Private Security Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq: The Potential Impact of the Montreux Document
November 17, 2010
The role of private security companies has been a constant source of concern and trouble in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Such forces are essential in nations which do not yet have adequate security forces or a rule of law but can quickly become a “necessary evil” -- or an “evil necessity” – if they do not have the proper controls. They also can become a critical source of corruption, power brokering, and a challenge to the state.
The Montreux Document is an effort by the Swiss government, the ICRC, and participating countries and experts to create an international standard for the companies providing such forces and for their use. It also sets clearly defined standards for host countries, outside powers, and corporations.
The document deserves close attention as a tool for reforming legal contracting standards affecting both foreign and local private security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly in the current effort to restructure military, civilian, and NGO contracting efforts in Afghanistan. It also has broad application to many of the states in ISAF and in the aid effort in Afghanistan.
Any effort such as the Montreux Document presents the risk that unrealistic constraints can be placed on military action and civil-military operations. The fact is, however, that something similar to it is critical to being able to sustain the use of private security contractors, to avoid their becoming a political and military liability, to winning the acceptance of host governments and peoples, and giving reputable firms both the credit for their conduct and rules and condition they know are acceptable. None of these goals have been met in Afghanistan and Iraq. The failure risks depriving the US and its allies of a critical method of supplanting military forces at far lower cost, as well as giving international investors the security they need.
A new CSIS Report examines these issues in detail. The report can be downloaded from the CSIS website here: http://csis.org/files/publication/101115_Private_Security_Forces_Afghanistan_Iraq.pdf