In Afghanistan, there has been an unprecedented privatization of war and security. However, the instability and violence is prevailing in the country, promoting a business where safety is not a public good but a limited option to foreigners and wealthy Afghans. A business, private armies, which will survive the withdrawal of foreign military forces planned for 2014.

NOVACT, in cooperation with the International Coalition Control PMSC, presents the results of the research Corporate private armies in Afghanistan. Regulation of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in a ‘Territorial State’ next Thursday 21 November at 19:00 in Barcelona. Here you can download the executive summary of the research.

The presentation will take part in an open debate activity on the culture of war and the privatization of warfare with the participation of experts in armed conflict, journalists, members of Afghan organizations in Catalonia and citizens concerned about how private contractors do business with armed conflict.

The report Corporate private armies in Afghanistan. Regulation of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in a ‘Territorial State’ is an analysis based on a case study on the use and activities of PMSCs in a conflict situation and, in particular, is focused on how territorial states where these companies operate, as Afghanistan, are responding to the challenge of the regulation and control of these armed groups.

One of the most important conclusions in the research is that part of PMSCs will remain in Afghanistan as an armed element surviving the withdrawal of foreign military forces planned for 2014. These companies are important actors that perpetuate a militarized society model and can have potentially destabilizing effects in the transition stage of the country.

PMSCs are only one of several armed groups operating in the Afghan conflict, and in many cases, their use and activities go unnoticed. However, most international actors in Afghanistan (NGOs, journalists…) claim that, even today, they would be unable to operate in the country without the help of PMSCs. Overall, international military forces in general (Coalition Forces and ISAF under NATO command), and military agencies, diplomatic and reconstruction from U.S. in particular have been the main employers of PMSCs in Afghanistan. In fact, in December 2008, contractors made up 69% of the staff of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the highest percentage recorded by the DoD in a conflict in the U.S. history.

New dimensions of the privatization of war

Being the greatest exponent of the global war on terrorism, the Afghan conflict (2001-present) is also, along with Iraq, one of the first examples of the contemporary privatization of war. The use of private contractors in conflict situations was not exactly a new policy by the time the war of Afghanistan began. However, the scale in their use and the scope of their activities experienced a drastic turn during the conflict. From 2001 to 2007, the estimated number of PMSCs present in Afghanistan ranged from 60 to 140 companies, with around 18,000 to 28,000 troops. In addition, these companies have done all kinds of military and security services. Such as training and restructuring of national armed forces – i.e. the Afghan National Army (ANA) –, operational support services including maintenance and operation of weapons and combat-related goods (including drones), as well as demining and eradication of poppy fields.

“One of the peculiarities of the PMSCs industry in Afghanistan is the national component. In contrast to Iraq, when arriving in the country, this industry, which was eminently foreign in nature and concept, progressively became a business with a strong national component. And have also created complex relationships with the police, local militias and warlords. This has not only influenced local politics and economy but has hampered the demobilization of combatants. The output of troops and the current policy of dissolution of PMSCs threaten to leave a good number of unemployed armed population and impact the fragile political stability of the country, “says the director of research and PhD in international law, Leticia Armendariz.

Human rights, distrust and insecurity

Abuses committed by contractors also compose a substantial base of the impact PMSCs’ use and activities have had on human rights of local population in Afghanistan. In broad terms, PMSCs’ activities have had both a direct and an indirect impact on human rights.

Several research field studies provide reliable information showing that although the services of PMSCs are generally related to safety, the use and activities of the companies has not led to a positive development in the field overall security of the country. Studies have indicated that the large number of armed individuals, vehicles and weapons, as well as the links between these companies and the national militia, has created a sense of mistrust, fear and insecurity among the local population and sends the message that security is a public good, but a limited option to foreigners and wealthy Afghans.

In this regard, the report highlights the need for international regulation of PMSCs to serve for regulation at the time of their arrival in countries at war. From a human rights perspective, this could mean that regional states have a real commitment to fulfilling its obligations to protect human rights and ensure respect for humanitarian law under its jurisdiction.

This research, Corporate private armies in Afghanistan. Regulation of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) in a ‘Territorial State’, is the second of the series The privatization of war funded by international cooperation program Barcelona Solidarity of the City Council, which began with an in-depth report on the case of Iraq and the use of mercenaries in the country. That publication was presented at the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries in Geneva (Switzerland) in October 2011. Now you can download it here.

You can follow the presentation in Spanish on Novact’s streaming channel: 

or on Twitter with the hashtag #ControlPMSCs

© Featured photo by Mónica Bernabé