this list is even more owned than the Ages of Palestine list…

  • Raheel

    well u certainly forget to mention 19 …. where the CIA and RAW are both mutually providing funds, ammo and training to afghans nationals disguised as talibans who are then infiltrating pakistan and attempting to destabilize the country. the war on terror in south asia is just a hoax …. the real aim is to destabilize pakistan.

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  • KGB

    Don’t forget Osama Bin Laden and All-Kaida, all is coming from CIA. They are also engineers of 9/11 , the biggest conspiracy against US people ever made. Welcome in slave America (the new notice on statue of liberty).

  • Josema

    @KGB – I guess some people can´t live without his dose of paranoid conspiration, eh?

  • Ace

    Why do I get the feeling this was written by a conspiracy nut job?

  • Martyna

    The Angolan war was fought by SOUTH AFRICAN SOLDIERS called up for National Service by the SA Government….they were not mercenaries. They had a system of military service for all recruits when they reached 18 years of age. They were not financed by the USA in any way other than following a common belief that the communists were out to conquer Africa-it was the cold war. Who put this list together?Where do you get your facts idiot?

  • belle99

    Great List :)

  • john

    You forgot about Islamic terrorist groups throughout Eurasia and Bin Ladin and the Bosnian Islamic militants in the Balkans who organised and help fince the 9/11 attack and the KLA in Kosovo.

  • the venezuelan again

    sadly this is all a plan in preparation for the new world order

  • duh genuine article

    oll idiots, namez R a clever way 2 misdirect large amounts uv ppl in2 thinkn sumthing else (~D so U myt dis guy 'n' dat guy 'n' U will nevr know who is who >:~D so open ur eyes 'n' realize dat ur headz R up ur ass!!!

  • Mac

    A very "broad" view. And, the Congo Mercenaries were largely European…and, many, like the Ukranians, Afghans against the Soviets, etc. Were idealists and not mercenaries. And, don't forget the Irish!!!

  • if they are top secret how come u guys know so much about it ?

  • Dave Fisherman.

    This is a very kool intreasting list. I've always been intreasted in Mercenaries and of course the FFL Frech Foregion legion.__I guess this is Americas eqvaliant to an American Foregion legion,__Witch Americans should have You should update this list for 2010/2011 ect.__I wish I could be an American CIA mercenary, I'm to old thought.__Amercia should have more prive-military compines hepling-law-enfocement around the world, And of course be funded by the CIA and pentagon.And more in Russia and the CIS helping them be a better Demcoracy.
    Dave Fisherman.-A proud American self-proclamined Mercenary.

  • Raj

    Good job C.I.A.! You've helped cause a lot of pain and misery.

  • weegmc

    I don’t think 18 is anything more than speculation. Good list though.

  • Sun Tszu

    There is no reference to the Chinese Brigade in Burma on the entire internet except for this website. Either you are lying about the whole matter or got your facts wrong.

  • javanistan

    # 4 should be revised to PRRI/Permesta. A bunch of regions, some of them are situated in Sumatra, pledged to fight Sukarno’s central government in Jakarta, Indonesia under the banner of PRRI/Revolutionary Government of Republic of Indonesia. CIA tried to arrange parachute drops to the Sumatran rebels, but they arrived too late and the government forces invade before those drops can be distributed and utilized.
    After Sumatra was pacified, all that was left was the northern Sulawesi region, which called themselves Permesta. The US managed even to create a small air force for Permesta with P-51s fighters and B-26 bombers, called the Aurev [Revolutionary Air Force]. Allen Pope was fighting for the Permesta and flew to attack Ambon from Manado, North Sulawesi before being shot down near the Ambon Island. His navigator, a native from North Sulawesi, was executed. Pope himself was traded with weapons and facilities under Kennedy, which stopped supporting Permesta altogether and left it to succumb to government attack.1

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  • Zeke

    Interesting list, anyhow another group of ethnic minorities the CIA recruited in during the Vietnam War or rather the proxy war in Laos was the Hmong people.

  • little johny

    Realy entertaining. Even more so is the comments. Wow

  • roflrolfrofrujgfafbfa

    Don’t you just love the United States government

  • goofy634

    I don’t know why in this list Arbenz’s government is describe as a “regime” , first of all, he was elected in a popular election, he didn’t overthrow any president or take anything by force, secondly, he didn’t legalize a communist party per-se, he legalized the workers rights party, which enabled workers to unionize and to have better rights, and what he did with the united fruit company was that he expropiated unused land to give it to the people, so that they would work it and contribute to the national economy. I just felt the need to clarify that.

  • tattoo apprentice

    awesome work!

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