Skip to main content

Mercenaries played important role in US military inventions in Iraq, Afghanistan

Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin
By Bharat Dogra 
Yevgeny Prigozhin may not have succeeded in realizing his ambitions, but his revolt had the unintended impact of focusing worldwide attention on the wider and serious problems involved in increasing dependence in many countries on mercenary fighting forces.
Russia had used the soldiers of the Wagner PMC (private military company) in several military campaigns in recent times. While this may have served narrowly perceived objectives from time to time, Russia and Putin were rudely reminded of the dangers of allowing a private army to grow too big. However, serious dangers of private mercenary armies exist not just for Russia but several other countries as well, and above all such armies are a menace for the prospects of world peace.
While mercenaries have played an important role in various conflicts in world history, their recent emergence as an important military phenomenon started with the USA military inventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the peak of these two military interventions, 50% of the USA personnel posted in these countries were private personnel and contractors, with the number in Afghanistan peaking even further. Many of them were not armed soldiers, serving as cooks, caretakers, suppliers and in other supportive work, but significant numbers were armed too, and in addition several of them were from poorer countries, as companies supplying men found it cheaper to recruit them.
According to Department of Defense figures, in 2018, out of nearly 50,000 private foreign personnel or contactors, nearly 60% were foreigners, while there were 2002 armed military contractors, 1256 of them being foreigners.
Actually the foreign participation in US outsourcing of its wars appears much bigger—and more dangerous—if one looks more closely at who the sub-contractors are. There was a tendency for the US companies who won the contracts to further sub-contact the work to local sub-contractors who could be expected to be more capable of handling local dangerous conditions.
A 2 billion dollar contract for supplying provisions, using trucks, to US army units, for example, was won by a US company which in turn sub-contracted to strong, armed Afghan groups, operating independently or for some bigger warlord. However some of these sub-contractors were in fact working against the Afghanistan government. They were also involved in various criminal and cruel practices. Thus they got strengthened by using US funds, while the mandate of US forces was to work against such groups. It was difficult to track what such sub-contractors were up to, particularly as the sub-contractor could further sub-contact part of the work to another local party. A NATO official quoted in a study quipped that he cannot be expected to know the sub of the sub of the sub!
Some of the private US mercenaries were involved in such serious human rights violations as the Nissour Square massacre in Iraq, and some regular US army commanders said that these mercenaries were very difficult to control and discipline. Despite this their use went on increasing as they cost lesser, could be used for work considered objectionable or dangerous for regular forces, and their increasing numbers and even deaths were not as politically controversial as those of regular US army soldiers (even though several of the mercenaries had served earlier in regular US army, navy or police units, including some elite ones).
In fact Erik Prince of Blackwater, a leading US agency for supplying private personnel for conflict zones, went to the extent of recommending outsourcing of Afghanistan and similar conflicts almost entirely to such private agencies, with an American Viceroy, saying that what muddling Pentagon could not achieve in 17 years could be achieved very quickly by the CIA and 6000 mercenaries. Ideas on increasing role of mercenaries were finding several supporters in the USA, and the Department of Defense spent $160 billion on private security contractors, in addition to the spending by other departments.
Close ally Britain also followed with increasing dependence and spending on mercenaries. Increased spending by such resourceful countries on mercenaries gave them more legitimization than anything else could, and also strengthened the financial base of such companies, with several of them opening offices in leading cities like New York, Washington, London and Dubai. Hence several other countries also started looking at the potential of hiring more mercenaries. Some of the richest persons and companies also started recruiting more mercenaries to guard their mines or oil or other valuable assets in conflict zones. The Nigerian government hired mercenaries for action against the terrorist group Boko Haram. On the other hand, some terrorist groups also started recruiting mercenaries to serve their short-term interests. Most surprisingly, some philanthropic agencies started recruiting mercenaries to guard their charity work in conflict zones.
At the end of one conflict or contract several mercenaries would be rendered unemployed, looking for work elsewhere. The longer term employment in Iraq and Afghanistan had familiarized some of them with the tricks of the trade too. So several of them started setting up new agencies, or roamed around in search of new conflict zones, or even starting new conflicts if need be for anyone offering adequate funds.
Hence with increasing number of experienced and armed soldiers moving around the world in search of more conflicts (including new conflicts), the prospects of world peace have been seriously harmed. In addition there are more and more soldiers operating in various conflict zones with less care for and less information regarding the ethical obligations flowing from various conventions and treaties.
All this is very alarming and backward moving for a world that desperately needs to move forward on the path of peace. There is urgent need for moving beyond narrow consideration to make internationally accepted efforts for curbs on the growth of mercenary armed forces and the companies/corporations associated with them.
The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include 'Planet in Peril', 'Earth without Borders' and 'Man over Machine'



Only 15% businesses provide employees real-time sustainability dashboards: Study

Kyndryl in collaboration with Microsoft has released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm, finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data. A Kyndryl note: *** Kyndryl (NYSE: KD), the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, in collaboration with Microsoft , today released the findings of The Global Sustainability Barometer study. The study, conducted by Ecosystm , finds that while 85% of organizations place a high strategic level of importance on achieving their sustainability goals, only 16% have integrated sustainability into their strategies and data.

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

देशव्यापी ग्रामीण भारत बंध में उतरे मध्य प्रदेश के आदिवासी, किया केंद्र सरकार का विरोध

हरसिंग जमरे, भिखला सोलंकी, रतन अलावे द्वारा* 15 और 16 फरवरी को निमाड के बड़वानी, खरगोन और बुरहानपुर में जागृत आदिवासी दलित संगठन के नेतृत्व में आदिवासी महिला-पुरुषों ग्रामीण भारत बंद में रैली एवं विरोध प्रदर्शन किया । प्रधान मंत्री द्वारा 2014 में फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने का वादा किया गया था, 2016 में किसानों की आय दुगना करने का वादा किया गया था । आज, फसलों का दाम नहीं बढ़ रहा है, लेकिन खेती में खर्च बढ़ता जा रहा है! खाद, बीज और दवाइयों का दाम, तीन-चार गुना बढ़ चुका है! किसानों को लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव देने के बजाए, खेती को कंपनियों के हवाले करने के लिए 3 काले कृषि कानून लाए गए । 3 काले कानून वापस लेते समय प्रधान मंत्री ने फिर वादा किया था कि फसलों की लागत का डेढ़ गुना भाव की कानूनी गारंटी के लिए कानून बनाएँगे, लेकिन वो भी झूठ निकला! आज जब देश के किसान दिल्ली में आपको अपना वादा याद दिलाने आए है, तब आप उनका रास्ता रोक रहें है, उनके साथ मारपीट कर उन पर आँसू गैस फेंक रहें हैं, उन पर छर्रों से फायरिंग कर रहें है! देश को खिलाने वाला किसान खुद भूखा रहे, क्या यही विकास है?

Tamil Nadu brahmins are at cross roads, their future scenario remains uncertain

By NS Venkataraman*  For over 70 years now, brahmin community in Tamil Nadu have been abused, insulted and even physically attacked on some occasions by those who claimed that they were part of the so called dravidian movement. However, brahmin community silently and helplessly ducked under pressure and showed no signs of resistance or fight back.

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

How Mahakavi Sri Sri defined political and cultural metamorphosis of Telugu society

By Harsh Thakor  Srirangam Srinivasarao, popularly known as Sri Sri, or called Mahakavi (The Great Poet), held a reputation like no other Telugu poet. Today, on June 15th, we commemorate his 40th death anniversary. Sri Sri transcended heights in revolutionary creativity or exploration, unparalleled, in Telegu poetry, giving it a new dimension. His poems projected the theme or plight of the oppressed people at a scale, rarely penetrated by poets, giving revolutionary poetry it’s soul.

1982-83 Bombay textile strike played major role in shaping working class movement

By Harsh Thakor  On January 18th, 1982 the working class movement commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Textile Workers Strike that lasted for 18 months, till July 1983. It was landmark event that played a major role in shaping the working class movement. With more than 2.5 lakh workers from 65 textile mills joining in this strike for almost two years, this strike became one of the most significant strikes in terms of scale and duration All democrats should applaud the mill workers’ united battle, and their unflinching resilience an death defying courage continues to serve as a model for contemporary working-class movements. Many middle class persons harboured opinions that the Textile workers were pampered or were a labour aristocracy, ignorant of how they were denied wages to provide for basic necessities. The Great Bombay Textile Strike is notably one of the most defining movements in the working class struggles in Post-independent India. Bombay’s textile industry flourished in

India may be fastest growing economy, but it is one of the most unequal countries

By Vikas Parasram Meshram  The economic disparity gap continues to widen with economic disparity.  A large portion of the population is dispossessed, while the poor continue to get poorer. They struggle to earn a minimum wage and access quality education and health care, suffering disinvestment from persistently low incomes. These widening gaps and growing inequalities have the greatest impact on women and children.  The Oxfam International report is known to have expressed concern that, on the one hand, the wealth of some people in the world is increasing at a rocket speed.  And the number of rich people is constantly increasing. As a result, the income of the common man is increasing very little, while the wealth of the rich class has increased manifold.  Not only in India but in many other countries of the world, the gap of economic inequality is continuously widening. Oxfam International in its annual report on economic inequality at the World Economic Forum meeting last month, sai

Adapting to edge: Urban and coastal climate resilience - fostering collaborative alliances

By Enid Dsouza  Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) India hosted a workshop on ‘Adapting to the Edge: Urban and Coastal Climate Resilience’ as part of the Climate Action Workshop Series in New Delhi. The workshop brought together experts, practitioners, government bodies, CSR leaders to initiate dialogues on fostering nature-based solutions for a climate-resilient future.

Israel's merciless bombing of Rafah faced huge protests across the globe

By Harsh Thakor*  With the numbers of the murdered in Gaza surpassing 28,000 people, Israel mercilessly conducted bombing to prepare for a genocidal attack on the displaced people in Rafah. Peoples of the world keep rose up like a spark turning into a prairie fire.