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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

JUST HOW “PRIVATE” ARE PMCs?

I have, of late, been wondering if the debate about PMCs is not superfluous.

I ask this question because I wonder just how “private” the majority of PMCs out there are?

To understand the concept of a Private Military Company, I believe that one should evaluate it against certain criteria. After all, the operative word is “private”.

As a basic set of criteria to measure PMCs against, I think the following questions ought to be asked:

1. Were they founded at the behest of, and/or with support from a host government?
2. Were they founded to assist a host government with specific military or foreign policy aims?
3. Are they independently funded or are they sustained by host government contracts?
4. Are they operating to further the foreign policy of their host government?
5. Were they awarded contracts based on recognition of prior work or were they handed their contracts, regardless?
6. Are their contracts awarded by their host government or by the client government?
7. Do they operate as an extension of their host government’s armed forces?
8. Have they (really) produced measurable results?

If these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, then surely they are not “private” military companies but rather parastatal military companies.

Let me be clear on this score: I don’t mind them being parastatal military companies at all. In fact, good for them. However, it irks me that they are advertised as “private” as that is what many of them certainly are not.

Some claim to have modelled themselves on “company X” or “company Y” but in fact, that is simply a smokescreen. I suspect that this is done to distance themselves from their host governments and make them appear “private”. But this perception actually prevents the real Private Military Companies from entering the market as they cannot compete on the same level as Parastatal Military Companies – simply because they do not have the financial backing of a government behind them.

I also know that some of these PMCs boast at being non-profit PMCs. But, I am told (rather reliably) that there is at least one PMC that has (very quietly) set up an “independent” PMC, in parallel with itself that it then subcontracts. In my book, this hardly makes it a non-profit PMC. Actually, I suspect that there is an element of fraud in this if the claim is true.

So, while the debate rages on about Private Military Companies I have to wonder just how “private” many of them really are.

73 comments:

Robby said...

Today's PMC's give politicians and countries "plausible deniability" for major screw ups...

From Wikipedia

Plausible deniability refers to the denial of blame in loose and informal chains of command where upper rungs quarantine the blame to the lower rungs. In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such act or any connection to the agents used to carry out such acts.

In politics and espionage, deniability refers to the ability of a "powerful player" or actor to avoid "blowback" by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party—ostensibly unconnected with the major player. In political campaigns, plausible deniability enables candidates to stay "clean" and denounce advertisements that use unethical approaches or innuendo based on opposition research.

More generally, "plausible deniability" can also apply to any act that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing or abuse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plausible_deniability

Jake said...

Eeben,
Great points all. I suspect you are right that many of the major companies, who let's be honest, generate nearly 99% of their revenue from the U.S. Government are in essence serving as a government department with only a 'private' veneer.

I tell you the next word we need to focus on is the word 'military' in the term Private MILITARY Company. From my experience very few of them operate in a military fashion. Certainly none that I have contracted with have any where close to the level of military command and control or unit discipline I learned in the Marines. I guess this leaves us to question if they are not private and they are not military then what are they?

Great stuff.

Jake

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Those are great points. It seems pretty clear that 'private military company' is not particularly accurate, as most of these companies seem to have a habit of working within a sphere of control specific to their main benefactor nation.

The terminology is inaccurate, that is sure. What it should be, good question. Would the main driving difference between a parastatal and paramilitary entity be that one is (or can be) incorporated, the other not?

Also, and this is just something I've wondered about, 'private' really isn't a good descriptor for publicly-listed firms (such as DynCorp), but 'public military company' seems to be cognitively difficult to parse... However, maybe more accurate, in all cases.

Thanks!
Jared

SteveO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby.

As you know, there are times when a government needs to act in a covert manner. So I am - in those instances - all for plausible deniability. Here I refer to crimes such as narco-trading, terrorism, etc.

But I am against it when governments use people – either their own forces or contracted people – to achieve a poorly defined political aim and when things go wrong, deny they knew of it, leaving those they ordered to take the blame. Having been there, I know what it feels like to carry the can for cowards.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is that “private” veneer that bugs me, Jake.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against these companies but I am somewhat suspicious of the term as it prevents real PMCs for entering the market.

I think you are right – we should also look at the word “Military” as many of them are a disgrace to the men who serve in the military. I have had the great misfortune of seeing some “PMCs” in Africa and am shocked that they can claim they are related to military activities, despite being sponsored by a powerful government.

What are they then? I suspect some would fit the label “con artists” very well.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your comment is spot-on, Jared. Perhaps this entire issue begs deeper investigation in the future. Maybe you would like to do that investigation for us if you have time?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your test was successful, SteveO.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I guess PMC's are in a catch 22 situation I sure don't have the answer to it's present dilemma.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think that many of them are there because of their own misleading claims, Robby. But, also it is the media and governments that have trumpeted this claim of being Private Military Companies (PMCs). I know that many are not “private” and as Jake so rightly pointed out, many of them don’t deserve the term “military” either.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Yep we have a name for them over here they called "range rambos" I gave up going to pubic ranges many years ago for that very reason....absolutely zero firearm safety and ethics.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That is a good descriptive for many of them, Robby. But, there are also some very good men who work for these companies – regardless of what we call them - and their names and reputations are tarnished by these clowns.

Rgds,

Eeben

userdude said...

Robby, Eeben,

I would say it is useful to see PMC's today as a wild-wild-west, frontier space - certainly it is a space in service to personal ambition above and beyond any clear professional (nee, coordinated and clearly defined) standards.

Are 'modern-day' PMC's pirates, buccaneers, entities robbing on-behalf-of? Who controls PMC's behavior (ultimately)?

Maybe, it is useful to talk about deniability, cost-control, and services and support, when making the argument of why PMC's are useful.

But, it serves little to the purpose of understanding how to be a high-quality, systemic, and forward-leaning organization.

As in the past, we will see most PMC's disappear into the ether. It is the nature of order and disorder to build to an entropic state; PMCs currently are very 'new', although I would argue that the idea and purpose of the services they provide has existed for time immemorable.

It is possible to predict the shape and form of what a military-service contractor will have, I believe. It is only work and thought (as regression to the mean), and perseverence.

Thanks!
Jared

Alan said...

Robby and friends:

Many points well made. I might offer however as a non-hypothetical, in a given month Aegis can easily vet, hire and field into theater a force of twenty excellent operators. In the same month MPRI and five other firms must hire and field a thousand or chance the loss of a contract. I'd venture MPRI and the like are 'odds on favorites' to have a misfit turn up now and again. If for no other reason, the sheer numbers. Bad publicity and critical memories have been generally found to follow the poor performers and they're hapless masters. Could the vetting and pre-deployment training be tighter more rigid? It certainly could, if you've got the time and resources. The exercise becomes a bit of a challenge however, when the total number of contractors in theater exceeds 150k. Lots of good work being done. Lots of sacrifice. A few "range rambos" mucking about? Yes indeed, but let us not forget, one mini-skirt in the front pew does not make the entire congregation hoers. I believe it was Churchill who said, "You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else. We simply must keep on trying to do the "right thing." My Penny Farthings worth.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I don’t know about that, Jared. I realise that there is a lot of criticism towards PMCs – and some of it is justified – but there are many contractors who actually do a great job.

Insofar as standards are concerned: Yes, there are some with appalling standards. But the men on the ground only do what they are ordered to do. If the overall strategy is bad, the result is bad. I believe that with no real strategic direction, decent command-and-control and a recruiting system that is based not on skills but on numbers, any amount of things can go wrong. I know that with my experience in EO.

I do believe you are correct though as regards the future of PMCs. Some will fade away (EO did) and others will simply leave the arena never to be heard of again. Those that remain wil be those that are given the big contracts on a plate – but then they are not really PMCs in the true sense of the word. Or are they?

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Points well taken, Alan. I agree that the bigger the company, the more likely to find misfits.

I think all of these companies are under time-pressure but it also goes back to the planning cycle that determined a force was needed to do a specific task. One can then ask: Were warning orders issued? How long before the op were the orders issued? Who coordinated this? When? Etc, etc.

I agree that many of the men do a good job. I have not doubted that. What I have questioned is the ability of some companies to use their men to the max benefit of the company – and if these companies can really lay claim to being PMCs.

Point on the “hoere” well taken!

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

ought you would find this interesting


U.S. special forces start training Congo troops
22 Feb Source: Reuters
* U.S. to train 1,000-strong Congolese battalion

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. military command for Africa (Africom) has started training 1,000 Congolese troops in the north of conflict-riven Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.S. ambassador to the central African country said on Monday.

The troops undergoing training in the eastern town of Kisangani by U.S. special forces among others, will learn tactics, maintenance and medical care, William Garvelink told reporters.

"We are working together to build a professional military that protects Congolese citizens and their human rights and protects the territorial integrity of the Congo," he said.

Last year, a Congolese army operation backed by U.N. troops drew criticism for wide-ranging human rights abuses and both sides say they want to improve army discipline.

U.S. military officials said obeying the chain of command would be at the forefront of their efforts in the $30-40 million, eight month training programme.

Garvelink said training had been delayed by two years due to American special forces' commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Human rights observers have questioned whether training an army containing so many former insurgents would only make them more professional rebels.

"Are we going to make them better at killing or are we going to give them disciplined skills to obey the officers...so that they demonstrate restraint?" asked Col. Thomas Crowder, Africom-commissioned director for the office of security cooperation at the U.S embassy in Kinshasa.

"That's what we're striving to achieve," he said. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Jon Boyle)

matt said...

Good points everyone, and this has been an interesting post. I guess my only input is that I am purely focused on trying to influence today's companies to start thinking about these things. I am also focused on taking a systemic approach at curing this by targeting the young contractors who will transition into management positions within these companies in the near future.

As for the governments that hire companies, or the leadership at the top of these companies, I am not very enthused at reaching them or even changing their opinions. I should certainly hope that these folks are reading the blogs and forums out there, and trying to get a feel for what the common man or even the former CEO's of PMCs have to say. Or better yet, actually interacting on these things to share their input. Because they do not do that, everyone will continue to judge them by their actions, or non-action and make all sorts of assumptions as to the why. Worse yet, because they are not there to fill that information void, the media and unscrupulous folks who call themselves journalists, will fill that void for them.

Now to switch gears. I think it would be fascinating to observe an exercise of a PMC versus PMC. Call it a war game, call it a simulation, or whatever. The point is, I would like to see how a modern and fully scaled battle like that would go? They do these things all the time in exercises in the military or at the Pentagon. From the logistics, to the planning, to the tactics and strategy used by both private military companies, complete with moderators and judges. I would also film it, and turn it into a sort of documentary for war colleges to watch and learn from. That is a documentary/war game simulation I would like to watch.

By the way Eeben, excellent part 2 of the series at Soldier of Fortune. I am looking forward to part 3. Take care. -matt

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

My apologies; I didn't make my point very clearly. Let me try briefly again.

As an illustration, let's look at medicine. 100 years ago medicine was not what we think of today. While obviously the quality of care has gone up considerably, so have the legal and organizational frameworks. This came about primarily to drive out of the business charlatans, snake-oil salesman, and to lend credibility to a range of professions through accountability.

This standards-making capacity is not itself a natural result of good practice; there are many great doctors and hospitals in countries not considered first-world economies with first-rate government-run regulatory authories. Medical tourism increasingly illustrates that low-cost medical services can be had safely and effectively "abroad", and it is simply good medicine for a decent cost. The charlatans still exist, but it is in the hospital's/doctor's best interest to get the best-paying clients, who are comparing that care to regulated medical facilities.

I believe the same approach will happen with respect to military services providers. It wasn't too long ago that PMC operations were thought to be extralegal. Has that changed? It seems, a little bit.

What is missing is not people and organizations who know what to do and have capable operators/operations; what is missing is accountability. This isn't unusual; regulation is the least-efficient means to control risks. But regulation drives standards and accountability.

I think I have managed to get quite a bit away from the post itself, so I'll stop here. But by the references to 'wild-wild-west' and 'pirates', I was thinking of the lack of standards and regulatory/legal control, and the sense that even pirates in their day often worked at the writ of a seafaring nation (as it benefited one state at the disruption of another).

Maybe pirates were some of the first PMCs...

Thanks!
Jared

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. Yes, this has been ongoing for some time and is causing some ripples of concern in neighbouring countries. At the end of the day, if it brings some semblance of peace to DRC it will be a good thing. My concern is that unless the rebels are crushed, it may not achieve the results they are hoping for.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are doing good work on your blog, Matt, and I hope these youngsters take note of what you are doing for them.

I do get a lot of feedback from some African governments on PMCs. However, due to the manner in which these contracts are awarded, they are not always happy with who ends up in their backyards and this causes quite a bit of tension. Whereas I have no problem with a foreign government using a PMC to train soldiers in country X, the PMC should at least do its homework before entry. Most of the men who work in the PMC will be solid, good men who want to make a difference. It is the one or two bad apples that spoil the box and the media are quick to pounce and exploit this.

Your wargaming exercise sounds fascinating. I think that many people could benefit from such an endeavour. Keep us posted on this one.

Re SOF: I never wrote the piece for them. First I heard about it was an email telling me about it. I guess it was just lifted from the EO book. What really got my goat were the photos they used -a lot of people who had nothing to do with EO, including some UN types.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Now I follow your points, Jared. Must have been my mind that was in neutral. Thanks for clarifying them though.

I agree that accountability is absent in some companies. I also think that over time the wannabes will fade away as they get exposed for what they are and the strong ones will triumph. This in turn may lead to greater accountability.

Perhaps the first PMCs were indeed pirates. Some of them were also used by governments to achieve certain aims. Others went on to do their own thing and worked purely to enrich themselves regardless of the law. I think we see that today in Mexico with Los Zetas.

As Matt has pointed out, we might one day see PMC vs PMC – and that will certainly be interesting to witness.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

Limiting this to the current U.S. situation and in preface I will say I have never been part of one. What I see from a distance and knowing how contracts work, also having served with many that are now on the most expensive Government tit the U.S. has ever known, is bascially this:
The U.S. forms these groups by contract. Thus they are not anything more than Government contractors. The names of the companies pop up overnight after those involved have made the decisions(usually over sponsored dinner and drinks) as to what needs to be done and how much are they willing to pay with appropriate kickbacks no doubt.
The amount of money is based on the bottomless pocket of a war budget, thus the contractors are making gazillions and although the lowest denominator is making good money, he is also hanging his ass out. It is expected, as if he is not happy, problems may come back to bite someone. Also consider these contracts cover everything that releases the military from involving huge numbers of troops, thus food service to cleaning toilets to security is all done by contract. Where were they when this 17 year old Marine cleaned the outhouse, ha ha.
Those who are awarded contracts have at some point worked with or know those in Government who will be issuing the contract, and they have inside knowledge of what is needed to cross the T's and dot the I's.
They carry weapons and do the bidding of the Government where it may be a bit politically unpopular for the Military to be shown on late night TV.
Patriotism, benefit to the people of the U.S. means F'all. Its a money making operation, nothing more, nothing less and its Big Money.
Many South Africans have cashed in on this and I think they will agree. What a windfall. BUT it keeps the bad news from coming home to upset the population as to losses of their own.
I think we should place more trust in our military as there are things in wars that the Public cannot handle and really have no need to know. The object is to win or stay on the porch at least for the military.
My opinion is that we need no contractors if the Miliary was not hampered by politicians.
If we have enough support to get involved, leave the military do the job and the media can come in when its done.
Your original eight questions are almost answered in here somewhere.
I think we should start a discussion on War Profiteering in the mess of Iraq and Aghanistan that should open some eyes.
My Rant.........

matt said...

Hey Eeben, did SOF make any disclaimer about that? I forget if I saw anything written in the article that said they had your permission or where it specifically came from. Hell, they could have at least linked to your blog here. In my opinion, that does not show favorably on SOF, and they should at least put the disclaimer and a link to Amazon.com to buy the book, or to your blog here.

They didn't even link to Free Range International when Tim wrote his article for them. Man, uncool.

As for the PMC versus PMC war game thing, I am just thinking out loud here, with the hopes that one of the hundreds of media types or defense analyst types that peruse this stuff, might get a hint.

On that note, I think it is pretty interesting that culturally speaking, online shooter games like MAG have come on to the scene. I guess you could call that a PMC versus PMC simulation, but for entertainment purposes only. Not to mention all the movies recently with PMC's in them.

Alan said...

Back to Robby and others:

As if we hadn't learned anything from previous European misadventures in Africa, and didn't have a plate full already. Sending Mobile Training Teams (MTT) to Africa when we're already globally shorthanded makes no sense at all. I've thought for sometime that this is where our great Kenyan-American Ubaba eventually desires to build his legacy. Rhetorical question of course, but for the love of God why can we not STAY AT HOME and mind our own bloody business? I doubt any of this will have a happy ending. As an unrelated... or possibly related aside, depending on one's view of history, the 12th of Feb was the 21st anniversary of the downing of the "Umniati." Tragically as I recall, there few expressions of outrage or offers of MTT's from this side of the pond, and fewer yet to follow in the sad days and years following.

Vr, Alan

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/23/AR2010022301648.html

US Marines to train Congolese army battalion

The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 23, 2010; 8:56 AM

KINSHASA, Congo -- U.S. military officials say U.S. Marines have begun training Congolese troops in volatile Eastern Congo.

Col. Thomas Crowder says 30 Marines from the U.S. Africa Command are training a battalion of Congolese soldiers in the city of Kisangani. Crowder said Monday the 8-month program for the battalion, which can consist of about 1,000 soldiers, will cover military basics but also will focus on human rights training. Human rights groups have previously accused Congo's poorly trained and irregularly paid army forces of attacking civilians.

The U.S. Africa Command, or Africom, is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and was formally activated in 2008. Before then, U.S. military programs in Africa were split among three other commands.

Robby said...

From yesterdays Wall Street Journal

Senate Slams 'Reckless' Contractor

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703503804575083831647915128.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Joe1172 said...

Hi Eeben,
Sorry for the OT:
unfortunately I couldn't come up with all my questions about your book yet, as I haven't got it with me at the moment. (read it last year) Been in the sandpit since Nov and was then directly deployed to Afghanistan. Hardly had any leave in between.

So only one question at the moment:
In one of the late 20's chapter of your book you wrote that the BND was approaching you for services in Ruanda 1994. This fact really surprised me as I was just 2 years in the army at that time and my unit tried to prepare for a UN mission in Ruanda. We never left the planning phase as our army was neither equipped nor trained or experienced for this kind of mission. EO was not very present in the media in Germany but when you read something, it was just a translation of the typical anti EO campain type of article that journalists just translated. Hiring EO would have been a bit controversial in public, for that I am sure. Even today the GAF don't use PMC's because of the bad media it would bring. (Not that I support that, as I am a security contractor as well)
Do you think the German Government really considered hiring EO for the job?

Another thing:
I recently found an article that you might find interesting. It is about the use of mercenaries in African conflicts and EO is positivly mentioned for the mission in Sierra Leone.

Here is the Link:
http://www.idsa.in/system/files/IB_MercenariesinAfrica.pdf

Greets from Afghanistan
Joe

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Everyone deserves their rant, Gatvol. I certainly do enough of them!

I have to agree with you on many of your comments. However, perhaps we should discuss all of this over coffee when you are next in SA? I am sorry to hear about your mishap and also sorry I have not responded to your email but massive ADSL problems over here. Will be in touch shortly.

But, let me say that I am concerned – not that PMCs are being used – but that some of them are out to see just how far they can bluff some governments in Africa. I do have my ear on the ground and get quite a lot of feedback on what is really going on as opposed to what some so-called PMCs are saying.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Nada, Matt. I guess they reckoned having it in SOF was free publicity and that’s that.

I hope your PMC idea takes off. It will certainly hold a lot of value to a lot of people. It all goes about generating options and seeing them to their conclusion.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I too wonder about all of this, Alan. But, as they say in the classics “No comment”.

Yes, after that downing, there were no talks on MTTs – just a lot of jubilation. I suppose it is part of the hypocrisy we witness today.

Thanks for the link. I know that some of them are already there – how it’s going I cannot comment.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. I think Alan pointed it out rather well – when these companies need to hire a lot of men for a massive contract, anyone who has two arms seems to be in. (EO had a similar problem in the beginning). Of course, that tarnishes the names of the many good guys who also apply and get jobs.

Hopefully, the companies will get it right one day.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Joe1172. I actually read it earlier – someone sent it to me but as our ADSL lines were “gone”, I only managed to open it a short while ago.

I like to think the German government was serious enough about trying to do something positive. But, doing anything would have been decided by the UN and we all know that, despite having prior warning, the UN preferred to do nothing but watch.

I think having the UN watch and do nothing was far more controversial than sending EO in. Besides, EO may have done a far better job than those clowns.

It sounds as though you are busy? Good luck and stay safe.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

hmmmm...

Very fine points all around. Taken one step further, would Lockheed-Martin, Boeing et. al. exist without government contracts?

Maybe a better definition of private is having a board of directors beholden to stockholders and not government..That may get real fascinating.

BTW - cleansing the reading palate with "Infinite in All Directions" by Freeman Dyson in anticipation of you next work.

Regards,
John

userdude said...

Hi Eeben,

Thought this was relevant in a way:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-25/the-wars-quiet-scandal/?cid=hp:mainpromo5

J

Fabio Di Caro said...

The only private PMC's are the ones that are currently closed down or are about to shut down just like others that are standing by and waiting for better consideration from govts and lunch time politicians.

These companies had results on the battle ground , the commanders are veterans and do not need a government law that removes rapid fire from their battle stick thus reducing it to a three round burst to avoid unloading a full thirty round clip on one single human target.

However the govts that handle the political scene like things messed up so as to allow their specialized corruptive units to do all kinds of illegal activities far from helping the host govt far from restoring social security in those war driven nations and far from simply helping those civillians that get caught up in capitalism wars.

If EO is shut and others are today operational but have not more than 20% professional ratio;needlesss to say they wipe out civillians in the same percentage of the enemy;it is obvious that a private company will finally collapse,maintaining a high standard of service has its costs and if it does not sell "other "services it will not be considered as a PMC but simply an obstacle along the way and to make it close down it is as simple as closing the water tap.By the way are you still at nr 41,like I said I may just come over.Ciao L.E.B.you are still number one,wragtig.Regards - Fabio

Rhett Hammond said...

Hi Eeben - you probably won't remember the incident but I was the young sapper (and para) who assisted you in lifting 22 tank mines from a cache in Angola circa the first half of 1982 in the Ongiva area. All I can say is I'm glad that you were there to take me through the process without us being sent home in a very small bag. I'm sure you would have preferred to blow up the entire cache too but some Colonel back in base (obviously up for promotion) insisted we remove them! I trust you are well and thanks. Regards, Rhett Hammond

graycladunits said...

I agree with the points made with regards to defining the PMC as a whole operating unit, but I think some other criteria need to be added. I am not trying to offend, but I think a PMC should also judged by criteria that involve the sum of the parts and not just the operating of the whole. First, do the troops get a pay check alone or do they loot personal belongings or weaponry to sell to supplement their income? Next, are these men hired with the idea in mind that they will engage in activities forbidden in the Geneva Convention and/or the articles of war of their host country so that they will essentially be doing the "dirty work" of their host army? If a PMC worker can answer yes to either of these questions, chances are he is a part of a unit of corporatized mercenaries and not a true PMC.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against mercenaries in general as long as they are ethical. In my country, mercenaries like Miles Standish and John Smith helped to found the states of Virginia and Massachusetts. In the Bible, King David and his "Mighty Men" started out as mercenaries for a Philistine king named Achish. For any who don't believe me on this, feel free to consult First Samuel chapters 27, 29, 30, and 31 in the Old Testament. I just think that men should be able to define which profession they are getting into when they apply for a job with companies like MPRI and Aegis. I think that many employees in these companies are not aware of which category they really fall into and I do not like to see folks taken advantage of. Some men with no quarrels at PMC work might not accept a job offer do do what my questions would help define as mercenary work. These are just my thoughts. Feel free to disagree. Sorry this post is late. I am doing some student teaching in Virginia and have been busy as of late.

Cheers, GCU

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I didn’t answer because I could answer, Private. I had had massive ADSL downtime here and have emails piling up that i have been unable to answer. So, my apologies.

The G5 and G6 artillery pieces were amazing. It is just a pity that no one else wanted them or saw their value. Sadly today, they are no longer manufactured. A great loss to the world’s armies.

I am afraid I don’t know much about the Fila Brasileiro. I will see what I can find on them. Thanks for the info.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am sure very few companies would exist without government contracts, John. But the Lockheed-Martins of this world make a massive contribution in terms of R&D. However, when it comes to “private” companies engaged in military advisory, training and other support services, I think very few of them would survive if they had to make it on their own.

Your comment “having a board of directors beholden to stockholders and not government:” would certainly make for interesting watching.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A sad story Jared. Thanks for the link. However, although I sympathise with his family and friends as they have indeed suffered a great deal of anguish by his death, does this not say something for the selection of staff? Just because someone served in the armed forces does not automatically make him a good contractor.

It is very sad nevertheless.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Dankie for the compliment, Fabio.

I do believe that PMCs have a major role to play on today’s battlefield. But then they need to prove that they can do their job. To me it is as simple as that. If they are simply there to add numbers to any action, this becomes a fault they, although responsible for, cannot be blamed for. The blame then lies with the government that handed them the contract.

Travelling through Africa, I have to agree that some foreign governments have Africa’s worst interests at heart. I have seen how situations are manipulated, double-dealing done to the disadvantage of the African government and the resultant chaos exploited. Sadly, then those blue-helmeted clowns arrive, things just get worse.

You lost me with the “Nr 41” – am I getting too old to understand??

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you, Rhett. That was a lifetime ago and I seem to have forgotten so many things that happened to us. To be quite truthful, I cannot recall many incidents that happened. But, I am pleased that you remember these things. I always believed that I couldn’t ask others to do what I wouldn’t or couldn’t do – and I would certainly never let a young sapper do something without me trying to help him. After all, I started off as a sapper so doing those things was like helping a brother.

Yes, I always preferred to blow things up!

I am always happy to hear from those who felt I made a contribution to their well being.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

If they have to loot to supplement their income, then they are simply thugs and no better than those they ought to be acting against, GCU. In terms of “dirty work” – war is sadly a violent and dirty business and can never be fought using politically correct methods. I for one have no problem to assist a government develop a strategy to overcome an enemy, train the troops to do the job, monitor their deployments and make adjustments where necessary. Having seen how other “training teams” from certain governments have misbehaved and misled those they are supposedly helping, I have my doubts about their role.

I agree with you that men should decide. After all, PMCs recruit their men – who apply for jobs. I do think the onus rests with the applicant and not always the company. The company ought to screen the applicants but the applicant should not overstate his capabilities. When both of these factors are ignored, a problem is born.

Good luck with your teaching.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

A bit off topic, but a lighter subject. Perhaps a few of the 44th will turn up for a cold one.

Regards, Alan

http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/Airborne_70_Poster.pdf

John said...

Eeben,

This great thread continues.

It is truly unfortunate the G5/G6 systems are out of production. The base design from Dr. G. Bull (for the G5) seems to be one of the reasons he he ended up in jail but he was one heckuva ballistician (I know there is enormous debate on the final genesis of G5 but the birth seems to be with SRC in the early 90's). I think the Austrian cousin to the G5 ended up with the Iraqis and did surprise the coalition in the early 70's. For those in your thread who have the interest you can really see the basis for true long range artillery in Paris Kanonen-The Paris Guns (Wilhelmgeschutze and Project Harp : the Application of Major Calibre Guns to Atmospheric and Space Research) which was Dr. Bulls Magnum Opus.

Too bad he got on the wrong side of the Isrealis - just as earlier commentators have said, you don't have to take the job if it does not fit your morals. If you chose poorly in your line of chosen work you may have to pay the ultimate price.

John said...

Eeben,

I believe the first segment from EO published in SOF cited where they got the story - your book. But I'll have to root around and double check.

That is how I got to your blog...

John

Robby said...

Army awards KBR more work in Iraq
By Robert Brodsky

Days after the Army announced that KBR Inc. would not receive $20 million in award fee bonuses because of poor performance in Iraq, the Defense Department contractor has won a multimillion-dollar task order to care for U.S troops as they begin the process of exiting the war-torn country.

The Army Sustainment Command and Rock Island Contracting Center in Illinois confirmed this week that KBR had won the first task order for work in Iraq under the new Logistics Civil Augmentation Program IV contract. The contractor will provide logistics support services such as warehousing, vehicle maintenance and air terminal operations, in-theater transportation and postal operations for U.S. troops.

KBR was informed on Feb. 26 of the award, just one day after executives told shareholders about the lost award fees. Work on the task order began on March 1.

Unlike the LOGCAP IV task orders in Afghanistan, which are divided by region, the Iraq contract covers the entire country. The task order is for one base year at $571 million and four option years. If all options are exercised, the contract could be worth $2.8 billion.

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0310/030310rb1.htm

Alan said...

Ouens:

Geskok ek wees. Geskok ek tell you! 'Gobsmacked' as well! The BBC and the Klingons on the spoor again. Where would we be without them.

Regards, Alan

From Times Online March 3, 2010

Live Aid donations 'were diverted to arm Ethiopian rebels'

(Jeremy Nicholl/The Times)

The allegations, made by former rebel compatriots of Meles Zenawi, are the first to detail how millions raised by Bob Geldof’s Live Aid were siphoned off to arm the rebels against the army of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Although millions of people were saved by the Western aid that poured into Ethiopia after Live Aid, the evidence from the BBC investigation suggests that not all of it went to the most needy.

With much of Ethiopia in rebel hands, aid agencies had to bring in
food and funds for those areas from Sudan, accompanied by rebel
fighters.

Aregawi Berhe, the former military commander of the Tigrayan People’s
Liberation Front (TPLF), claimed that of the $100 million that went
through the rebels’ hands, 95 per cent was diverted to buy weapons or
recruit Ethiopians to their cause. He said the rebels put on a "drama"
to get their hands on the relief money. "The aid workers were fooled," he said.

Story at the link:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article7048218.ece

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the info, Private. Yes, we face problems but sadly, these were brought on by others. But, through all of this, we try to stay positive. Only time will tell if our beliefs were misplaced. I shall pass your info on to some people I know.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Looks as though it could be a nice bash, Alan. But, I am not too sure if we will be too welcome there. However, I am sure some of 44 Paras boys will try to make it. Thanks for passing on the info to us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A sad tale indeed re the G5/G6, John. Gerald Bull certainly knew his stuff. Too bad others didn’t like that too much but as you say, “If you chose poorly in your line of chosen work you may have to pay the ultimate price”. After he worked on SA’s artillery pieces, he was certainly on the list of “most wanted”. Nevertheless, he developed a great gun for us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A sad tale indeed re the G5/G6, John. Gerald Bull certainly knew his stuff. Too bad others didn’t like that too much but as you say, “If you chose poorly in your line of chosen work you may have to pay the ultimate price”. After he worked on SA’s artillery pieces, he was certainly on the list of “most wanted”. Nevertheless, he developed a great gun for us.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Apparently it was arranged with my publisher, John. I just got a Pdf copy of it and noticed that they used photos of people who had nothing to do with EO except work against it. Sad indeed as far as I am concerned.

However, I am pleased that it led you here....

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby. This is precisely what I meant when I asked just how “private” are these PMCs. I suppose this answers my question.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well now, should we really be surprised at this “investigation”, Alan? I think that like me, you knew all along that most of this money usually goes to those who are fighting against the government in a country. This is where my gripe lies with many of these NGOs. Although well meaning, they have no clue of what is actually going on and fall for even the simplest of tricks. This is just further proof of the gross stupidity that takes place on this continent all under the guise of doing good.

Thanks for the link!

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Here's a off the wall question...although I know the restrictions against PMC'c in SA how is it that casinos and and cash delivery companies are not beating down your door asking for advice?...one would assume there is a difference between what you define as a PMC and corporate security ...

John said...

Eeben,

Do you ever come to the USA to speak? I noticed you were speaking in Europe recently.

Don't take it wrong - I am not a stalker freak - it's just if I am on travel for business I do get a little leeway to wander over to see what I want to see when I head for home. Your written thoughts on this blog are quite lucid which in my experience tends to lean towards even better interaction in a "seminar" style session with an interested crowd.

Just wondering is all.

John

matt said...

And I guess there was no discussion in this meeting on how the UN is withdrawing from the Congo because of it's criminal activity and poor performance, or that Chad wants the UN to leave as well.
------------

Africa aims to regulate 'mercenary' industry

By Emmanuel Goujon (AFP) – 15 hours ago

ADDIS ABABA — Twenty-five African states agreed Friday to step up efforts to regulate mercenary activity on the continent amid an explosion of private security companies on the continent.

The nations decided at the end of a two-day meeting with a UN working group in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to propose regulations at the September meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, participants said.

"Clearly a consensus has emerged, a willingness of the participating states to regulate more the activities of the PMSCs (private military and security companies)," one delegate told AFP.

Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, from the UN committee on mercenaries, told the meeting the largely US- and British-based industry, worth many billions of dollars a year, had boomed in African and across the world.

"With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have seen this embryonic industry explode. There is a new dimension with the piracy in Somalia," he said.

Private security "multinationals", 70-80 percent of which were based in the United States or Britain, were recruiting around the world, he said, adding there was an "osmosis" between these groups and typical mercenaries.

"This market represents between 20 and 100 billion dollars a year," Del Prado said, adding that these guns for hire posed a "great danger" to fragile governments.

In Africa there was "resentment towards private armies mainly because of the involvement of mercenaries in regime change in a number of African countries," said African Union security expert Norman Lambo.

In one example, British-led mercenaries led a foiled coup in 2004 against the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

"It is unfortunate that of late some groups have decided to move their mercenary activities to hide them under private security activities," he told the meeting.

Nine African states are among 32 countries that have ratified a 1989 UN Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries.

The Organisation of African Unity, predecessor of the African Union, adopted in 1977 a convention on the elimination of mercenaries which was in turn adopted by 30 African countries.

However there were a number of loopholes in the document and it needed to be strengthened, del Prado said.

The head of the UN group, Shaista Shameem, said the current regulations were "largely inadequate".

"Africa is also becoming an important market for the security industry as well as a supplier of personnel for the industry."

"This new phenomenon is largely unregulated and has led to a situation which has impacted negatively on human rights," she said, adding that these groups were "rarely held accountable" of they committed abuses.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Some of them have come to me Robby but we differ in terms of quality of personnel. The casinos are pretty much on top of things and frankly, they operate in an area of hi-tech surveillance at the tables. The problem with casinos is of course that they are soft targets to armed criminal gangs – as are the cash in transit guys.

Part of this problem lies with the selection and training of people, the other with salary. We all know the saying “If you pay peanuts...”

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Getting to the US is a massive pain for us from South Africa, John, as we are subject to such a bureaucratic procedure to get a visa. Whereas we also need visas to visit most countries on earth, the procedure with Europe and the Far East is much more palatable – and slick.

So short answer: No, I do not travel to the US to speak there.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the article, Matt. Of course they would never discuss their failings – had they attempted that, they might need a few years to hold a single meeting.

You need to remember that the UN’s peacekeeping dept views PMCs as a massive threat to their activities. They cannot afford to have a PMC achieve what they are unable of achieving, at less cost and quicker. That would upset the UN’s gravy train completely. These meetings are held to ensure they can bamboozle Africa states in order to keep the UN in business.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Eeben,

I wonder if one point that would make a PMC truly private would would be the company having a robust R&D program - building on one of your previous replies.

Regards,
John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

R & D is a very costly process and I doubt if a real PMC could finance such a venture, John. If one looks at the type of weaponry and other developments that come out of R & D, I don’t think it would be feasible.

Personally, I see a PMC as a private company that is contracted by a government to provide support and other services to its armed forces. This support can cover the spectrum from military strategy, grand tactics, logistics and tactics – extending from Chief of Staff level down to section leader level.

Whereas there are many companies that develop products that are later accepted by the armed forces as assets, I rather view them as armament development companies and not as PMCs.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Eeben,

Excellent point on the cost of R&D (timing would also cripple even the largest of companies if something goes wrong in development). If a PMC would be able to truly fund robust R&D for the modern weapon system, with maybe the premise of nation-state warfare in lieu of COIN, they would become the nation state.

The role as support to a legitimate host government in various ways seems to be an ideal niche for the modern PMC to fill.

I see you have dropped another posting over. I'll cut this thread and drop in.

Regards,

John

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Good point on the premise of nation-state, John. I suspect you are correct in that assumption.

Yes, I see the role of the PMC as supporting – and at times being supported by the legit host government.

Rgds,

Eeben

Lindsey said...

Thanks for an interesting post. Of course, one way in which under the law they would not be 'private' is if the individuals engaged in a specific operation were incorporated into the armed forces of the country contracting them. I have read conflicting reports on whether that was the case in Angola and Sierra Leone for EO. Can you clarify? How reticent are governments to give any kind of status in their forces? Or do the companies themselves resist? It sounds from your post like it is more the government that would resist. Thanks for any insight you can provide!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That was the case in both Angola and Sierra Leone, Lindsey, but of course, there were several Western governments that were not happy with that arrangement at all.

Most African governments are very realistic about the problems they face as well as the false “help” they have been given by others. Ironically, African governments are frowned on when they want to really resolve their problems. The government’s we worked for accepted us and allowed us to help where it was necessary. They knew that we had the interests of Africa at heart. It was however largely the UN that saw us as a great threat to their duplicity in Africa - so great that they established an entire committee to “investigate” EO. I think it is high time PMCs get together and establish a committee to investigate the UN and expose all of the fraud and duplicity that takes place in that organisation.

Rgds,

Eeben

steve said...

Mr. Barlow, my name is Steve Gibson and I am working on a disertation on exactly this topic. Have just finished reading you book on EO with your bio. I would love to establish independent contact with you on this matter. For your info, I beleave that EO was hosed but there are several questions that I need to pose. Thank you. Please use steve_gibson01@yahoo.com if you care to reply.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Steve, I am overwhelmed with people from especially the US doing “dissertations” on EO and some of them use what I tell them to imply that I am trying to mislead them. Obviously I have my own idea on whose agendas they are trying to propagate and I am not implying that you are from the same bale of hay as they are but this has made me somewhat weary and suspicious of especially students from the US. I appreciate you are keen to further your studies and wish you well in that endeavour. However, before I am willing to attempt to assist you, let me see what it is that you want from me.

Rgds,

Eeben

Earth2Tim said...

I was watching the History channel the other day and the topic was PMC's. I never knew.

Congratulations on the work you and your fine employees have done. Rarely have have so few helped so many so quickly. Unfortunately politics gets in the way and dooms hundreds of thousands to death for reasons that make sense to few of the modern inteligencia. Many of whom have never had to work let alone suffer a day in their lives.

This is probably not the forum, but I can't help but to ask ... In theory is it plausible to imagine that a company like EO could capture the government of the United States, put all of the elected officials on a boat to Guantanamo and effectively rule the country for a limited period of time?

ALL governments and nations end at some point. History shows us as much. In my opinion there are enough people suficiently fed up in the USA that they could raise enough $$$ to hire a corporation similar to EO to take over and rule for a while.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

Tim

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the kind words, Tim. I remain very proud of what those men achieved under very difficult conditions. You are so right on those who dabble in politics.

EO never considered such an action for obvious reasons most notably that we were contracted by governments to work for them and not against them. It certainly makes for some interesting thoughts but I doubt whether a PMC could ever do such a thing.

Whereas all governments do eventually come to an end, that end is usually brought about by the people via the ballot box. As for people in the US being fed up, I am afraid I cannot comment...

Rgds,

Eeben

Виктор said...

Hi Eeben,

This is a great tip guide for those who are interested on how these corporative entities are founded, actually, it has been a great starting point how to describe the evolution of the private military complex nowadays in my research, definition of the concept is the problem that the media are criticizing so feverly. This "phenomenon" as many people call it, is the response of a gap in the defense infrastructure of todays military around the globe. Truly, private military delivers results in short time, due to the freedom given as a corporation but that doesnt means it lacks of regulation, but what troubles me is the operation of PMC's in domestic territory of the host government and how the media focuses it. See, people are way off to look into details of the contractual clauses were each and every point is covered, I think this change is positive for those governments who are abandoned by international community (that is another topic of discussion); and a neutral, professional and successful actor as for the private military corporations are a must in modern policymaking, when no one else answers the plea of help?

Indiference of foreing problems are overrated.

Keep on Eeben!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The gap appeared for numerous reasons – especially in Africa – Виктор. I still maintain that African governments ought to have a choice when it comes to deciding who should help them. But, this help should be based on achieving positive goals in a short time. Unfortunately there are private companies that wish to keep the problem going – as long as it continues, they make money.

The situation as it is at present also shows that the UNDPK wish to keep things going as long as possible, which negates them in many ways as a positive force.

I realise that many of these contracts are awarded by simply “ticking the boxes” but that in itself does not imply competence – or even ability. Many of these so-called PMCs have established their own “front companies” who they in turn subcontract – and the money keeps pouring in whilst their success reduce.

Personally, I think neutral, professional and successful PMCs are few and far between.

Rgds,

Eeben