There is no of a specific legal framework to deal with Private Military Contractors1. The PMC's declare that their "industry" is self regulated. Much like the shipping companies that sail under a flags of convenience and shell companies to evade taxation, the PMC's have subsidiaries registered in countries which have weak or non existent laws against mercenary activities. Greystone a subsidiary Blackwater is registered in Barbados.
Sri Lanka is not a new player in this game either. The latest incarnation is Avant Garde and Rakna Securites which operate Internationally and in International waters. Historically Sri Lankan kings used mercenaries too. The most well known being the Agampodi and Velakkara soldiers.
This recent upsurge mercenary activity brings up question where are the lines drawn between
- Security Guard
- Private Military Contractor
Worldwide, the private security industry is said to be worth over £60 billion a year, with business stretching from Iraq in the Middle East to Congo in Africa.
In Afghanistan alone the industry employs an estimated 20,000-30,000 people, around 3,000 of them British. the security industry manage to get convoys of military supplies where they need to be – simply by paying off the Taliban in order to drive safely down a stretch of road without being attacked.
Handling his prayer beads, he tells me the going rate can be anything from $20,000 to $50,000: ‘It’s a win-win situation really. These convoys are allowed to move without attack and our men are paid for not attacking them. Everyone is happy.’ But for British troops this is one of the war’s biggest ironies. To get essential equipment to them, the Taliban’s coffers have to be boosted, which in turn strengthens their ability to buy guns and to fight.
The U.S. used contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan more than it had in any war in its history: in 2010 there were more contractors deployed to war zones (207,000) than U.S. servicemembers (175,000). In World War II, contractors only made up 10 percent of the military workforce, according to McFate.
From 1999 to 2008, at the peak of the wars, Pentagon spending on outsourcing alone increased from $165 billion to $466 billion a year. Attempts at oversight have been pathetic, as documented by the government’s own inspectors general time and again.
Perhaps the most infamous of all contractors was Blackwater, which deflected charges of fraud, violence against civilians and murder for years before it was forced to “rebrand.” Four of its former guards were convicted of murder in October, however, in connection with the massacre of 17 Iraqis in Nisour Square in 2007.
They have access to a global arms trade and the latest military technology, including drones. They are a risk to civilian populations, and their operations are never transparent. “You can FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) the CIA, you can’t FOIA this industry,” said McFate.
It will not be easy. U.S. agencies knowingly hired companies with spotty records. They used private contractors for controversial secret operations, including the detainee interrogations at Abu Ghraib, and a covert CIA assassination program involving Blackwater. It will take a lot more trust in Washington to believe that “best practices” in this industry can genuinely come from government itself.
1. Corporate actors:the legal status of mercenaries in armed conflict