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Private military company
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See also: Paramilitary
A private military company (PMC) is a private company providing armed combat and/or security services. They are one type of private security companies. PMCs refer to their staff as "security contractors" or "private military contractors". Private military companies refer to their business generally as the "private military industry" or "The Circuit".The United Nations, in a convention so far ratified by 35 states, considers PMCs to be mercenaries and prohibits them; the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the United States are not signatories to the convention, and the United States has rejected the UN's classification of PMCs as mercenaries.
The services and expertise offered by PMCs are typically similar to those of governmental security, military or police forces, most often on a smaller scale. While PMCs often provide services to train or supplement official armed forces in service of governments, they can also be employed by private companies to provide bodyguards for key staff or protection of company premises, especially in hostile territories. However, contractors who use offensive force in a war zone could be considered unlawful combatants, in reference to a concept outlined in the Geneva Conventions and explicitly specified by the 2006 American Military Commissions Act.
The services of private contractors are used around the world. P. W. Singer author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry says "In geographic terms, it operates in over 50 different countries. It’s operated in every single continent but Antarctica." Singer states that in the 1990s there used to be 50 military personnel for every 1 contractor, now the ratio is 10 to 1.
He also points out that these contractors have a number of duties depending on who they are hired by. In developing countries that have natural resources, such as oil refineries in Iraq, they are hired to guard the area. They are also hired to guard companies that contract services and reconstruction efforts such as General Electric. Apart from securing companies, they also secure officials and government affiliates.
Private military companies carry out many different missions and jobs. Some examples are supplying bodyguards to the Afghan president Hamid Karzai and piloting reconnaissance airplanes and helicopters as a part of Plan Colombia.They are also licensed by the United States Department of State, they are contracting with national governments, training soldiers and reorganizing militaries in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Equatorial Guinea.According to a study from 2003 the PMC industry was worth over $100 billion a year at that time.
According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, private contractors make up 29% of the workforce in the United States Intelligence Community and cost the equivalent of 49% of their personnel budgets.
According to the Brazilian geostrategist De Leon Petta, far from meaning a possible weakening of the national state power and its monopoly on violence, these PMCs will actually serve as alternative forms of power application abroad through irregular means, without violating international law, causing troubles in the domestic or public policy, or too many international repercussions.[American scholar Phelps makes a similar claim by finding that PMCs wrap themselves in state governments' "cloak of legitimacy."
It is often difficult to tell national troops from private security contractors, or national support personnel from supply and support contractors. The obfuscation between private and public actors allows for the responsibility of criminal actions to be placed on the private firm, while allowing the state to achieve its foreign policy goals.
Sir David Stirling, an SAS veteran, founded a PMC in the 1960s.
Modern PMCs trace their origins back to a group of ex-SAS British veterans in 1965 who, under the leadership of the founder of the SAS, Sir David Stirling and John Woodhouse, founded WatchGuard International (formerly with offices in Sloane Street before moving to South Audley Street in Mayfair) as a private company that could be contracted out for security and military purposes.
The company's first assignment was to go to Yemen to report on the state of the royalist forces when a cease-fire was declared. At the same time Stirling was cultivating his contacts in the Iranian government and exploring the chances of obtaining work in Africa. The company eventually operated in Zambia and in Sierra Leone, providing training teams and advising on security matters. Stirling also organised deals to sell British weapons and military personnel to other countries for various privatised foreign policy operations. Contracts were mainly with the Gulf States and involved weapons supply and training. The company was also linked with a failed attempt to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from power in Libya in 1971. Woodhouse resigned as Director of Operations after a series of disagreements and Stirling himself ceased to take an active part in 1972.
Stirling also founded KAS International (aka KAS Enterprises) and was involved in a collaboration with the WWF to forcibly reduce the illegal poaching and smuggling of elephant tusks in various countries of Southern Africa. Other groups formed by ex-SAS servicemen were established in the 1970s and 80s, including Control Risks Group and Defence Systems, providing military consultation and training.
Dramatic growth in the number and size of PMCs occurred at the time of the end of the Cold War, as Western governments increasingly began to rely on their services to bolster falling conventional military budgets. Some of the larger corporations are: Vinnell and Military Professional Resources Inc. in the United States; G4S and Keeni-Meeny Services in the United Kingdom; Lordan-Levdan in Israel and Executive Outcomes in South Africa.
The exodus of over 6 million military personnel from Western militaries in the 1990s expanded the recruiting pool for PMCs.
Some commentators have argued that there was an exodus from many special operations forces across the globe towards these private military corporations. Units that were allegedly severely affected included the British Special Air Service, the US Special Operations Forces and the Canadian Joint Task Force 2.
Finding work in the industry is not difficult for most former soldiers as their personal network of fellow and ex-soldiers is enough to keep them informed of available contracts.
In 1985, Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) was established in the United States, primarily to preplan for contingencies and to leverage the existing civilian resources. However, it was three years later before it was first used. In support of a United States Third Army mission, the United States Army Corps of Engineers(USACE) used LOGCAP to contract for the construction and maintenance of two petroleum pipelines systems in Southwest Asia.
Later, USACE awarded the first contract under LOGCAP to Brown and Root Services (now KBR) in August 1992 as a cost-plus-award-fee contract, which was used in December that year to support the United Nations forces in Somalia.
Some contractors have served in advisory roles, that help train local militaries to fight more effectively, instead of intervening directly. Much of the peacekeeper training Western governments have provided to African militaries was done by private firms, and with the increasing absence of Western military support to international peace operations, the private sector was commonly utilized to provide services to peace and stability operations from Haiti to Darfur.
The Center for Public Integrity reported that since 1994, the Defense Department entered into 3,601 contracts worth $300 billion with 12 U.S. based various PMCs within the United States, specifically during the initial response after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Domestic operations are generally under the auspice of state or federal agencies such as the Department of Energy or the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense. Driven by increasingly greater fears of domestic terror attacks and civil unrest and disruption in the wake of disasters, more conventional security companies are moving into operations arenas that would fall within the definition of a PMC. The United States State Department also employs several companies to provide support in danger zones that would be difficult for conventional U.S. forces.
International legal issues
In October 2007, the United Nations released a two-year study that reported, that although hired as "security guards", private contractors performed military duties. 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. However, a spokesman for the American mission to the U.N. office in Geneva (UNOG) said that "Accusations that U.S. government-contracted security guards, of whatever nationality, are mercenaries is inaccurate." As Martha Lizabeth Phelps points out, the difficulty separating private from public troops means that legal proceedings against these non-state violent actors can be complicated. She claims contracted combatants carry the legitimacy of the state that hires these firms.There is currently no globally accepted norms or legal framework applied to these firms.