PRIVATE MILITARY FIRMS IN ANGOLA, SIERRA LEONE, PAPUA NEW
GUINEA, AND IRAQ: LEARNING FROM THE PAST
Ryan Victor Savarese
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2004
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
In partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts in Political Science
Ryan Victor Savarese
has been approved
Savarese, Ryan Victor (M.A. Political Science)
Private Military Firms in Iraq: Learning from the Past
Thesis directed by Professor Jana M. Everett
This thesis examines several important issues raised by the use of private
military firms (PMFS) in contemporary conflicts. These issues are accountability
and control, means of compensation, and implications for state sovereignty.
First the thesis analyzes the role PMFS played in conflicts occurring in
Angola, Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea and the outcomes of PMFS
involvement. Next this thesis addresses the use of PMFS by the United States in
Iraq and compares the US case with those of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua
New Guinea. The thesis then evaluates the extent to which the outcomes of the
US use of PMFS in the conflict in Iraq are likely to be the same or different than
the cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea using PMFS during the
The research on the conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New
Guinea centers on the PMFS that were used, what they were employed to
accomplish, why the states hired the
PMFS, and the cost and means of compensation. Also the outcomes of the use of
the PMFS are examined, including how the conflict was resolved, the impacts of
the conflicts on the PMFS, the states employing the PMFS, the civilian
populations, the adversaries, and the states national military forces. Further,
issues of how the PMFS are held accountable for their actions and how they are
controlled are addressed. The thesis then uses the same criteria to study the case
of the United States employing PMFS in its conflict in Iraq.
In the concluding chapter, the thesis identifies similarities and differences
between the cases and makes some recommendations for increasing
accountability and control of PMFS.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
This thesis is dedicated to my parents, who have supported me throughout my
academic life. This thesis is also dedicated to students of life, who recognize the
importance of learning beyond academia. Life is study!
My thanks to my advisor, Jana M. Everett, for her guidance and wisdom
throughout the entire thesis writing process. My thanks to the members of my
committee for sacrificing their valuable time to assist me. I would also like to
thank Darian Johnston, for her love, support, and editing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Question of Definitions........................3
Origins of Private Military Firms..................5
Legality, Morality, Accountability and Control.....7
The Erosion of the State Monopoly on Violence.....11
Neo-Colonialism and Economic Concerns.............12
Private Military Firms as Peacekeepers............14
PMFS and International Relations Theory..................16
Profiles of Key Firms....................................21
2. THE CASES...................................................25
The Case of Angola.......................................25
Details of the PMF Involvement....................30
Impacts of EOs Involvement in Angola.............31
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Angola......34
The Case of Sierra Leone.................................36
Details of the PMF Involvement....................42
Impacts of EOs Involvement in Sierra Leone.......43
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Sierra Leone.45
The Case of Papua New Guinea.............................46
Details of the PMF Involvement....................51
Impacts of Sandlines Involvement in
Papua New Guinea..................................53
Control and Accountability of PMFS in
Papua New Guinea..................................55
The Case of Iraq.........................................57
Roles of PMFS in Iraq.............................59
Details of the PMF Involvement....................60
Impacts of PMFS Involved in Iraq..................63
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Iraq........64
3. ANALYSIS: COMPARISON OF CASES...............................69
The Governments and Their Reasons for
How the Firms Were Compensated...........................72
Control of the PMFS by the Client State...................74
How the PMFS Were Held Accountable
4. CONCLUSION AND RECCOMENDATIONS...........78
In the years following the Cold War, a trend toward privatizing
government functions, an increase in low intensity conflicts around the globe and
the general downsizing of national military forces have combined to create a
market niche for what are known as private military firms (PMFS). These firms
are contracted out by both state and non-state actors to carry out functions
traditionally performed by national military forces. Although the concept of
private military force is not new, the increase in the number and use of PMFS
since the 1990s is an astounding phenomenon. During the 1990s PMFS were
utilized in a myriad of different conflicts ranging from Angola to Papua New
More recently the United States has employed PMFS for operations in
Iraq at an unprecedented level. According to Peter Singer (2005), Iraq is the site
of the largest deployment of PMFS in history. He states More than 60 firms
currently employ more than 20,000 private personnel there to carry out military
functions (p.120). By Virginia Newells (2006) calculations PMFS make up the
third largest force deployed in Iraq. The extensive use of PMFS by the United
States in Iraq raises a multitude of important questions about the potential
outcomes of the conflict there.
The intent of this thesis is to compare the use of PMFS in conflicts in
Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea during the 1990s and appraise the
outcomes of each conflict. Specifically, this thesis will evaluate the major issues
that the use of PMFS in these states have raised such as questions of
accountability and control, means of compensation, and implications for state
Next this thesis will address the use of PMFS by the United States in Iraq
and compare the US case with those of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New
Guinea. The thesis will then evaluate the extent to which the outcomes of the US
use of PMFS in the conflict in Iraq are likely to be the same or different than the
cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea using PMFS during the
Although there is a broad range of subject matter available and many
different areas of concentration, there seems to be consistent themes in the
research concerning private military firms (PMFS). This section of the thesis will
discuss several key questions that scholars continue to ask regarding the use of
private military firms. The recurring themes that stand out include the following:
questions of definition, evolution and points of origin of PMFS, questions of
legality, morality, accountability and control, the erosion of the state monopoly on
violence, neo-colonialism and economic concerns, and PMFS as peacekeepers or
peacemakers. There are also several topics of importance that are unique to
specific articles or authors. All of the above will be addressed in the review of the
The Question of Definitions
In most of the scholarly articles written on PMFS, regardless of their
specific focus, the first topic covered is that of defining exactly what a PMF is and
does. Most of the authors begin by comparing PMFS to mercenaries, which is
undoubtedly the closest related group. Virginia Newell (2006) states that A
common and appropriate starting point for discussion of the state-PMF
relationship is the familiar and less controversial figure, the mercenary soldier-the
person who fights neither for patriotism nor legal duty, but for economic gain
(p.70). Many of the authors go beyond a simple comparison and as far as calling
PMFS actual mercenaiy organizations. For example, Xavier Renou (2005) states
that Private security companies do not usually engage personnel in such violent
contexts, while private military companies (firms) do. The latter only can truly be
labeled mercenary (p.107). Another scholar, Steven Brayton, states that the
modem private military companies that appeared in the 1990s meet all the
conditions to be defined as mercenaries (p.304). Mercenaries however, unlike
PMFS do have a concrete definition according to international law, and have been
prohibited by the United Nations. According to the International Convention
Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and training of Mercenaries a
mercenary is anyone who:
a. ) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an
b. ) does, in fact take direct part in the hostilities;
c. ) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the
desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of
a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in
excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and
functions in the armed forces of that Party;
d. ) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of
territory controlled by a party to the conflict;
e. ) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict;
f. ) has not been sent by a state which is not a Party to the conflict
on official duty as a member of its armed forces (United Nations,
Because of the very specific legal definition of mercenary other authors like
Alexandre Faite (2004) and Peter Singer (2005) claim that it is highly unlikely
that employees of a PMF could ever be labeled as mercenary. Faite writes, From
a strictly legal point of view, it appears that the answer to the question whether
individuals employed by private companies are mercenaries will most of the time
be negative, as these persons will usually fall outside the conjunctive definition
provided for in international instruments (p. 170).
One of the reasons there is so much debate over whether or not PMFS fall
under the same category as mercenaries is because of the vast array of services
that different PMFS offer. Singer (2005) has broken down PMFS into three
categories: military consulting firms, military support firms, and military provider
firms. Consulting firms generally offer training to troops and strategic advice,
support firms provide maintenance and logistics, such as food services and
communications, and provider firms more closely resemble the mercenary of old
by potentially providing combat soldiers (p.l 19). Also, as Newell (2006) points
out, not all PMFS fit neatly into one of these three categories. There are some
larger PMFS that can overlap into two or perhaps all three of these categories with
the different types of services they offer.
Origins of Private Military Firms
While there is nothing particularly new about privatized military
personnel, the recent dramatic increase in private military activity is something
that scholars are talking about. There are two distinct arguments made about what
has caused the massive growth of the PMF industry. The first argument is offered
by Peter Singer (2005). He states that the growth of the private military industry
was set in motion by three factors: the end of the Cold War, new types of conflict
that make it hard to differentiate combatant from civilian, and the neo-liberal push
for privatization around the globe. Singer claims that the reduction in national
forces after the Cold War occurred at a time of increased global instability. This
instability created a demand for more troops. In the developing world, the lines
between civilian and combatants all but disappeared with the advent of child
soldiers and warlords. The Western states began purchasing equipment that relied
heavily on private operation and maintenance, and believing in the supremacy of
the neo-liberal theory of privatization, they began outsourcing government
functions (p.l 19). Steven Brayton (2002) also shares this view.
An alternative view point is offered by Xavier Renou (2005), who believes
it is globalization that is the driving force behind the growth and success of the
private military industry. Renou argues that globalization causes an increase in
competition for global resources and consequently leads to a more violent world
and gradual privatization of warfare (p.l 08). Renou further supports his
argument by identifying globalization and fierce competition over resources as the
factors leading to the collapse of weak states and an increased number of low
intensity wars. These low intensity wars in weak states with substandard national
forces are then forced to look elsewhere for coercive force.
One area that Renou (2005), Singer (2005), Newell (2006), and Brayton
(2002) seem to agree on is that the phenomenon is fed by supply and demand.
Like all private enterprise, the private military industry is motivated by profit, and
when the demand is high, so are the payoffs.
Legality, Morality, Accountability and Control
Some of the most controversial areas of discussion concerning PMFS are
those of accountability, control, legality and morality. While reviewing the
literature, one finds that these three areas overlap a great deal, and most of the
time all of the issues stem directly from a lack of legislation or regulation.
Therefore this section will discuss these issues from the standpoint of legality.
The legal issues surrounding PMFS are immense. Peter Singer (2005) and
other scholars argue that there is a general lack of legislation and regulation on
PMFS (p.122). Legal questions concerning PMFS seem to revolve around the
status of PMFS and their employees. As was discussed earlier, there is a debate on
whether PMFS are legally established businesses or illegal mercenaries. More
importantly for this section is the debate over whether PMF employees in conflict
zones are considered civilians or combatants. The employees of private military
firms tend to fall through the cracks of current legal codes, which sharply
distinguish civilians from soldiers (Singer 2005, p.122). This debate raises two
important questions: Are PMF employees legitimate military targets? And if
captured by the enemy, what rights under international humanitarian law are PMF
employees entitled? Faite (2004) argues that the status of a PMF employee should
be directly linked to whether the employee is participating in hostilities, which in
of itself is hard to define. He then attempts to define what he believes should be
considered as participating in hostilities and what should not. According to Faite
(2004), if a PMF employee was guarding a non-military, civilian target with
negligible strategic value, such as a school, then that employee would not be a
participant in hostilities, and therefore would not be legitimate target. On the
other hand, that same employee guarding a military or strategic target would be
considered a combatant and could be legally attacked. Regardless of the
distinction Faite makes, the international legal codes on PMFS are still
inadequate, and the legal status of PMFS and their employees is murky at best.
This void in legal status leads to serious problems when considering issues of
accountability and control, and sometimes morality.
Accountability and Control
Most scholars in the field agree that there is a general lack of
accountability and control for PMFS, and that this stems from their questionable
legal status. Newell (2006) provides an excellent explanation of accountability:
The word accountability encompasses a wide variety of notions,
including that: (1) the defense services provided by the PMF meet
contract specifications; (2) the services are performed within the
bounds of the law; (3) the activities undertaken are fully and
truthfully reported; and (4) all breaches of obligations create
appropriate avenues of liability and compensation. Broadly
speaking, holding PMFs accountable requires ensuring that PMFs
are not behaving in a manner that undermines governance norms
Accountability of PMFS has also been described by many authors as
having the ability to adjudicate any wrongful acts perpetrated by a PMF or its
employees or simply being able to have the PMF answer to a higher authority.
The consensus is that the PMFS really are only held accountable to their
shareholders, not the government that hires them or any international body
(Brayton, 2002). There are clearly many issues raised relating to the lack of
accountability and control of PMFS by national governments. Singer (2005)
brings up a compelling point about PMFS falling outside the jurisdiction of the
military chain of command and justice systems. He asserts that PMFS can
abandon or postpone their operations at will, and the employees can simply walk
off the job. Even more troubling is the fact that it is nearly impossible to punish
PMFS or their employees for crimes committed on the job. Singer (2005) points
out that the US Army discovered that 36 percent of the incidents at Abu Ghraib
involved PMF employees and that six PMF employees were directly responsible,
but none of them have ever been tried for their actions (p.123). As far as
adjudicating the issue, Alexandre Faite (2004) claims that according to the UN
Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts
(Responsibility of States, 2005) the state should be held accountable for the
wrongful acts of PMFS that it employs, and he specifically cites the incidents at
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
In contrast with the more concrete legal questions, there are also large
moral concerns among scholars researching PMFS. One recurring issue on the
subject of PMFS involves the transformation of the military and war into a private
business. This has far reaching moral implications for the global community.
Singer (2005) states that the motives of a PMF are not always in line with the
public good. For example, one could make an argument that in certain situations,
a PMF may actually have incentive to prolong a conflict in an effort to extend its
contract. Several authors also brought up moral questions regarding the use of
public funds for private economic gain. This will be discussed further in the
section on economic issues. Singer (2005) argues that governments can now
easily sidestep gaining legislative or public approval for the use of force by using
PMFS. Here he is raising moral concerns about achieving public ends with private
means, allowing governments to use force in cases when it wouldnt be possible
through the use of national troops.
The Erosion of the State Monopoly on Violence
Some scholars in the field are concerned about the impact of PMFS on the
maintenance of the international system of state sovereignty. Brayton (2002)
claims that the increased use of privatized or non-state violence is wearing away
at state sovereignty, and that this exacerbates the inability of certain states to
protect their citizens. Brayton (2002) and Newell (2006) both argue that any
private or non-state actor engaging in violence is anathema to state sovereignty.
Newell (2006) states:
It is the states monopoly on violence that underpins the
international legal system and justifies the emphasis on state
sovereignty. It is on this basis that states are recognized as having
the right and capacity to declare war, act in self defense, sign peace
treaties, etc. A second dimension of the doctrine of sovereignty is
that states have the responsibility for protecting individual rights, a
function they could not purport to fulfill if they did not enjoy a
monopoly over violence. Accordingly, any non-state actor
engaging in violence, including mercenaries, PMFs, and terrorists,
can readily be classified as a threat to state sovereignty (p.70).
Along the same lines, Singer (2005) argues that not only that PMFS are a threat to
sovereignty of states, but also a threat to national military forces. He claims that
since PMFS generally recruit from the national armed forces and pay up to ten
times as much, that national forces are having difficulties retaining skilled
personnel. PMFS compete with the government that is employing them, since
they draw employees away from the military and then are contracted to perform
Neo-Colonialism and Economic Concerns
Further issues of great importance regarding the PMF industry are
economics and neo-colonialism. As was briefly mentioned above, there are many
scholars that have concerns about using public funds for private economic gain.
The classic neo-liberal defense of the privatization of government function is that
the private industry is less expensive to produce, more profitable and more
efficient than public industry. Renou (2005) disagrees, arguing that the public
funds used to train soldiers for the military is never taken into account.
Furthermore, he claims that the cost of corruption, as in the case of Halliburton
over billing for services in Iraq, greatly increases the cost of private military
However, in certain cases of PMF S operations the neo-liberal theory
seems to be supported. A good example of this is a comparison of two operations
carried out in Angola, one by Executive Outcomes, a well known PMF, and the
other by the United Nations. The Executive Outcomes operations cost a great deal
less than the UN operations in the same country (Brayton, 2002). One major
factor to take into account with this equation is that the UN paid the bills for its
own operation, while Angola had to pay Executive Outcomes by itself.
This raises the question of how a faltering weak state can afford to pay
such large sums of money to utilize the services of PMFS. According to Renou
(2005) and Newell (2006), PMFS operating on behalf of weak states are often
compensated by gaining rights to minerals and other natural resources or shares in
local businesses because their governments are often too impoverished to have the
necessary funds. For example, a large fraction of Sierra Leones diamond mines
were given to a company called Branch Energy, the parent corporation of
Executive Outcomes, four months after EO helped regain the mines from rebel
fighters (Brayton, 2002). Because most of the PMFS come from industrialized
Western states, many of the authors have equated this type payment as neo-
colonialism, or neo-imperialism (Renou, 2005). Along those same lines, Brayton
(2002) argues that the driving factor behind PMF involvement in Angola and
Sierra Leone was mineral exploitation.
When considering neo-imperialist or colonialist objectives, there is
substantial evidence that PMFS often act as surrogates for Western powers in
troubled regions. This is illustrated through the United States issuing licensing to
a PMF called MPR1 to assist the Croatian army, and later the Croat-Muslim army
to counter balance the Serbian forces, after the UN forbid giving assistance to the
Croatian or Serbian armies. By doing this, the US was able to achieve its foreign
policy goals while appearing neutral in the conflict (Newell, 2006). Newell
reports that states employ PMFS extraterritorially for many reasons, but a key
reason is shifting blame in the event something goes awry during the operation. If
there is an incident, the state can simply blame the PMF for any wrong doing, as
was the case at Abu Ghraib (Newell, 2006).
Private Military Firms as Peacekeepers
Another concept covered by the literature is using PMFS as peacekeepers
on behalf of or in place of the United Nations. Due to the growing number of
low-intensity conflicts, particularly in regions of Africa, there has been an
increased demand for peacekeeping operations. Steven Brayton (2002) states that
during the 1990s PMFS started to assume a role that resembled the peacekeeping
operations of the United Nations. Examples of these types of operations took
place in Angola, and Sierra Leone with Executive Outcomes and a PMF called
Sandline. There is a debate over whether or not PMFS should be involved in
peacekeeping operations, an area traditionally reserved for states and the UN. As
was discussed above, PMFS can perform a similar function as the UN at a
fraction of the cost. However, cost isnt the only factor to play into the debate;
human rights also come into play. According to Brayton (2002), there are not
adequate checks on PMFS in the realm of human rights. This is partly due to the
lack of transparency and accountability of PMFS. Profitability is also a
contributing factor. Because the length and scope of peacekeeping activities can
often be open-ended, private peacekeeping may not be profitable for PMFS to
take on, particularly if the contract stipulates a set amount of compensation.
Brayton (2002) concludes his argument by claiming that PMFS are not capable of
international peacekeeping missions insofar as meeting the objectives of keeping
peace. He bases this claim on his assessment that peacekeeping operations are not
profitable and as private corporations, PMFS cant do business by taking on
As one can surmise from reviewing the literature, there is no real
agreement on the official definition of PMFS. Some researchers call them
mercenaries; others call them legitimate corporations, still others think they lie
somewhere in between. Generally speaking, it is easy to see how closely related
the two professions are. Unlike the disagreement over definitions, there is a great
deal of consensus on the lack of accountability, control, and ambiguous legal
status of PMFS. It is clear that the legal status of PMFS needs to be clarified, and
that these organizations need to be regulated and held accountable for their
actions. There is also a general question of morality surrounding PMFS; although
this is a more ethereal concept than legality or accountability, it is important
There are a few scholars that are concerned about the erosion of the state
monopoly on violence through the use of PMFS, and the growing instability of
the international system that depends on state sovereignty. This argument seems
to be more strongly supported by Newell (2006) and Brayton (2002), and less so
in the writings of Singer (2005).
There is sharp debate surrounding the economic impact of using PMFS.
Some researchers argue that PMFS are more cost effective and more efficient
while others claim the opposite. On the subject of neo-imperialism and neo-
colonialism, there is less debate. Many of the authors are concerned with the
trend of impoverished states granting mineral rights in their territory as payment
for services rendered by PMFS. The idea of employing PMFS for peacekeeping
seems to be an area uniquely covered by Steven Brayton, who believes that PMFS
are incapable of doing an adequate job. Overall the review of the literature
illustrates the broad range of issues and concerns surrounding the rise of the PMF
PMFS and International Relations Theory
Because the explosion of the use of PMFS is a new phenomenon, most of
the academic work concerning these firms is descriptive in nature. Recently,
however, there have been several efforts to examine the implications of PMFS for
international relations theory. Avant (2006) argues that the use of PMFS has
impacted the IR theories of democratic peace, late state building, and the nature
and frequency of conflict (p.507). Specifically, the democratic peace theory,
which suggests that liberal democracies engage in war with each other less than
other government types, is impacted by the use of PMFS on a number of levels.
The use of PMFS by democracies puts more power into the hands of the executive
branch of government. In the US this is because the power to hire and oversee
contractors rest solely with the executive branch. Furthermore, Congress can
place limitations on US military deployment, but they cannot place restrictions on
PMFS. Avant (2006) also states that hiring PMFS gives commercial actors more
influence over policy since most of the feedback on PMF performance the
governments receive comes from the PMFS. The diminished transparency and
legislative oversight created by the hiring of PMFS has the potential to increase
hostilities between democracies. Late state building is also potentially affected by
the use of PMFS. The use of PMFS for security by weak transitional states may
result in the government relying more on foreign capital than its tax base. In turn,
this increases the possibility of security forces being used to protect foreign
interests and may result in oppression of the population while decreasing the
possibility for democracy in the state. The same phenomenon could also be
responsible for further weakening state institutions in these countries which
exacerbate the problem of eroding democracy and increased reliance on foreign
capital. Finally, the use of PMFS may increase the occurrences of conflict. The
availability of PMFS provides stronger democracies increased opportunities for
unilateral action due to decreased political costs for such actions. Further, the rise
of PMFS means that there are an increased number of violent non-state actors on
the world stage. An increase in conflict may result from the coercive use of force
no longer being limited to states.
In order to examine the role of PMFS in this thesis, a historical-
comparative method will be used. The historical-comparative approach is
primarily used for examining the combination of social factors that produce a
specific outcome. It is also appropriate for comparing entire social systems to see
what is common across societies and what is unique (Neuman 2006, p.420).
This thesis assesses the multitude of factors involving the use of PMFS in
conflicts and how those factors affect the outcomes. It is also examines
similarities and differences between conflicts and the societies involved in them.
Therefore, the historical-comparative approach is the most appropriate for
addressing the research questions.
This study will focus first on three different conflicts during the 1990s in
which PMFS were employed by the state. These states are Angola, Sierra Leone,
and Papua New Guinea. The research on the conflicts in these states will center
on the PMFS that were used, what they were employed to accomplish, why the
states hired the PMFS, and the cost and means of compensation. The outcomes of
the use of the PMFS will also be examined, including how the conflicts were
resolved, the impacts of the conflicts on the PMFS, the states employing the
PMFS, the civilian populations, the adversaries, and the states national military
forces. Further, issues of how the PMFS are held accountable for their actions
and how they are controlled will be addressed. The thesis will then use the same
criteria to research and evaluate the case of the United States employing PMFS in
its conflict in Iraq.
The research will conclude by comparing the cases in the 1990s with the
United States case in Iraq, investigate any similarities and differences between
the cases, and attempt to draw some conclusions and recommendations for the
Sierra Leone, Angola, and Papua New Guinea are being used in this
research because they are some of the most recent cases where the use of PMFS
in conflicts was widely publicized, and information is readily available. They
provide the most current and public episodes involving PMFS that can be
compared to the increased use of PMFS by the United States in the conflict with
Taking into account that the United States is very different from the states
of Angola, Sierra Leone, or Papua New Guinea, this thesis will operate on the
most different system design of inquiry (MDSD). MDSD compares states that
have little in common. This design attempts to find characteristics that are the
same or similar among different cases in an attempt to explain outcomes
(Przeworski 1970). In these cases the outcomes involve the consequences of using
PMFS in conflicts.
All of the research for this thesis will be drawn from secondary sources;
primarily scholarly journals and news articles regarding the use of PMFS in the
conflicts to be studied. Information will also be drawn from scholarly journals
concerning the broad topic of the use of PMFS in general.
The cases of Sierra Leone and Angola will lean heavily on articles written
about the PMF Executive Outcomes (EO). Peter Singers (2005) book Corporate
Warriors: The Rise of the Private Military Industry will be used as well as
Herbert M. Howes (1998) article Private Security Forces and African Stability:
the Case of Executive Outcomes. Both sources have extensive information on
EOs involvement in these conflicts. The Papua New Guinea case will rely on
articles written about the 1997 involvement of the PMF Sandline International on
the island of Bougainville. An article from The Journal of Pacific History written
by Desh Gupta entitled Sandline Episode: Economic Impact and Implications
will be used, as well as The Money and the Gun: Mercenary Times in Papua
New Guinea an article written by Sinclair Dinnen from the same journal.
Information on the case of the United States in Iraq will be gathered from recent
news and scholarly journal articles concerning the use of PMFS. Other sources
located in the research process with relevant information on these cases may also
The second chapter of this thesis will examine in detail the conflicts in
Angola, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Iraq. The third chapter will
analyze the information presented in the second chapter and compare all four
cases. The final chapter of this thesis will attempt to draw conclusions concerning
the research and provide some recommendations for the future.
Profiles of Key Firms
In order to better understand the conflicts to be covered, this section will
provide a brief profile of some of the major PMFS operating in each conflict.
Although it is no longer in business, the South African based Executive
Outcomes (EO) is probably the most well known PMF to date. Founded in 1989
and staffed by former members of the South African Defense Force (SADF), EO
claimed it had over 2,000 ex-SADF soldiers and personnel on call at anytime
(Executive Outcomes, n.d.). The firm styled itself as a provider of various
services ranging from military training, to carrying out paramilitary operations
(Singer, 2002). Throughout its existence EO carried out contracts in many
African states, but is most famous for its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone
(Federation of American Scientists, n.d.).
EO also had extensive connections with other corporations which will be
important later when examining EOs involvement in Angola and Sierra Leone.
Singer (2002) states that Executive Outcomes was considered a subsidiary of a
South African based umbrella company known as Strategic Resource Corporation
(SRC). In turn EO was also registered with a holding company in London named
the Branch-Heritage Group run by Anthony Buckingham which had mining and
resource harvesting operations around the globe. Further, Branch-Heritage has
operations in many of the areas that EO had been contracted including Angola
and Sierra Leone (Singer, 2002).
Sandline was founded in the early 1990s and staffed by former US and
UK military personnel. According to their website, Sandline specializes in
problem and conflict resolution and is capable of carrying out anything from
advisory and training operations to actual armed engagements (Sandline
International, n.d.). In contrast to the apolitical EO, Sandline claims to adhere to
a strict set of principles which include only working for internationally recognized
governments or liberation movements and stipulates that its contracts must be
moral and legal, in accordance with the policies of Western states whenever
possible. Additionally Sandline claims that it refuses to involve itself with
embargoed regimes, terrorist organizations, drug cartels, international organized
crime, illegal arms trading, nuclear, biological or chemical proliferation,
contravention of human rights, or any activity which breaches the basic Law of
Armed Conflic. Like EO, Sandline has carried out operations in many locations
including Sierra Leone; however the firm is most recognized for its involvement
in Papua New Guinea. On April 14,2004 Sandline International announced its
closure, claiming lack of government support for their work as the cause
(Sandline International, 2004).
Gurkha Security Group
Not much information is available on Gurkha Security Group (GSG), but
they are important because of their brief involvement in Sierra Leone. GSG is
made up primarily of ex-Gurkha fighters from Nepal and is now known as
Gurkha International Group. They offer a range of services from security to
hospitality staffing (Gurkha International Group, n.d.). GSG is most widely
known for its losses in Sierra Leone where their leader was reportedly killed and
eaten after a rebel ambush (Singer, 2002).
Blackwater USA was founded in 1997 by a former US Navy Seal.
Blackwater specializes in training, target making, security consulting, K-9
training (for bomb detection and law enforcement), and construction (Blackwater
USA, n.d.). The firm states on its website that it supports security and peace,
and freedom and democracy everywhere (Blackwater USA, n.d.). The
Blackwater website also provides a mission statement:
Blackwater is committed to supporting national and international security
policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for
all. We dedicate ourselves to providing ethical, efficient, and effective
turnkey solutions that positively impact the lives of those still caught in
desperate times (Blackwater USA, n.d.).
Blackwater currently has security personnel operating in Iraq. A Blackwater team
served as personal security guards for former head of the Coalition Provisional
Authority Paul Bremer (Singer, 2005). Also of note are the four Blackwater
employees that were killed and desecrated in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.
Kellogg, Brown & Root
Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) was originally founded as Brown & Root
Services in 1919. Starting out as a construction company, over the past century
KBR merged with Halliburton and has diversified and grown into one of the
largest PMFS in the world (Singer, 2002). Unlike the other firms listed above,
KBR provides logistical support for military operations rather than engaging in
training or combat operations. The services provided by KBR include everything
ranging from food service and laundry operations to fire fighting, refueling, and
structure maintenance. (Singer, 2002). KBR is responsible for the construction
and day to day operations of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, one of the few man-
made structures that can be seen from space. Singer (2002) states,
In sum, Brown & Root evolved from a small road paving firm into one of
the worlds largest service providers for facilities, infrastructure,
communities, and installations. BRSs market niche is in offering
government and private sector clients the lure of better, faster, and more
cost-efficient capabilities in secondary support areas, which then allow the
customer to focus on their own distinctive competencies (p.139).
KBR and its parent corporation currently have lucrative contracts in Iraq.
This section will outline many facets of PMF involvement in Angola,
Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Iraq. The details of each conflict will be
addressed followed by an examination of the PMF involvement in each state, the
impact the PMFS had on the states, and the degree ot which the PMFS were
controlled and held accountable in the conflicts.
The Case of Angola
Located on the east coast of southern Africa, Angola is endowed with both
diamonds and oil reserves. The majority of the Angolan population is indigenous
to the area. The Ovimbundu make up the largest ethnic group at 37 percent of the
population, the Kimbundu comprise 25 percent, the Kikongo are 13 percent, while
Portuguese and mixed races make up the remainder (Ciment, 1997).
The civil war in Angola has its roots in the Portuguese colonial rule of the
territory. The Portuguese landed in Angola in 1483, beginning a brutal slave
trade which would last nearly 400 years. Following the Berlin Conference of
1885, in which European colonial powers divided up the African continent,
Portugal attempted to consolidate its colonial gains in Angola with several
unsuccessful land distribution programs. Portugals time in Angola would end in
the mid-twentieth century during the decolonization movement (Ciment, 1997).
While the rest of the African continent was undergoing decolonization, the
Portuguese government under Antonio de Salazar refused to give up control of its
holdings, Angola included. This led to the creation of three Angolan
independence movements with varied ideological and ethnic backgrounds: The
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was formed in 1956 by
Agostinho Neto, and later was headed by Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The MPLA
was made up of political leftists from across the ethnic lines. The National Front
for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) was founded in 1957 and led by Holden
Roberto. The FNLA was more conservative and ethnically homogenous with the
majority of its membership of the Kikongo people. The National Union for the
Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) was founded in 1966 by Jonas Savimbi.
Savimbi originally identified himself as a Maoist, and later an advocate for
democracy, exemplifying what many observers have described as political
opportunism (Ciment, 1997). Each of these movements were given support from
various international actors. The MPLA gained support from Cuba and the Soviet
Union, the FNLA was backed by the United States, and UNITA was supported by
China, Apartheid South Africa, and later the United States. These three
movements began combating the Portuguese presence in Angola in the early
1960s. The conflict for independence continued until 1974, when a military coup
led to a new government in Portugal which ended the war by turning over its
authority over Angola to a coalition of the three independence movements (US
State Department, 2006).
The three groups eventually began fighting each other over ideological
differences. UNITA and the FNLA joined forces while the MPLA initially seized
the government in 1975 and was recognized by the UN in 1976 (US State
Department, 2006). With each movement being supported by their respective
sponsor states, the tides of the war changed frequently and even involved the
intervention of South African and Zairian troops on behalf of UNITA, and Cuban
troops on behalf of the MPLA (Ciment, 1997). Eventually the FNLA disappeared
due to a lack of military success and internal division. However, the war still
raged between the MPLA and UNITA forces until 1991 when the Bicesse
accords, brokered by the US, Portugal and Russia, led to the withdrawal of
foreign soldiers and laid the groundwork for an Angolan electoral race. The
elections were held in 1992 with the MPLA candidate dos Santos coming out in
the lead. Savimbi, the UNITA leader, claimed the elections results were
fraudulent and began to attack the MPLA government once again (Ciment, 1997).
Without the support of Cuba and the former Soviet Bloc, the MPLA was
unable to adequately defend against the renewed UNITA offensive. By 1993 the
UNITA rebels had fought deep into MPLA held territory and saw significant
success (Ciment, 1997). During their offensive, UNITA managed to seize control
of oil assets in a coastal town called Soyo in March 1993. According to Singer
(2002), these oil resources were crucial to the Angolan economy, but more
importantly were jointly owned by the Angolan state oil company and Branch-
Heritage Oil. Although the details of the contract were kept private, the Angolan
government hired Executive Outcomes (EO) in 1993 to retake Soyo from the
UNITA rebels. This was ironic considering that many of the EO personnel had
fought along side UNITA as part of the South African Defense Forces during the
1980s against the MPLA government that was now employing the firm (Singer,
2002). Demonstrating frighteningly effective capabilities, EO was able to
recapture the oil assets at Soyo with only 80 men (Singer, 2002). Initially the
UNITA force was unaware of what they were dealing with, as the oil companies
claimed that the attack was carried out by security personnel that were guarding
the area. Soon after the preliminary reports, EO took full acclaim for the raid.
Unfortunately after the EO personnel left, UNITA rebels were able to recapture
Soyo from the Angolan Army (FAA) in mid-1993 (Singer, 2002).
After the failure to defend Soyo with their national military, the Angolan
government hired EO for a full year, starting in September of 1993. EO was
charged with training the FAA and commanding combat operations against the
UNITA forces. Through the duration of the contract, EO trained 5,000 Angolan
soldiers and 30 pilots. EO fielded about 500 men who commanded and fought
with the Angolan force they had trained. EO also provided trained pilots of their
own to fly Angolan Air Force planes and conducted commando style assaults on
UNITA bases (Singer, 2002). The EO force along with the Angolan soldiers they
trained captured all the Angolan cities under UNITA control, and all of the oil and
diamond producing areas of the country which were essential to financing the
government war effort by the summer of 2004 (Ciment, 1997).
The swift success of the combined EO and FAA force over UNITA led to
the signing of the Lusaka Protocol in November 1994 which called for the
cessation of hostilities in the country (Ciment, 1997). Interestingly, as a condition
of the peace agreement, UNITA demanded that the EO forces leave Angola
before they would sign the Lusaka Protocol. Nevertheless, the firm remained in
the country for another year until United States President Bill Clinton suggested
the contract be terminated in December 1995 (Singer, 2002).
Shortly after EOs departure from Angola, the peace agreement collapsed
and the fighting began again despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping force.
The fighting continued for several years, and then in 1997 the UN Security
Council imposed sanctions on UNITA. In 1999 the Angolan military was strong
enough to launch a major offensive against UNITA forces and regained control of
the major cities occupied by UNITA. This destroyed the rebels capacity for
conventional warfare and forced UNITA to resort to guerilla tactics until 2002.
The conflict in Angola finally ended with the 2002 Luena Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU), in which there was a return to the original 1994 Lusaka
Protocol. UNITA forces eventually returned control of its remaining territory to
the government and disarmed (US State Department, 2006).
Details of the PMF Involvement
This section will look at the contractual details of the agreement between
the Angolan government and EO. In the original 1993 contract, EO was charged
with recapturing oil facilities that were seized by UNITA forces in the town of
Soyo. As was stated above the details of this contract were kept private, but there
were clear connections between the oil facilities at Soyo and the Branch-Heritage
Group affiliated with EO. For example, the mining equipment at the site was
apparently extremely valuable to the company. According to Singer (2002):
The facilities in question were owned by Sonogal, the state oil company,
and Branch-Heritage Oil, the same company in the overall umbrella
owned by Tony Buckingham. UNITA would not allow the companies to
remove their oil and drilling equipment, that they were leasing for $20,000
dollars per day, and the FAA did not have the capability to recapture the
site without blowing up the valuable equipment in the process (p.108).
It is clear that the fate of the Soyo oil facilities was of great interest to Branch-
Heritage Group. After EOs successful recapture of the facilities and the FAAs
subsequent loss of the same facilities after EO left, it is not surprising that it was
Branch-Heritages own Anthony Buckingham that helped broker the extended
employment of EO for the Angolan government. Singer (2002), comments on the
deal between Angola and EO:
Both Anthony Buckingham and Simon Mann (a former British Officer,
now in the mineral business) played key roles in brokering the deal, which
occurred at the personal behest of the Angolan president. EO was
reportedly paid by state monies that had originally generated from Ranger
(a Canadian mining firm associated with Buckingham). In turn, the
funding firms allegedly received payment in oil and mining concessions
The extended one year contract that started September 1993 between Angola and
EO was for $40 million dollars. According to Howe (1998), $20 million of the
contract covered military equipment and supplies while the other $20 million was
payment for the firm.
Impacts of EOs involvement in Angola
This section will cover the effects EOs involvement in the conflict in
Angola, how the conflict was resolved, and the impacts of the conflict on EO, the
government of Angola, the UNITA rebels, and the civilian population. The
effects of EOs involvement in Angola are not particularly clear. As was noted
previously, EO had two contracts with the Angolan government. The first contract
to recapture Soyo was a huge success. Initially after EO left, the Angolan military
was unable to hold the position, and it was lost to UNITA again. Despite this
setback, the operation that EO carried out in Soyo revealed the effectiveness of
EO, and led to the firm being hired on for a full year. In the second contract, EO
along with the FAA, recaptured the major Angolan cities, and more importantly,
key economic areas from the UNITA rebels. This eventually led to the 1994
Lusaka Protocol, temporarily ending the war. Then as in the previous instance,
when EO left, this time leaving the country all together, the situation deteriorated
once again. Although the war began again after their departure, Singer (2002)
credits EO with the MPLAs eventual victory over UNITA due to the lucrative oil
and diamond facilities it was able to recapture with the assistance of EO, as well
as the training the firm provided for the FAA. Singer (2002) writes,
Defense strategists agreed and credit EO with being an essential
component in reinvigorating the FAA and turning the wars tide. Both
Savimbis (UNITAs leader) demand that the firm leave and the
resurgence of the war after it had left also provide indicators of just how
important the firm was to changing the wars dynamics (p.l 10).
It is quite possible that EO provided the foundation for the MPLAs victory,
although EO did not directly resolve the conflict during its involvement.
When discussing the effects of PMFS in the Angolan conflict, the
implication of PMFS involvement on self-determination for sovereign states is an
important issue for consideration.. UNITA originated as an independence
movement and was once supported by a number of Western governments.
Although its lack of coherent ideology, grievous human rights violations and war
crimes exemplify UNITAs illegitimacy as a movement, one could argue that the
introduction of a private military force on behalf of the government in this case
could jeopardize the fate of legitimate self-determination movements in the
future. The conflict was eventually resolved with UN involvement. The Security
Council voted to place sanctions on UNIT A and deployed a peacekeeping force in
the country while supporting and brokering a new peace arrangement.
While EO has not been fully credited with the MPLA victory, the impact
of the conflict on the firm was extremely beneficial. The publicity generated by
the Soyo operation, as well as the successful campaign against UNITA during its
second contract, really pushed EO into the public eye. The firms first publicly
viewed performance was considered a great success, providing an excellent
demonstration of their capabilities, and was credited with landing the firm future
contracts on the African continent (Singer, 2002). Between the two contracts EO
suffered a total of 20 fatalities, although some of this number died from illnesses
such as malaria (Howe, 1998).
The impact of EOs involvement on the Angolan government was
arguably beneficial. If Singer is correct, then it was EOs involvement that
allowed the MPLA to gain the advantage over the UNITA rebels and eventually
defeat them. The MPLA is still in power at the time of this writing, and general
elections are scheduled to be held in 2006 (US State Department, 2006).
The impact of the conflict on the civilian population was massive. Human
Rights Watch (1999) estimates that over 300,000 civilians died between the years
of 1992 and 1994. There were also over 450,000 refugees created by the civil war
(US State Department, 2006). Human Rights Watch (1999) states that there were
egregious violations of the laws of war and human rights committed by both the
Angolan government and UNIT A during the war. These violations included the
shelling of civilian population centers by UNITA and indiscriminate bombing by
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Angola
This section will highlight issues of the control and accountability of EO
during its involvement in Angola. Although there is not much detail, there are
conflicting reports on EOs human rights record in Angola. On the one hand,
Howe (1998) states that EO compares favorably on human rights compared to the
other armed forces in both Angola and Sierra Leone, which might not mean much
considering the atrocious violations those groups have committed. Conversely,
there are reports that EO committed human rights violations as well as violations
of the laws of war (Human Rights Watch, 1999). Although there arent any
detailed accounts or examples of these violations, an EO soldier was quoted by
Human Rights Watch as saying:
We are professionals. We don't engage in unnecessary violence. We are
specialists in counter-insurgency operations. Most of our work was
training but we also engaged directly in operations that had direct
commercial consequence. Some civilians get hurt in these operations but
they were not our target. In the Cafunfo operation we did encounter
problems and things went out of control for a short time. That was unusual
(Human Rights Watch, 1996)
The conflicting reports and general lack of detailed information on EO operations
in Angola suggest a deficit of accountability. This paired with the fact that no
individual EO employee ever stood trial on criminal charges in connection with
the Angolan conflict also suggests a lack of control. Further, it is unlikely that the
MPLA, who were the victors of the conflict, would prosecute the firm that they
The fluid nature of PMFS further highlight the problem with control of EO
in Angola. The Lusaka Protocol called for the repatriation of all EO personnel.
Although the contract between the Angolan government and EO was officially
cancelled, over half of the EO personnel were able to stay in Angola as employees
of different PMFS linked with EO and also sponsored by the government (Howe,
1998). Rather than leaving the country, the EO employees simply switched their
official employment to one of EOs many sister companies.
Conversely, the UNITA attitude towards the EO employees was equally as
problematic. It was official UNITA policy to execute any EO employees that
were captured (Singer, 2002). According to Human Rights Watch (1996), four EO
employees were captured by UNITA during the conflict and all were executed
without trials. When asked about the executions by Human Rights Watch (1996)
a UNITA official stated:
These are mercenaries. They fight for money not ideology. They have no
rights in UNITA eyes. Both black and white mercenaries did not have the
right to live. They designed and conducted operations that killed our
people. We have no responsibility to them under international law. They
earned thousands of US [dollars] a month trying to kill us.
However troubling this statement may be, it highlights the problem of legally
defining PMFS, and the question of what kind of protection their personnel are
afforded under international law.
The Case of Sierra Leone
Although it has some of the worlds most valuable diamonds, Sierra Leone
ranks as one of the poorest African states. According to the United Nations
Development Program (2005), Sierra Leone ranked 176 out of 177 on the 2005
UN Human Development Report.
The area that now makes up Sierra Leone was one of the first West
African regions to have contact with Europe, primarily for the slave trade. During
the 1700s many of the slaves sold to plantations in the southern United States
were from the area of Sierra Leone. Towards the end of the 18th century, with
British assistance, 400 freed African slaves from the Americas were returned to
Sierra Leone and formed Freetown, the current capital of Sierra Leone. Freetown
became a British colony in 1792 and became a hub for freed slaves. The
population of freed slaves came to be known as Krio and adopted many British
customs. Throughout the British colonial rule of Sierra Leone, the indigenous
peoples of the area made several unsuccessful attempts at revolt (US State
Sierra Leone made a peaceful transition from a British colony to an
independent state in 1961. In 1967 elections the All Peoples Congress (APC)
political party won the majority of parliament seats and after three military coups,
Siaka Stevens, leader of the APC, was given control of Sierra Leone. Stevens,
who ruled until 1985, changed the constitution of Sierra Leone in 1978 banning
all political parties except the APC. Joseph Saidu Momoh succeeded Stevens as
the APC party leader in 1985 and amended the Sierra Leonean constitution again,
returning it to a multi-party system in 1991, the same year that marked the
beginning of a bloody conflict for the country (US State Department, 2006).
Between the years of 1991 and 2002 Sierra Leone was engaged in one of
the most brutal civil wars on the African continent. The Revolutionary United
Front or RUF, led by Foday Sankoh and supported by Charles Taylor of Liberia,
began its campaign against the government of Sierra Leone in 1991. The RUF
had its roots in university students upset with the governments oppressive
policies. Reportedly, 25 to 50 of these students attended a revolutionary training
camp in Libya from 1987 to 1988. Among these students was the illiterate Foday
Sankoh, a former member of the Sierra Leonean military. It was at the camp in
Libya where Sankoh met Charles Taylor, who would later provide the RUF with
money and arms to launch attacks on Sierra Leone from Liberia. Only three of
the Sierra Leoneans that attended the camp served in the RUF, with Sankoh being
the only survivor after the first year of fighting (globalsecurity.org, n.d.).
The RUF fought its way from the Liberian border to the capitol Freetown,
all the while kidnapping children and forcing them to serve in its military and
leaving a swath of murdered, raped and mutilated civilians in its wake
(globalsecurity.org, n.d.). During the course of the conflict over a quarter of the
population had become refugees and an estimated 15,000 people were killed. The
economy was also disabled, as the RUF had closed roads and seized many of the
diamond and bauxite mines (Howe, 1998).
The corrupt government of Sierra Leone was unable to mount effective
resistance to the onslaught of the RUF. The weakness of the government was
further exemplified by a military coup led by a young army officer named
Valentine Strasser in 1992, which ousted the Momoh regime and established the
National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) (Keen, 2005). Valentine Strasser,
the leader of the new government, was himself only 26 years old. In desperation
the government forces began conscripting criminals and child soldiers into its
military as well. To make matters worse, these soldiers were given a daily ration
of marijuana and rum (Singer 2002, p.l 11). The resulting untrained,
unorganized force ended up looting and targeting civilians as well as other units
in the army of different ethnicity. A slang term for this group of conscripts arose
out of the ensuing chaos: Sobels meaning part soldiers and part rebels (Howe,
Fearing a bloodbath in the capitol as the RUF closed in on Freetown, the
government of Sierra Leone turned to private military firms for assistance after
the UN, UK, and US had all refused to intervene. First the government hired a
PMF called Gurkha Security Group (GSG) to train its armed forces. Soon after in
February 1995, GSG took serious losses during an RUF ambush. The GSG
commander, Bob Mckenzie was killed and eaten by the rebels, soon after GSG
abandoned its contract and left the country (Keen, 2005).
In April 1995 the government contracted Executive Outcomes (EO) to
defeat the rebels and reestablish control of key economic interests in the
countryside. In just nine days EO managed to push the RUF back into the jungle
bringing Freetown out of danger and managed to retake the Kono diamond mines
in only two days which forced the RUF to negotiate a peace agreement with the
government. According to Singer (2002), EO had brought enough stability to
Sierra Leone by February 1996 that the people were able to hold presidential
elections. The elections heralded Ahmad Tejan Kabbah as the new president of
Sierra Leone. Later that year in October, the RUF pulled out of the peace
agreement. In response EO attacked and destroyed the RUF headquarters, and in
November the RUF leader again agreed to sign peace accords (Singer, 2002).
During the entire course of the EOs involvement, the firm reported that it had
only suffered two casualties (Howe, 1998).
According to members of EO who had fought UNITA in Angola,
defeating the RUF was not a serious challenge. During the conflict EO used
helicopter gunships and artillery, neither of which the RUF could adequately
defend against or field itself. EOs tactics were so successful that Foday Sankoh
claimed that, had EO not intervened, he would have won the war. In a similar
situation to Angola, as a condition of Sankohs signature, the peace agreement
had to include a clause about the withdrawal of EO forces from Sierra Leone
Unfortunately, the peace didnt last. The newly elected president Ahmed
Tejan Kabbah terminated the contract with EO and the firm left the country in
January of 1997. EO consultants warned Kabbah that a military coup would
occur within 100 days of their departure unless steps were taken to prevent it. A
military coup began 95 days later, overthrowing the Kabbah regime. The
renegade military forces brought the RUF into their new government and
Freetown was pillaged by both factions. Mass killings ensued in what was called
Operation Pay Yourself (Singer, 2002). The conflict in Sierra Leone was
ultimately not resolved by EOs involvement, but by a combination of the
presence of an international peacekeeping force, a Nigerian-led Economic
Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) force assisted
by the PMF Sandline International, and Guinean military incursions into RUF
held territory. In fact, the conflict wasnt declared over until five years after EO
had left the country (Keen, 2005).
A third PMF known as Sandline International was hired in January 1998,
by the subsequently overthrown Kabbah regime to assist a Nigerian ECOMOG
force in expelling the coup/rebel forces from the capital. Sandlines efforts were
ultimately successful, and Freetown was recaptured in March of 1998. During
Sandlines involvement the firm had 35 tons of weapons and ammunition
delivered to the ECOMOG force and the Sierra Leone Civil Defense Militia (Bah,
2000). This shipment was found to be in violation of a UN embargo on weapons
to Sierra Leone, and British Customs officers investigated Sandline. British
Customs later announced that there would be no criminal charges following the
investigation this was because, although offences might have been committed,
any prosecution might well fail and in any event would not be in the public
interest (British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1998).
The conflict between the government of Sierra Leone and the RUF
continued until 2002 when the RUF finally collapsed due to attacks from the
Guinean military and the presence of a large UN peacekeeping force (US State
Details of the PMF Involvement
This section will examine details of EOs involvement in Sierra Leone,
paying particular attention to the contractual details upon EOs hire. Sierra Leone
originally hired EO for a sum of $15 million dollars (Singer, 2002). The contract
stated that the RUF was to be defeated and removed from the area of the capital
and important industrial sites. Singer (2002) explains some of the details of the
The original one-year contract called for a total of 160 EO personnel to be
deployed on the ground. It was later supplemented by contracts for
additional manpower that brought the total costs to $35 million, about $1.5
million per month for the 21 months that the firm was in the country.
Given the contract aim was to reestablish the governments control over
the economically productive parts of the country and that it was a fraction
of the overall military budget, it seemed a pretty good deal to the
government (p.l 12).
Although the government considered hiring EO a good deal, it still was unable
to afford the $15 million dollar start up costs that the firm required to begin its
operations. Enter Anthony Buckingham, the senior director of Branch-Heritage
Group. Branch-Heritage was already mining in Sierra Leone and the RUF
activity proved to be disruptive to business. Singer (2002) states that
Buckingham agreed to pay EOs startup fee on behalf of the government of Sierra
Leone in exchange for mining concessions in the RUF occupied Kono diamond
fields after they were regained.
Impacts of EOs involvement in Sierra Leone
This section will examine the effects of EOs involvement in the conflict
in Sierra Leone, how the conflict was resolved, and the impacts of the conflict on
EO, the government of Sierra Leone, the RUF, and the civilian population.
Because the civil war continued unabated after EOs departure from Sierra Leone
in 1997, one could argue that EOs involvement in the country had few long-term
effects. However it is apparent that during its brief tenure in Sierra Leone EO was
extremely effective in defeating the RUF. This was made plain by Sankoh
crediting the firm with his inability to seize Freetown in 1996. Due to the military
coup after EOs withdrawal, it is unclear whether or not the firms efforts were
wasted. There is substantial evidence that if the Kabbah regime had continued its
contract with EO, the military coup could have been avoided, as EO had already
prevented two previous coup attempts during its stay in the country; although they
did let a previous coup attempt succeed without interfering, in which General
Julius Bio overthrew Strasser, gaining control of the NPRC (Singer, 2002).
One other unintended effect of EOs involvement in Sierra Leone was the
long-term effects of its military training of an indigenous militia group known as
the Kamajors. The Kamajors have become a serious problem in the country as an
armed force with no allegiance to the government (Howe, 1998).
The impact of the conflict on EO was entirely positive. The contract was
paid in full, and the firms operations in the country were viewed as a major
success. According to Singer (2002), the civilian population of Sierra Leone
views the contractors as heroes. During the entire conflict EO only lost two of its
soldiers. Together, its operations in Angola and Sierra Leone, had made EO the
most recognized name in the private military industry.
The impact of the conflict on the government of Sierra Leone was both
positive and negative. One could argue that the civil war gave rise to free
elections in 1996 and 2002. Although the rebels nearly seized control of the
country, the government of Sierra Leone managed to outlive the RUF and
survived the 11 year civil war. With the presence of the UN peacekeeping force
things have slowly stabilized and a new round of elections will be held in 2007.
The RUF was all but destroyed by the conflict. The rebel groups political wing
failed to win a single seat in parliament in the 2002 elections (US State
The civilian population of Sierra Leone was seriously victimized by the
conflict. There were widespread reports of torture, rape, arm amputation, and
massacres of the civilians throughout the civil war. It is estimated that over
10,000 civilians were killed between 1997 and 2002 alone (Human Rights Watch,
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Sierra Leone
Although there are ample reports on the actions of both the RUF and the
Sierra Leone government during the civil war, there is no information available
that details specific war crimes committed by EO, just the basics of their
operations and degree of success. Montague (2002) states: tracking and
monitoring activities of private security companies is extremely difficult.
Additionally, Sierra Leone was, at the time the most dangerous country in which
to operate for foreign journalists, thus preventing investigative inquiries into
Executive Outcomes operations (p.234). The lack of international oversight
means that EO could have only been held accountable to itself, or the client state.
The idea that the firm would incriminate itself is doubtful. Considering the
weakness of the government of Sierra Leone and its own lack of scruples during
the war, it seems unlikely that any wrongdoing by EO would be caught, let alone
punished by the client state. There is no evidence to purport that EO committed
crimes during the conflict; nor is there any evidence to exonerate it.
There is also evidence showing that there was little to no government
control exerted over EO or any other PMF that operated in Sierra Leone. An
example of this was GSGs abrupt abandonment of their contract to train the
Sierra Leone military after they were attacked and their commander killed.
Further illustration of the lack of control is EOs decision to approve of the Bio
coup overthrowing the Strasser regime that hired them, simply because the new
leader was easier to work with (Singer, 2002). Although Sandline had been
investigated for a violation of the UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone, no action
was taken against the firm following the inquiry.
The Case of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is located on a chain of islands in the South Pacific
just north of Australia. The largest island of Papua New Guinea is shared with
Indonesia, which occupies the western half. The eastern half of the principal
island of Papua New Guinea was divided into two parts: The northern half was
named New Guinea, while the southern half was called Papua. The indigenous
population of the country is made up of thousands of ethnic groups, each with a
unique culture. There are over 700 identified languages that are distinct from one
another with only 350 to 450 of them being related in any way, and many more
that have not yet been categorized. Many of the educated speak English or
Melanesian Pidgin (CIA World Fact Book, 2006).
Papua New Guinea has a wealth of natural resources, mainly in
agriculture, but also in minerals, timber, and fish (state.gov). Approximately 85%
of the population lives on subsistence farming, while gold, copper, and oil are the
countrys primary source of export revenue (CIA World Fact Book, 2006).
The colonial history of Papua New Guinea began in 1884 when Germany
colonized the northeast section of the island (New Guinea) for coconut oil trading.
Later, in 1899, Germany assumed direct control over the area which was known
as German New Guinea. They remained there until 1914, when the territory was
occupied by Australia during WWI and renamed the Territory of New Guinea
(Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2006).
The southern area of the island, known as Papua, was colonized by the
British in 1888, and labeled British New Guinea. The Territory of New Guinea
and British New Guinea were merged into one administrative body called Papua
New Guinea in 1946 following the defeat of Japan during WWII (Australian
Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2006).
During the process of colonization, the island of Bougainville, which
culturally had more in common with the people of the Solomon Islands, was
annexed to the area known as German New Guinea. Despite protests from the
indigenous people of Bougainville, the island remained part of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea gained its independence from the British and
Australians on September 16, 1975. The same year Bougainville, now the
location of a lucrative copper mine known as Panguna, unsuccessfully tried to
secede from the newly independent nation. The Panguna mine was the source of
almost half of Papua New Guineas foreign exchange and was the largest man-
made hole in the southern hemisphere. The mine, operated by an Australian-
British mining company known as Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), was
claimed to be an environmental hazard by the native Bougainvilleans (Higgs,
In 1988 landowners from around the Panguna mine demanded
compensation from BCL, but the company refused to negotiate with them. The
same year a New Zealand-based company hired by the government of Papua New
Guinea to assess the environmental damage from the mine claimed that the
massive operation caused no damage at all. After the supposedly fraudulent
environmental report, a former mine employee, Frances Ona, formed the
Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). The BRA proceeded to attack the BCL
mining operation, eventually sabotaging its electricity supply in 1989, shutting
down the mine. Counter attacks by the Papua New Guinea government ultimately
failed. In 1990 Papua New Guinea blockaded the island of Bougainville after it
declared independence, preventing even needed medical supplies from reaching
the islands residents (Higgs, 2004). This blockade also made communications
from Bougainville to the outside world extremely difficult, thus limiting the
amount of information available on the conflict (Bougainville: unfinished
During the years between 1990 and 1997, the Papua New Guinea Defense
Force (PNGDF) continued to launch attacks against the BRA. After continued
difficulty dislodging the BRA, Papua New Guinea asked for assistance from
Australia, which was refused. This prompted the Papua New Guinea government
led by Sir Julius Chan to hire Sandline International (Higgs, 2004).
Reportedly Sir Julius Chan, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, hired
Sandline to eliminate the leadership of the BRA, squelch the rebellion and reopen
the Panguna mine (Gupta, 1997). The contract between Sandline International
and Papua New Guinea was signed in January 1997 for $36 million dollars
The hiring of Sandline International sparked a major crisis in Papua New
Guinea before the firm began any of its operations in the country. A Brigadier-
General from the PNGDF, named Jerry Singirok, openly defied the government,
condemned the Sandline contract and called for the resignation of Sir Julius Chan
(Line in the Sand 1997). Singirok supported his condemnation of the contract by
revealing that Sandline was to participate directly in attacking the BRA with
helicopter gunships which was contrary to what Chan had initially claimed
(Howe, 1998). Reportedly Singirok was also angered by the expenditure of
government funds on hiring Sandline International. Singirok was quoted by
Dinnen (1997) as saying:
It is my professional and ethical view that it is wrong to hire Sandline
International to carry out the operations on Bougainville at a price which
could re-equip and boost the morale of our Security Forces who for the
past nine years have managed to contain the uprising given the depleted
resources, personal sacrifices and lack of funding for vital allowances and
supplies from successive governments (p.58).
According to Howe (1998), Singiroks soldiers also shared this view. The
PNGDF troops were frustrated by low pay and poor equipment and were
infuriated by the money paid to the mercenaries (p.323).
Sir Julius Chan initially claimed that Sandline was hired solely as military
consultants, but it was later revealed through the contract that the firm was to take
part in the hostilities. Sir Julius Chan discharged Singirok from the military, but
most of the PNGDF soldiers remained loyal to the general anyway (Line in the
Sand, 1997). The firing of General Singirok caused widespread demonstrations in
the streets of Port Moresby against the governments contract with Sandline
(Howe, 1998). The demonstrations may have been incited by the revelation to an
impoverished population that the government was paying a foreign PMF $36
million dollars while their basic needs were not being met. The Economist (1997)
The crisis has revealed deeper problems that have been festering for years.
Most of the countrys 4m people live in island and mountain communities
remote from the politicians of Port Moresby. For many, still deprived of
basic services such as roads, houses and hospitals, the disclosure that
Sandline was to be paid $3 6m for its Bougainville contract confirmed their
sense of betrayal by the central government (p.45).
During the crisis, all 40 Sandline personnel, with the exception of its leader, Tim
Spicer, who was arrested on illegal firearms possession, were expelled from
Papua New Guinea, and Sir Julius Chan stepped down as prime minister.
The conflict in Bougainville was resolved later that same year through a
truce agreement between the Papua New Guinea Government and the BRA. A
permanent cease-fire agreement was later reached in 1998, and in August 2001 a
peace accord was signed granting Bougainville limited autonomy. A UN
observer force oversaw the creation of an interim government on Bougainville
and the surrender of and destruction of BRA weapon caches. In 2004,
Bougainville created its first constitution and in 2005 held its first elections,
naming Jospeh Kabui as President (US State Department, 2005).
Details of the PMF Involvement
This section will look at the contractual details of the agreement between
the Government of Papua New Guinea and Sandline International. Although the
contract between Papua New Guinea and Sandline was never carried out, the
details of the contract were made public by the government following the crisis
that ensued. Sandline was hired by the Papua New Guinean government for a
sum of $36 million dollars, with $18 million being paid up front. The contract
called for 40 men plus two doctors and their equipment totaling $7.1 million
dollars, mission support including two Russian attack helicopters and equipment
for $29.2 million dollars, and communications equipment for $1.1 million dollars.
To top it all off Sandline offered the client a special discount package price,
taking $1.4 million off the total (Sandline Contract, 1997).
Although Sir Julius Chan initially denied that Sandline was going to take
part in the hostilities against the BRA, the actual contract states otherwise:
Sandline will train the SFU in tactical skills specific to the objective, such
as live fire contact, ambush techniques and raiding drills, gather
intelligence to support effective deployment and plan, direct, participate in
and conduct such ground air and sea operations which are required to
achieve the primary objective (Sandline Contract, 1997).
According to the official contract, Sandline was responsible for achieving six key
objectives: train the PNGDF, gather intelligence, conduct offensive operations,
render the BRA ineffective and recapture the Panguna mine, and provide follow
up support (Sandline Contract, 1997).
In similar fashion to the two previous cases of Angola and Sierra Leone,
mineral concessions for payment were reportedly brought up by Sandlines
leader, Tim Spicer. According to Dinnen (1997), Spicer offered in writing to
assist in the financing of the operation in exchange for mineral concessions in the
Panguna mine; the Papua New Guinean government decided not to grant mineral
concessions but agreed to pay in cash.
A matter of concern, just as in EOs involvement in Angola, is the
potential effect of PMFS on self-determination movements. Had Sandline
actually carried out its contract with Papua New Guinea, the outcome of the
conflict on Bougainville might have been different. Although the Bougainville
self-determination movement was never officially recognized by the international
community as legitimate, the people of Bougainville are now potentially on their
way to achieving independence from Papua New Guinea. The presence of the
UN observation force that oversaw the Bougainville Autonomous Government
elections indicates the possibility of complete Bougainville independence from
Papua New Guinea in the future (US State Department, 2005).
Impacts of Sandlines involvement in Papua New Guinea
This section will cover the effects Sandlines involvement on the conflict
in Bougainville, the impacts of the conflict on Sandline, the government of Papua
New Guinea, the Bougainville rebels, and the civilian population. The effects of
the Sandline contract on the Bougainville conflict are negligible. However, the
firms involvement gravely threatened the stability of Papua New Guinea, causing
the most serious constitutional crisis in the countrys 22 year history (Dinnen,
The impact of the conflict on Sandline was mostly negative. The firm was
humiliated by being forced from the client state by a third world military (Dinnen,
1998). Their leader, Tim Spicer, was arrested during the incident on firearms
possession charges, which is interesting, considering the firm was there for
military reasons. The news media also circulated many negative articles about
Spicer and his company following its expulsion from Papua New Guinea.
Further, the $18 million that was supposed to be paid to Sandline upfront under
the terms of the contract was never received, as the Papua New Guinean
government refused to pay (Sandline International, 1999).
The impact of the incident on the government of Papua New Guinea was
disastrous. The contract angered the PNGDF to such an extent that a military
coup almost took place, forcing the prime minister to step down. Following Sir
Julius Chans resignation, the government of Papua New Guinea launched an
inquiry into the incident although all parties investigated were exonerated.
Additionally, Sandlines involvement brought a conflict the government wanted
to keep quiet into the limelight. One could also make an argument that Singiroks
upheaval over the Sandline contract prevented further action by the PNGDF
against the Bougainville rebellion, ultimately leading to Bougainville autonomy.
Finally, because the Papua New Guinean government refused to pay the initial
$ 18 million dollars to Sandline, the firm brought their former client before an
international arbitration court. The court found that the government of Papua
New Guinea owed Sandline International over $25 million dollars for the initial
contractual obligations with interest and damages. The government appealed the
claim; however, Sandline was able to secure $6 million dollars in agricultural
stabilization payments from the European Commission that were originally bound
for Papua New Guinea (Sandline International, 1999).
The impact of Sandlines involvement on the civilian population was also
dramatic. The contract sparked outrage amongst the impoverished Papua New
Guineans who felt betrayed by their governments expenditure of such a vast
amount of money on a private military firm. Accordingly, the civilian protests
against the Sandline contract further encouraged Sir Julius Chan to step down as
Prime Minister (Howe, 1998). The impact of the actual conflict over
Bougainville on the civilian population was severe, costing approximately 20,000
lives over 10 years, although this had nothing to do with Sandline International
(CIA World Fact Book, 2006).
Control and Accountability of Sandline in Papua New Guinea
Although the contract between Papua New Guinea and Sandline was never
carried out, it is possible to collect information concerning control and
accountability from the contract itself since it was made public. It appears from
the contract that Sandline would have only answered to itself during the
Bougainville operation. The contract clearly outlines limitations that Sandline has
placed on itself. One clause in the contract describes some of these limitations:
At no time will Sandline personnel cater the sovereign territory of another nation
nor will they breach the laws and rules of engagement relating to armed conflict
(Sandline Contract, 1997). Despite the self-imposed limitations, further into the
contract Sandline outlines a broad range of powers that it reserves the right to act
on while under contract to the state:
The State recognizes that Sandlines commanders will have such powers
as are required to efficiently and effectively undertaken their given roles,
including but not limited to the powers to engage and fight hostile forces,
repel attacks therefrom, arrest any persons suspected of undertaking or
conspiring to undertake a harmful act, secure Sovereign assets and
territory, defend the general population from any threat, and proactively
protect their own and State Forces from any form of aggression or threat.
The State agrees to indemnify Sandline for the legitimate actions of the
companys and its associates personnel as specified herein and to assume
any claims brought against the company arising out of this agreement
(Sandline Contract, 1997).
This clause of the contract reveals a great deal on the utter lack of control and
accountability that would have been exercised over Sandline had the operation
actually been carried out. The first section of the clause is sufficiently vague to
allow Sandline to take any action that it deems necessary to complete its task.
The items that are specifically listed encompass such a vast range powers that the
firm could have more rights than the PNGDF. The intention of the last sentence
in this clause is to protect Sandline from being held accountable for its actions by
transferring responsibility to the client State. Had Sandline been allowed to carry
out the contract, this clause indicates that little control would have been exercised
over the firm by the client, and all accountability would have been transferred to
the government of Papua New Guinea.
On a similar contractual note, Tim Spicers arrest at the hands of the
Papua New Guinea government on firearms charges was a violation of the signed
contract. The contract clearly states, that upon signing, the government grants
Sandline personnel all approvals, permissions, authorizations, licenses, and
permits to carry arms (Sandline Contract, 1997). This again demonstrates the
grey area that PMF personnel often fall into. It is not clear whether the terms of
the contract were simply ignored in this case, or if the contract was considered
void after Sir Julius Chan stepped down.
The Case of Iraq
The country of Iraq is situated in the area that was ancient Mesopotamia in
the Near East. The area was first occupied by Muslims during the seventh
century, and later during the eighth century, Baghdad became the capital of the
Abbasid Caliphate. The area was eventually conquered by the Ottoman Empire in
the 1500s, and remained under Ottoman control until 1918. In 1918 following
World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned, placing Iraq under British
control. Iraq gained its independence in 1932. On July 17th 1968, the Baath
Party seized control over Iraq with Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as the new president.
When al-Bakr stepped down eleven years later in July of 1979, Saddam Hussein
succeeded him as President of Iraq (Library of Congress, n.d.).
Shortly after his assumption of the Iraqi Presidency, Saddam Hussein
launched an invasion of Iran in 1980. The resulting war lasted until 1988, leaving
Iraq with a weakened economy, but the largest military in the region. Saddam
Hussein also reportedly used chemical weapons to attack rebelling Iraqi Kurds in
the northern region of the country just before the Iran-Iraq war ended (Library of
In August of 1990, Iraq invaded the country of Kuwait, prompting
retaliation by a US led force. The intervention force successfully removed the
Iraqi military from Kuwait in February 1991. Following Iraqs defeat, the UN
placed sanctions on Iraq in an attempt to force compliance with UN weapons
inspections while the US led forces imposed no-fly zones in northern and
southern areas of the country. The sanctions remained in place until 2003 (US
State Department, 2006).
In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq over its alleged possession
of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and suspected ties to Al-Qaeda; both
accusations have since been proven false. Saddam Hussein and the Baath regime
were toppled one month later in April 2003. Shortly after the initial fighting, the
Coalition formed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which governed Iraq
until June 28,2004, when it handed over authority to the Iraq Interim Government
(IIG). The IIG administered Iraq until the elections on January 30,2005, when
the Iraq Transitional Government took power. Although the President of the
United States declared that the war was over in May of 2003, and Saddam
Hussein was captured in December 2003, there still exists a large and violent
insurgency in Iraq at the time of this writing (US State Department, 2006).
The insurgency in Iraq has also been fueled by sectarian tensions between
Shia and Sunni Muslims attacking each other and the coalition troops in the
country. The people of Iraq are mostly of Arab ethnicity making up
approximately 80 percent of the population. The Kurds make up the next largest
ethnicity at 15 percent, while various other groups make up the remaining 5
percent. Religious affiliations are divided up slightly differently, with Shia
Muslims making up 65 percent of the population, Sunni Muslims comprising
approximately 32 percent and Christians with 3 percent (Library of Congress,
Roles of PMFS in Iraq
The ensuing chaos and growing insurgency subsequent to the toppling of
Saddam Hussein taxed the US military forces in Iraq and created the largest
market for PMFS in history. Iraq was soon flooded with PMFS from all over the
world. Deborah Avant (2006) states:
In May 2004, it was estimated that in excess of 20,000 private security
personnel from countries as varied as Fiji, Israel, Nepal, South Africa,
Chile, El Salvador, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many
more employed by some 25 different PSCs worked for the U.S.
government, the British government, the Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), private firms and international non-governmental organizations
(INGOs) in that country (p.508).
According to a report by Frontline (2005), in addition to the 20,000 thousand
private military personnel in Iraq there are approximately 100,000 civilian
contractors working in supply and maintenance operations (Frontline, 2005).
The PMFS in Iraq carry out all manner of functions including but not
limited to logistics, training, security, and escorting. The former head of the CPA,
Paul Bremer, was guarded by personnel from the PMF Blackwater USA.
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root is currently supplying US troops
and performing maintenance operations for US military equipment in Iraq for an
estimated $13 billion dollars (Singer, 2005). A British PMF called Erinys trained
and equipped 16,000 Iraqis to guard oil pipelines against sabotage (Erinys
International, n.d). Interestingly, a PMF known as Aegis Defense Services,
headed by Tim Spicer of Sandline fame, was recently awarded a contract to guard
US diplomats in Iraq for $293 million dollars. The contract also puts Spicers
firm in charge of coordinating the nearly 20,000 private contractors operating in
Iraq (Ackerman, 2004).
Details of the PMF Involvement
In addition to the large number of PMFS operating in Iraq, there have also
been a number of scandals and events involving these firms. The first event that
thrust PMFS in Iraq into the public eye was the killing of four Blackwater USA
contractors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The attack occurred on March 31,2004
as the four men, Scott Helvenston, Wesley Batalona, Jerry Zovko and Michael
Teague escorted empty trucks on their way to pick up kitchen supplies. The four
men were shot to death, burned and then two of them were hung from a bridge.
Insurgents filmed the aftermath of the attack and the images of the killed
contractors were soon broadcast across the world. Although the Marines in
charge of Fallujah were unaware that the contractors would be entering the city
that day, the attack prompted an order to invade the city four days later.
According to the Marine commander of the area Col. John Toolan, the Marines
had already developed a detailed plan on how to handle the insurgency problem,
including reconstruction and working with the population, but the plain was
forcibly scrapped in favor of an invasion of the city after the contractors were
killed. Toolan stated that the change in plan was directly due to the killing of the
contractors. The incident has reportedly fostered resentment among the US
military towards contractors (Frontline, 2005).
Tim Spicers group, Aegis Defense Services, found itself in the midst of a
scandal in November 2005 when a video was posted on a website linked with the
PMF showing footage of contractors shooting Iraqi cars on the highway from the
back of their SUV while listening to Mystery Train by Elvis Presley. Aegis
Defense Services launched its own investigation to find out if any of its
employees were involved in the making of the video. The firm concluded that
there was no evidence that the contractors in the vehicle were from Aegis
Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR was also immersed in scandal during
2005 when the company was accused of grossly overcharging the US government
for its services. Auditors claimed that there was an overcharge of $ 1.4 billion
dollars. Reportedly the inaccuracies were accounted for in double charging for
meals, and charging $45 dollars for a single case of soda. Further, the company
was accused of supplying contaminated water to US soldiers based near Ramadi
Perhaps the most notorious incident of the Iraq conflict involving PMFS
was the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The story of the abuses emerged in the
media in early 2004 with grizzly pictures to illustrate the accusations. According
to a report by Army Major General Antonio Taguba, prisoners at Abu Ghraib
were subjected to all manners of inhumane and cruel treatment. As a result of the
investigation of the abuse at the prison, seven soldiers were tried and convicted
for their roles in the incidents (Hersh, 2004). There were also three private
contractors implicated in the scandal: Steven Stefanowicz from a PMF called
CACI, and John Israel and Adel Nakhla who worked for a PMF known as Titan.
Stefanowicz along with other CACI employees were accused of giving orders to
subordinates to physically abuse the prisoners, using attack dogs to intimidate
inmates, and placing the prisoners in unauthorized positions. The Titan
contractors were accused of striking the prisoners, while Adel Nakhla reportedly
raped an Iraqi boy (Beaumont, 2005). According to Singer, (2005) none of the
CACI or Titan employees implicated in the scandal have been prosecuted or
punished in any way. In addition to not being put on trial, the US government
awarded both of the PMFS new contracts in 2005, CACI for $16 million, and
Titan for $164 million (Beaumont, 2005).
Impacts of PMFS involved in Iraq
As of September 2006, there have been 351 contractors killed in Iraq
according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (2006). The reasons listed for the
deaths are primarily from violent acts such as small arms fire, suicide bombers, or
improvised explosive devices (IEDs), although there are a few listed as non-
hostile accidents or illness. According to Singer (2005), there have been over 900
contractors wounded during the conflict. The Iraq war has clearly taken its toll on
PMF personnel, as the number of casualties among contractors exceeds that of
any US military division or all US coalition partners combined (Singer, 2005).
One Blackwater employee claimed that the insurgency prefers to attack private
contractors over the US military, most likely because they are softer targets and
travel in smaller numbers (Tyson, 2005).
The involvement of PMFS has also affected the US government and the
US military. The change in strategy by the US Marines in Fallujah was an
unintended consequence resulting from the deaths of the four Blackwater
employees. The overcharging by Halliburton and KBR negatively impacted the
US government financially. Further, the Abu Ghraib scandal, in which two
PMFS were accused of egregious abuse, not only tarnished the image of the US
government and US military, but also damaged the general image of the United
States around the world. On the other hand, without the 20,000 contractors
operating in Iraq it is argued that the US military would have to commit more
soldiers or convince its allies to do the same, neither of which is an easy task
Control and Accountability of PMFS in Iraq
Examining the incidents involving PMFS in Iraq listed above can give one
a general sense of the level of control and accountability. The episode involving
the video recording of PMF personnel firing on civilian cars from their SUV and
the abuse by contractors in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal illustrate the wide-
ranging lack of control the US, British, and Iraqi governments wield over PMFS.
In both of these cases, the absence of control is accompanied by the presence of
US military personnel. In the instance of the video of the shootings, a US military
convoy can be seen passing approximately 60 feet away as the contractors open
fire on a sedan (Finer & Knickmeyer, 2005). The abuse by contractors at Abu
Ghraib occurred within the walls of a US military prison facility.
In terms of accountability, one finds a very similar situation to that of
control. Although major events involving PMFS are usually followed by an
inquiry by the US government or a PMF investigating itself, there is little to no
evidence showing that PMFS are prosecuted or punished for their actions in Iraq.
The perpetrators of the shootings in the Aegis video were never caught. In the
Abu Ghraib example, two PMFS, Titan and CACI, were identified as playing a
major role in the abuse. Further, three employees were actually implicated by
name, yet no action was taken against the PMFS, or the individuals. According to
Singer (2005), the only investigation into the PMF involvement at Abu Ghraib
was performed by CACI on itself, which found that the company had done
There are many problems with enforcing control over PMFS and holding
them accountable for their actions; even the simple task of identifying the people
responsible for violations can be daunting. Col. Thomas Hammes, a retired
Marine who served in Iraq, commented to Frontline in an interview:
There were security contractors over there that were just cowboys. They
clearly had neither the training or experience. Could I identify them? No.
They wore a mixed bag of uniforms, nobody wore nametags, they didnt
have unit logos. Youd run into these people in town with really kind of a
bad attitude and there is nothing you can do about it. How do you identify
them? Well they dont have license plates on their car and theyre driving
an SUV. These people were simply unsafe. Whether you like it or not
they represent you. To the local population, they are your hired guns. The
Iraqis resent it very much and knew quite clearly that if one of these
people shot an Iraqi that they were not subject to any law, they could
simply be extracted from the country (Frontline, 2005).
The comments made by Colonel Hammes further demonstrate the lack of control
that the military has over the PMFS operating in Iraq and how little PMFS are
held accountable for their actions. Additionally, an order prohibiting the
prosecution of foreign contractors in Iraq by local authorities was pushed by the
CPA and signed into law in 2004 (Finer & Knickmeyer, 2005). This law
effectively gives individual contractors in Iraq immunity to any sort of justice for
crimes they commit while they are in the country. It would appear that the extent
of accountability for the PMF personnel in Iraq is being expelled from the
There is some evidence that the US government is attempting to gain more
control over the PMFS it employs in Iraq. In one instance the US State
Department attempted to curb violence by contractors by discouraging them from
using warning shots while on the road. Despite this, a member of Blackwater
USA commented that there are still daily incidents of Iraqi drivers being forced
off the road, and injuring and killing civilians by PMF personnel (Tyson, 2005).
There have been recent instances where at least some degree of
accountability was visible involving PMFS. For example, the over-billing scandal
involving Halliburton and KBR prompted the US government to open the
exclusive contract with the firm to new bids from other firms in 2006 (Goldberg,
2006). Although the firm was not prosecuted for the over-billing, the US
government was able to financially punish Halliburton and KBR by opening up
the no-bid status of their contract with them. While there have been no
prosecutions of PMFS operating in Iraq, there is a recent case of a PMF employee
being prosecuted for his actions in Afghanistan. David Passaro, a private military
contractor working for the CIA, was found guilty of three counts of assault and
one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury after beating an Afghan
detainee to death during interrogations. The verdict was passed down on August
17, 2006, and Passaro could face up to 11 years in prison for the crime. Passaro
was the first PMF employee to be charged with any crime for actions in either
Iraq or Afghanistan and could set a precedent for trying similar crimes in the
future. The contractor was charged under a proviso in the USA Patriot Act
allowing US citizens to be tried for crimes committed on any land assigned for
US government use. Had the beating occurred outside the US military base in
Afghanistan, the Passaro would not have been tried for the crime (Thompson,
This section of the thesis has covered PMF involvement in Angola, Sierra
Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Iraq. The details of the conflicts addressed
reveal, to a large extent, many of the issues that surround the hiring and use of
PMFS by states. The four cases presented exemplify the lack of control that
states have over PMFS and how little the PMFS are held accountable for their
ANALYSIS: COMPARISON OF CASES
This thesis has covered four different conflicts involving PMFS in diverse
areas of the world. This chapter will examine the variations and commonalities
between the cases in the 1990s Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea
with the Iraq case from 2003 to present. The comparison will focus on the
governments that employed the firms, the reasons for the use of the PMFS, how
the PMFS were compensated, how the PMFS were controlled by the client state,
and how the PMFS were held accountable for their actions.
The Governments and Their Reasons for Employing PMFS
The governments of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea shared
two important similarities during the conflicts involving PMFS. First, all three of
the cases developed in weak states. Second, all three states were combating
uprisings at the time that they hired PMFS. The MPLA government in Angola
was being threatened by the rebel group UNIT A when it hired EO. The
government of Sierra Leone was under siege by the RUF when it hired a series of
PMFS to defend itself. Papua New Guinea contracted Sandline International to
help squelch a rebellion on Bougainville. The government of the United States
shares very little in common with these three states. The United States is
considered a strong state and was not involved in an internal conflict; yet it has
still hired PMFS for service in Iraq.
The large difference between the government of the United States and
those of the other three states must be appreciated in order to create a proper
analysis. The combined GDP of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea
adds up to $65.2 billion dollars, a mere fraction of the United States GDP of
$12.3 trillion dollars (CIA World Fact Book, 2006). The disparity between these
cases demonstrates that the use of PMFS can not be seen solely as a practice of
Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea employed various PMFS to
accomplish tasks that were very similar in scope. The MPLA government in
Angola hired EO twice during its conflict with UNITA. The first contract
charged EO with recapturing oil facilities from UNITA. The second contract
enlisted EO to train government forces and carry out combat operations against
the rebels. Sierra Leone hired EO as the RUF closed in on the capital city
Freetown. The contract stipulated that EO was to push the RUF back and
reestablish government control over the diamond producing areas. Later, Sierra
Leone hired Sandline International to assist Nigerian forces in recapturing
Freetown from combined RUF/Coup forces. Although the operation was never
carried out, Papua New Guinea hired Sandline International to eliminate the BRA
and reestablish control of the Panguna copper mine. In all three of the cases the
PMFS were tasked to combat some form of internal threat, whether it was civil
war as in Angola and Sierra Leone, or a secessionist movement as in Bougainville
Papua New Guinea.
The use of PMFS by the United States in Iraq has many similarities and
differences with the other three cases. While there are numerous PMFS in Iraq
carrying out a multitude of responsibilities, certain tasks of the PMFS resemble
those undertaken in the other three cases. For example, Erinys International was
under contract to guard oil pipelines and facilities in Iraq and to train Iraqi forces
to guard these assets as well (Erinys International, n.d.). This could be compared
to EOs operations in Angola and Sierra Leone to recapture key natural resources
such as oil and diamonds, or Sandlines scuttled contract with Papua New Guinea
to regain control of the Panguna Mine.
As for the reasons for hiring PMFS, there are further differences and
similarities that exist between the Iraq case and the other three cases on a broader
level. One difference is that the governments of Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua
New Guinea hired PMFS to carry out operations in their own territory, and the
United States employed PMFS to deploy overseas. Nevertheless, in Iraq many of
the PMFS are supporting a weak state: propping up the new Iraqi regime,
guarding its important officials and resources, and training its police and military.
Despite the difference in the location of their deployment, in all four cases the
PMFS were hired to combat internal insurgencies. In effect, many of the PMFS
in Iraq are serving the same function as in the other three cases, even though they
were not directly hired by the Iraqi government, and instead were hired by the
One could also make an argument that the most basic reason for the use of
PMFS in the cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Iraq, is that
each countries national military was insufficient to accomplish the tasks alone.
In Angola, EO was hired to act as a force multiplier for the Angolan military. In
Sierra Leone, EO accomplished a task that the state military was unable to
perform. In Papua New Guinea, Sandline International was hired when the
PNGDF had failed to dislodge the BRA on Bougainville after several years.
Similarly, the United States has failed to eliminate the insurgency in Iraq after
three years of occupation. The US military, stretched thin due to obligations in
the global war on terror, has been relying on PMFS to make up for a shortage of
personnel (Singer, 2005).
How the Firms Were Compensated
The means used for compensating the PMFS varied across the four cases.
In both Angola and Sierra Leone, a mixture of cash and mineral concessions were
used to pay for the EO contract. In Angola $40 million dollars was paid to EO. A
large portion of the $40 million came from funds acquired through companies
affiliated with Branch-Heritages Anthony Buckingham. In return, the companies
that funded the EO contract were given mineral and oil concessions. In Sierra
Leone, EO was paid $35 million dollars. Similar to the situation in Angola,
Anthony Buckingham financed EOs startup costs for the Sierra Leone
government in exchange for mining concessions in the Kono diamond fields.
Despite Tim Spicers suggestion that Papua New Guinea grant mineral
concessions to Sandline International in exchange for assistance in funding, the
actual contract between Papua New Guinea and Sandline International stipulated
that the firm be compensated with $36 million dollars cash (Sandline Contract,
According to the information available on PMFS in Iraq, all contracts are
currently being paid in cash. However, the amount of money being spent on PMF
contracts in Iraq far exceeds the contracts in the other three cases. The US
contract with Aegis Defense Services alone is nearly three times the amount of
the PMF contracts in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea combined
(CIA World Fact Book, 2006). The questionable activity of compensating PMFS
in mineral or oil concessions appears not to be an issue with the US in Iraq.
Control of the PMFS by the Client State
Research on the cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and
Iraq all suggests that there was little to no control over the PMFS employed by
In the case of EO operating in Angola, there is a lack of information on the
details of the firms operations. As such, it is difficult to determine if the Angolan
government had any control over the actions of EO during the war. After the
signing of the Lusaka Protocol that called for EOs withdrawal from Angola,
many of the firms personnel stayed in the country anyway, thus indicating a lack
of control over the PMF.
There are several examples of a control deficit over PMFS in Sierra
Leone. The GSG firms abandonment of its contract after being attacked shows
how PMFS can simply quit. Further, EO allowed a military coup to occur in
Sierra Leone that actually replaced the government that hired the firm. EO
reportedly knew about the coup before it happened and decided that the new
leadership would be easier to work with. Also as was indicated by Montague
(2002), government and NGO monitoring of the activities of PMFS in Sierra
Leone was nearly impossible due to the nature of the conflict.
Although Sandline was never able to carry out its operation in
Bougainville for Papua New Guinea, the publicly available contract between the
firm and the state reveals control issues. The contract clearly set self-imposed
limitations on the firms actions, but also granted Sandline a vast array of powers
and license. Further, the vague wording in the contract would have allowed the
firm to take nearly any action and still be within the loose confines of the
The lack of control over PMFS is perhaps best highlighted by the Iraq
case. In Iraq one can identify several public incidents that indicate a general lack
of government control over PMFS. The direct involvement of CACI and Titan
employees in the Abu Ghraib prison incidents, and the video of Aegis personnel
machine-gunning civilian cars on an Iraqi highway are just two examples. The
Blackwater USA security detail that was ambushed in Fallujah acted without the
knowledge of the US Marines in charge of the area, resulting in a major shift in
US strategy towards the city.
How the PMFS Were Held Accountable
As with the control issues, there is substantial evidence that the PMFS in
the cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Iraq were either not
held accountable for their actions, or not observed sufficiently to be held
accountable for their actions.
In the case of Angola, Human Rights Watch claims that EO was guilty of
war crimes and violations of the laws of war. However, there is insufficient
evidence to prove these allegations. Additionally, no member of EO involved in
the Angolan conflict has stood trial for the alleged crimes.
The involvement of PMFS in Sierra Leone was just as problematic. Since
there was no international oversight, either by observer organizations or the
media, it was impossible to hold the PMFS accountable for their actions during
the conflict. Neither GSG nor EO were implicated in any wrong doing in Sierra
Leone. Sandline International was investigated for its breach of the UN weapons
embargo, but no charges were ever filed against the firm following the inquiry.
By examining the contract between Sandline International and the
government of Papua New Guinea, one can estimate that the firm would not have
been held accountable for its actions if the operations were actually carried out.
This is made evident by the clause in the contract that transfers responsibility and
liability for Sandlines actions to the state of Papua New Guinea.
Unlike the previous cases, there has been strong evidence indicating that
certain PMF personnel in Iraq have been guilty of violations. Despite this, the
firms responsible for many of these violations have not been held accountable.
The CACI and Titan personnel implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal never stood
trial for their roles in the torture of Iraqi detainees despite the evidence against
them. Moreover, the Aegis Defense Services personnel responsible for firing at
civilian vehicles were never identified. Even if they were identified, it is unlikely
they would have been punished beyond deportation from the country due to the
law preventing the prosecution of contractors in Iraq.
On the other hand, the US government has been able to hold the firm KBR
accountable financially for its alleged overcharge for services in Iraq. Although
there has been no litigation on the matter, the US government opened up KBRs
no-bid contract to new bids in 2006.
This analysis has examined why the governments of these countries hired
PMFS, how the PMFS were compensated, how the PMFS were controlled by the
states that hired them, and how these firms were held accountable for their
actions. Conclusions may now be drawn based on this analysis.
CONCLUSION AND RECCOMENDATIONS
The use of PMFS in the cases of Angola, Sierra Leone, and the unfulfilled
PMF contract in Papua New Guinea share many similarities and differences to the
US use of PMFS in Iraq. The use of PMFS by developing nations in the 1990s
may be able to provide some insight into the use of PMFS in Iraq.
The most striking similarity that exists across all four cases is the absence
of government control over the PMFS resulting in a failure to hold the firms
accountable for their actions. In the cases of Angola and Sierra Leone, the
problems of control and accountability partly existed due to the impossibility of
observing PMF activity in the field. Additionally, client states may be reluctant to
disclose violations committed by a PMF that it is employing. This is particularly
important if the contract transfers liability for the actions of the PMF to the client
state, as in the case of Papua New Guinea.
In the absence of government control, one mechanism of accountability
can be the media. Bringing atrocities to public attention can lead to subsequent
truth commissions. The media has been more successful in covering the conflict
in Iraq than in Angola or Sierra Leone, however, one could make an argument
that the magnitude of the US operation in Iraq has made it equally as difficult to
monitor the activities of PMFS in service there. The already overwhelmed US
military force has difficulty even identifying individual personnel employed by
the firms, further complicating the task of controlling PMFS and holding them
accountable for their actions. Even though the recent news of the CIA contractor
that was found guilty of killing a detainee in Afghanistan points to improvement,
control and accountability continues to be a major problem with the use of PMFS
Perhaps one way to address the quandary of control and accountability of
PMFS on a domestic level would be to place the firms directly under the military
chain of command. This would allow military commanders to define the
boundaries of the actions PMFS may take. Further, the accountability of PMFS
could be enhanced by making them subject to the military code of justice. If this
were the case, the CACI and Titan contractors involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal
could have been tried with the US soldiers that were also implicated.
Another possibility would be to create a PMF oversight committee. This
committee could either be a governmental or non-governmental agency that
simply observes and monitors the activities of PMFS and reports its findings to
various organizations, governments or media outlets. If the firms and their
personnel can not be held legally accountable, perhaps they could be held
accountable to public scrutiny and pressure from international organizations.
Singer (2005) argues that the client states should regulate the PMFS that they hire.
He advocates for all information regarding PMFS be made public by the
governments that hire them in order to increase accountability and control.
In terms of international accountability, the client state could conceivably
be held accountable for all actions undertaken by the PMFS it employs to an
international body like the United Nations. This would increase the urgency and
pressure for states employing PMFS, such as the US, to rein in the firms and
create solutions to the problems of control and accountability. According to Faite
(2004), the United Nations has debated the issue of regulating the use of PMFS
but no solid action has been taken yet. Conversely, Sjoberg (2005) advocates
holding the individual firms accountable rather than the client state. He offers
three options for punishing PMFS that have violated human rights: dismantling of
the violating firm, redefining how violating firms are organized, or simply
imposing fines on the firms.
Another troubling issue is the effect that the use of PMFS can have on the
national militaries of the states that are employing them. In the case of Papua
New Guinea, the hiring of Sandline International greatly angered the soldiers and
leadership within the PNGDF. Similarly in Iraq, the incident involving the
Blackwater USA personnel in Fallujah and the resulting change in strategy
fostered hostility among US soldiers towards PMFS. If the trend towards the
privatization of warfare continues in the United States, it is a possibility that it
will have serious impacts on the US military morale.
Although the PMFS operating in Angola and Sierra Leone were successful
in defeating their enemy militarily, the peace that the firms brought to the client
states was temporary. In both cases, the violence reemerged shortly after the
PMFS withdrew from the countries. Iraq may face a similar problem in the future
should the violence ever come to stop. In an interview with Frontline, the Project
Director for Erinys in Iraq indicated that the US would like to reduce its troops in
Iraq and rely more on PMFS to keep security in the country (pbs.org). If the
conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone are any indication, PMFS are useful for
keeping the security in a country while they are there, but do not build a lasting
peace to exist after their departure. Peace in Angola and Sierra Leone was only
established under the auspices of the United Nations and the international
community. If the United States relies too heavily on PMFS for the security of
Iraq without involving the UN or other international actors, a lasting peace may
be difficult to achieve.
The cases examined in this thesis further support the existing theories on
the impact of PMFS on IR theory. The use of PMFS by the US in Iraq has
decreased transparency and increased the power of the executive. The political
costs of Iraq may be diminished by the fact that there are less US soldiers
deployed due to an increased number of contractors. In terms of late state
building, one could argue that the presence of EO in Angola and Sierra Leone
increased those governments reliance on foreign capital both in terms of hiring
the firm and the mineral and oil concessions that were given away to foreign
investors. In terms of PMFS increasing the frequency of conflict, only time and
research will be able to tell.
The rapid rise of the private military industry from the 1990s to present
has brought with it many issues and questions that need to be addressed.
Problems with control and accountability, degradation of national military forces,
means of compensation, and incidents like the events in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib
all signify a general lack of parameters set on the industry. This thesis has
attempted to provide a better understanding of PMFS and illustrated through the
cases examined the necessity of greater regulation and oversight, both
domestically and internationally, on the private military industry.
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