Private security contractors

Private security contractors

Private security contractors in conflicts in which the ADF is participating.


Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis, Moshe Schwartz, Congressional Research Service, 13 August 2009 [PDF, 260KB]

Private military company, Wikipedia

Comprehensive detailed article with useful links.

The Spy Who Billed me: Outsourcing the War on Terror

Blog by R.J.Hillhouse covering privatised war, security and intelligence, with country and topic tags.

Bush’s Shadow Army, Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, 15 March 2007

Detailed report on Blackwater, the largest mercenary force in Iraq.

Outsourcing Facilitating Human Rights Violations, Annual Report, Amnesty International, 2006

Study and recommendations to government and private security companies.

Towards the use of the Private Military Companies in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Sebastian Deschamps, COTIPSO Programme, UNITAR POCI, 15 January 2005.

Substantial policy study with useful material on Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the Sandline affair.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues, CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, U.S., May 28, 2004

“The use of armed contractors raises several concerns for many Members, including transparency and accountability. Transparency issues include the lack of public information on the terms of their contracts, including their costs and the standards governing their performance, as well as the background and training of those hired under contract. The apparent lack of a practical means to hold contractors accountable under U.S. law for abuses and other transgressions, and the possibility that they could be prosecuted by foreign courts, is also a source of concern.

“Contractors working with the U.S. military (or with any of the coalition forces) in Iraq are non-combatants who have no combat immunity under international law if they engage in hostilities, and whose conduct may be attributable to the United States. Contractors are not likely to be subject to military law, but may be prosecuted under criminal statutes that apply extraterritorially or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or by means of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). However, there is little precedent for trying contractor employees for crimes committed overseas. At least until June 30, 2004, when the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] is scheduled to transfer sovereignty to Iraq and dissolve, Iraqi courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute contractors without the permission of the CPA.”

Privatisation and outsourcing in wartime: the humanitarian challenges, Gilles Carbonnier, Disasters, Volume 30, Number 4, December 2006

“The tendency today to privatise many activities hitherto considered the exclusive preserve of the state has given rise to sharp debate. The specific nature of humanitarian emergencies elucidates in particularly stark contrast some of the main challenges connected to the privatisation and outsourcing of essential public services, such as the provision of drinking water and health care. This article focuses on the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved in armed conflicts, especially those of private companies engaged in security, intelligence and interrogation work, and in the provision of water supply and health services. It highlights the need for humanitarian and development actors to grasp better the potential risks and opportunities related to privatisation and outsourcing with a view to supplying effective protection and assistance to communities affected by war.”

Operational Implications of Private Military Companies in the Global War on Terror, Major Richard D. Wallwork, School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2005

Final two chapters very useful. Good references.

Australia and private security contractors

‘Example’ to be made of death row Australian, Barbara Miller for PM, ABC News, 28 January 2010

 A former Australian soldier, Langdon was originally found guilty and sentenced to death in October last year for fatally shooting the man while he was working as a security contractor. He reportedly told an Afghan court that he shot the man in self-defence during an argument after a raid by the Taliban about how to proceed with an assignment.

Dr Michael McKinley, senior lecturer in International Relations and Strategy at the Australian National University, says the Afghan government will act on years of pent-up frustrations over the behaviour of foreign contractors in the country, by handing Langdon the harshest penalty. Meanwhile, the judge who upheld the death sentence, Abdul Salam Qazizada, defended his ruling, saying he was convinced Langdon was a “murderer” and deserved to die. “I’m convinced that he’s a murderer. I’ve ruled in accordance with the laws. We gave him what he deserved,” he said.

Langdon’s hopes of escaping the death penalty now lie in the hands of the Afghan Supreme Court. The case throws a spotlight on the large numbers of foreign contractors working in Afghanistan and on local sensitivities to their presence.

Prime Minister: Transcript of interview on 6PR with Simon Beaumont, PM’s Office, Media release, 27 January 2010

BEAUMONT: On matters international PM, this former Australian soldier Robert Langdon, he was working as a contractor, he’ll be hanged in Afghanistan. The authorities have found him guilty of murder in May last year. Will you intervene?

PM: Yes, the Australian Government will intervene. First of all, can I say that in the case of this individual, my advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs is that an appeal will be lodged by his lawyers to the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, and while that appeal is underway I don’t intend to get engaged in a rolling commentary on the content of the case, but can I say we are providing consular support to this individual in Afghanistan, also to his family in Australia. Furthermore, consistent with what we have done in the past and will do in the future, we as the Government always intervene in support of any Australian citizen who has been convicted of a capital offence.

Aussie ‘facing death penalty in Kabul’, AAP, Yahoo7News, 27 January 2010

A former Australian soldier is facing execution in Afghanistan for the murder of a local security guard that he tried to blame on the Taliban… Robert William Langdon, 38, was arrested in May last year for killing an Afghan security guard, whom he shot four times in the head and body, The Australian newspaper reported on Wednesday. At the time, Langdon was employed by the US-based contractor Four Horsemen International as a security contractor. The man Langdon shot, who was known as Karim, was his colleague.

Armed and ready: private soldiers in Iraq, Nick McKenzie, The Age,  1 July 2006

“Between 200 and 300 former Australian military, police and security officers ignore Canberra’s advice to come home and instead head to the “sand-pit”, as Iraq is known, to earn between $US300 and $US700 ($A410 and $960) a day. Two Australian-managed companies, the Perth-based OAM and Unity Resources Group, have employed hundreds of Australians in Iraq. Two Australian security guards have been killed and several more injured. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it does not know how many Australians are there because many don’t bother to register with them. Nor does the department claim to have any role in regulating or monitoring their activities.

Legal Opinion on the Status Of Non-Combatants and Contractors under International Humanitarian Law and Australian Law, Donald R. Rothwell, Lowy Institute, 24 December 2004

Opinion covering the following topics:

  • The International Law Framework
  • The Status of Civilians in Armed Conflict
  • Armed Civilians and their status under international law
  • Protections enjoyed by Civilian Contractors and ADF obligations
  • Operation of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols in Conflict Transition Zones
  • Status of Forces Agreements and Civilian Contractors
  • Regulation of Australian-based operators in foreign conflict zones

Iraq deteriorating: Australian contractor, The Age, 22 April 2005

“Iraq is descending into more indiscriminate violence after a period of relative calm, according to a Australian private security contractor working in the country. He was commenting on the latest deadly outbursts in Iraq that has claimed scores of victims, including an Australian security contractor, among three foreigners killed in a roadside ambush on Wednesday. The 34-year-old NSW man was shot along with two other foreign nationals, believed to be an American and a Canadian, while travelling in a convoy on the main road near Baghdad International Airport. Reuters have named the man as Chris Ahmelman. The dead Australian had been working as a security officer with British firm Edinburgh Risk and Security Management. He was the fourth Australian to die in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Fiji, Iraq And The Privatisation Of Security: Nic Maclellan, Austral Policy Forum 06-11A, Nautilus Institute at RMIT, 6 April 2006

“Australian journalist Nic Maclellan reports that over 1,000 Fijians are working in Iraq and Kuwait, as soldiers, security guards, drivers and labourers, and more than 2,000 Fijian soldiers in the British Army. ‘So far at least eight Fijians working in Iraq have been killed, with many others wounded. The official and unofficial Fijian deployments to the Middle East have been widely accepted in Fiji, because of the significant remittances flowing to rural villagers.’ The employment of Fijian soldiers as mercenaries has brought new problems for the government of Fiji, and for its island neighbours as well, ‘with news in late 2005 that former Fijian Military Force soldiers were working in Bougainville.'”


Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Failing Afghanistan’s Cops, Pratap Chatterjee, 21 March 2010

TomDispatch regular Ann Jones found this out in the summer of 2009 when she spent time with recruits being trained for an Afghan army that seemed barely to exist.  She couldn’t help wondering, then, what might have happened if those training billions had gone into agriculture, health care, or a civilian job corps (either in Afghanistan or the U.S.).

The Pentagon faces a tough choice: Should it award a new contract to Xe (formerly Blackwater), a company made infamous when its employees killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007, or to DynCorp, a company made infamous in Bosnia in 1999 when some of its employees were caught trafficking young girls for sex?

“After three weeks in the Kabul Security Acceleration Program, these men will get a badge, uniform, and gun and be sent out to patrol,” Schneider explained. Asked if that was really sufficient, he assured me that the new police officers would be given an additional five weeks of intensive post-election training by DynCorp contractors and international military mentors.

For example, a 2006 attempt to induct 11,000 villagers into a new organization dubbed the Afghan National Auxiliary Police — with only 10 days of training from DynCorp and international military mentors — was a complete and abysmal failure. One-third of the trainees in certain southern provinces, given a gun and a uniform, were never seen again. Two years later, in September 2008, the project was terminated.

A 2008 report by the well-respected International Crisis Group pointed out that such rapid-induction programs had the perverse effect of actually lowering the average literacy rate and effectiveness of the Afghan police force — and that’s without even considering the security problems created by those drop-outs with guns.

Defense official ran private spy operation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, AP, 15 March 2010

A Defense Department official is under investigation for hiring private contractors to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, The New York Times reported Sunday. That information was then supplied to military units and intelligence officials, the Times said, citing anonymous military and business sources in the United States and Afghanistan. The scheme violated U.S. policy against using contractors as spies.

Michael D. Furlong was reported to have hired contractors from a private company run by retired Special Forces officers for what some of the Times’ sources described as an off-the-books spy operation. Some of the Times’ sources said the information gathered by the contractors was used by the military to track down and attack militants.

The officials who spoke to the newspaper said they were not sure who condoned Furlong’s operation, and it may have been funded by diverting money from a program intended to merely gather information about the area. They also said the operation appears to have been shut down while Furlong is under criminal investigation by the Defense Department.

Gates to review Blackwater’s conduct in Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 6 March 2010

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will review allegations of serious misconduct in Afghanistan by the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater, the Pentagon has announced. The decision comes after a top senator called on the Pentagon to consider blocking a potential $1 billion contract with the company, now called Xe, to train Afghan police.

In a letter to Gates made public on March 4, Levin said there was evidence of misconduct in a previous subcontract awarded to a Blackwater affiliate to conduct weapons training for the Afghan National Army. Levin said the firm might also have made false official statements, misappropriated government weapons, and hired unqualified personnel with backgrounds that included assault, battery, and substance abuse.

But the Pentagon played down the chances of barring the firm from contracts, citing its rare technical expertise. “They have a willingness to work in places that very few companies are willing to work,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. “So they provide a much-needed service and the ability to do it well.”

Xe, which said it welcomed the review, is one of five companies eligible to compete for the contract to train Afghanistan’s police — a key task ahead of the U.S. forces’ planned withdrawal by the end of 2011.

In January, two U.S. contractors working for a Xe subsidiary were arrested in Afghanistan on charges of murdering two Afghans in Kabul.

Former Blackwater employees accuse security contractor of defrauding government, Carol D. Leonnig and Nick Schwellenbach, 12 February 2010

Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security contractor of defrauding the government for years through phony billing, including charging taxpayers for alcohol-filled parties, spa trips and a prostitute.

In court records unsealed this week, a husband and wife who worked for Blackwater said they have firsthand knowledge of the company falsifying invoices, double-billing federal agencies and improperly charging the government for personal expenses. They said they witnessed “systematic” fraud in the company’s security contracts with the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

The company changed its name to Xe Services LLC last year.

Australian contractor deaths

Jon Hadaway, contractor, Iraq,  13 August 2006

Wayne Schultz, contractor, Iraq, 8 June 2006, Iraq

Chris Ahelmann, contractor, 200 April 2005, Iraq

List of contractors (partial)

  • Blackwater USA – redirects to U.S. Training CenterU.S. Training Center is famous for our ability to deliver hard hitting, effective training experiences for military, security and law enforcement professionals as well as civilians.We are seeking senior military and law enforcement professionals to provide individual mentoring services to the executive leadership of various government department heads of the Government of Afghanistan.   The Contractor shall assist in the development of plans, policies and procedures to support the overall LE and CN efforts of the Government of Afghanistan, to include (but not limited to) assisting senior level officials to improve, coordinate and implement the development of LE initiatives, CN programs and Justice Reform programs.

    Requires strong international diplomatic skills, knowledge of military and inter-agency operations, and experience working with issues concerning Southwest Asia.

  • Four Horsemen International
    The Four Horsemen International Corporation (FHI) was established to meet the needs of rebuilding the worn torn nation of Afghanistan. FHI established itself early on and established kinships with many of the current leaders of the nation. FHI was the only registered representative with the Department of Justice to represent the interim Government of Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.FHI teamed with the Untied States Geology Survey (USGS) and the Interim Government of Afghanistan Ministry of Mining in order to conduct a series of coal samples and surveys through out Afghanistan assisting in rebuilding the coal mining industry in Afghanistan. Today FHI has ten offices in throughout Afghanistan.
  • OAM GroupOAM was established in 1998 by highly experienced former Australian military special forces and law enforcement professionals who recognized that individuals and corporations alike demand tailored solutions to real-life situations; not overpriced and often inappropriate “templated” advice.OAM has an excellent reputation for the quality of its people. Drawn mainly from the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment and police, this level of expertise and professionalism makes OAM’s people amongst the best in the world.

    Security in High Risk Environments

    • Convoy Escort – Iraq
    • Site Security – Iraq
    • Personal Security Detail – Iraq
  • Unity Resources Group
    Protective Security
    Unity provides specialist close protection in the worlds most hostile and remote environments including Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Our fully licensed services include tailored planning and implementation; provision of highly trained consultants; medical support services; and project life support. Unity can provide armed guards and armoured vehicles if required and where necessary.Logistics
    Unity Red | Orange
    is a supplier of choice amongst many businesses and military forces who work with Afghanistan. We fly into Bagram, Kabul, Kandahar & Tarin Kowt on a daily basis and to Mazar-e-Sharif, Helmand and Herat as required utilising our own air assets and local ground transport partners.Unity Capability Statement [PDF]
  • Edinburgh International, formerly Edinburgh Risk and Security Management
    In August 2004, ERSM (Holdings) Ltd, a Guernsey registered company, was established to provide a permanent dedicated Headquarters for the developing Group. After the first successful operation in Afghanistan that October, a Regional Headquarters was established in the United Arab Emirates to provide a geographically closer focus to the emerging markets.Edinburgh International is a recognised expert provider of Static or Site Guarding. Our business is maintaining the security of our clients personnel and property in some of the most hostile environments in the world such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. EI provide and manage host country national or third party national guards. Often we utilise the expert skills of ex-British Army Gurkhas.

See also:

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 30 March 2010