Risk Areas

2.3 Support for private militia and security companies

Explanation of risk area

Employment of private militia and security companies – to provide base security, escort convoys, or cooperate in kinetic and intelligence operations – can have longer-term consequences. Resources and support flowing to private militia can enable them to compete with state structures for the monopoly in providing security and using force; the combination of dependence on militia and lack of oversight of their actions results in a culture of impunity allowing militia to abuse civilians and divert public resources for private gain.

Consequences for the mission

Breach of the state’s monopoly on the use of force

Diversion of resources from legitimate governance structures

Creation of parallel power structures which can feed corrupt networks

Alienation of host nation populations

Reputational risk

Making the achievement of mission end state and exit strategy much more difficult


Case Study: Afghanistan: Corruption and the making of warlords

Support for private militia in Afghanistan

Employment of and support for private militia in Afghanistan enabled the growth of a warlord class possessing the means and will to use force, and capable of diverting resources for their own gain. Private militia were also notorious for mistreating civilians, extorting bribes, carrying out violent assaults, trafficking drugs, kidnapping for ransom, and illegal arms trade. In the long term, it has led to widespread abuses, endangered governance and security, and tarnished the reputation of international forces by association.

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Indicators & Warnings

Reports of abuses, especially from civilians

Unreliable intelligence

Overbilling on services

Living beyond means