Mercenary | private military and security companies

Private military and security companies

The private military company (PMC) is the contemporary strand of the mercenary trade, providing logistics, soldiers, military training, and other services. Thus, PMC contractors are civilians (in governmental, international, and civil organizations) authorized to accompany an army to the field; hence, the term civilian contractor. Nevertheless, PMCs may use armed force, hence defined as: "legally established enterprises that make a profit, by either providing services involving the potential exercise of [armed] force in a systematic way and by military means, and/or by the transfer of that potential to clients through training and other practices, such as logistics support, equipment procurement, and intelligence gathering."[14]

Private Military Contractor in Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan, 2006.

Private paramilitary forces are functionally mercenary armies,[citation needed] not security guards or advisors; however, national governments reserve the right to control the number, nature, and armaments of such private armies, arguing that, provided they are not pro-actively employed in front-line combat, they are not mercenaries. That said, PMC "civilian contractors" have poor repute among professional government soldiers[citation needed] and officers—the U.S. Military Command[who?] have questioned their war zone behavior. In September 2005, Brigadier General Karl Horst, deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division charged with Baghdad security after the 2003 invasion, said of DynCorp and other PMCs in Iraq: "These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force... They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."[15]

If PMC employees participate in pro-active combat, the press[who?] calls them mercenaries, and the PMCs mercenary companies. In the 1990s, the media[who?] identified four mercenary companies:

  • Executive Outcomes – Angola, Sierra Leone, and other locations worldwide (closed 31 December 1998)
  • Sandline International – Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone (closed 16 April 2004)
  • Gurkha Security Guards, Ltd – Sierra Leone.
  • DynCorp International – Bosnia, Somalia, Angola, Haiti, Colombia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan (active)

In 2004 the PMC business was boosted when the U.S. and Coalition governments hired them for security in Iraq. In March 2004, four Blackwater USA employees escorting food supplies and other equipment were attacked and killed in Fallujah, in a videotaped attack; the killings and subsequent dismemberment were a cause for the First Battle of Fallujah.[16] Afghan war operations also boosted the business.[17]

In 2006, a U.S. congressional report listed a number of PMCs and other enterprises that have signed contracts to carry out anti-narcotics operations and related activities as part of Plan Colombia. DynCorp was among those contracted by the State Department, while others signed contracts with the Defense Department. Other companies from different countries, including Israel, have also signed contracts with the Colombian Defense Ministry to carry out security or military activities.[18]

The United Nations disapproves of PMCs (still, the UN hired Executive Outcomes for African logistic support work).[citation needed] The question is whether or not PMC soldiers are as accountable for their war zone actions. A common argument for using PMCs (used by the PMCs themselves), is that PMCs may be able to help combat genocide and civilian slaughter where the UN is unwilling or unable to intervene.[19][20][21][22]

In February 2002, a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) report about PMCs noted that the demands of the military service from the UN and international civil organizations might mean that it is cheaper to pay PMCs than use soldiers. Yet, after considering using PMCs to support UN operations, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, decided against it.[23]

In October 2007, the United Nations released a two-year study that stated, that although hired as "security guards", private contractors were performing military duties. The report found that the use of contractors such as Blackwater was a "new form of mercenary activity" and illegal under International law. Many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are not signatories to the 1989 United Nations Mercenary Convention banning the use of mercenaries. A spokesman for the U.S. Mission to U.N. denied that Blackwater security guards were mercenaries, saying "Accusations that U.S. government-contracted security guards, of whatever nationality, are mercenaries is inaccurate and demeaning to men and women who put their lives on the line to protect people and facilities every day."[24]

In 2013, security firm G4S is reported to be the second largest private employer in the world.[25]

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