Perspective: Private Armies Go on Parade in the Post-War Marketplace; Military Personnel with Combat Experience in Iraq Will Become Hot Property in the Recruitment Market. Jeremy Lovell Looks at How a Privatised Military Could Be the Way for the Future

The Birmingham Post (England), May 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

Perspective: Private Armies Go on Parade in the Post-War Marketplace; Military Personnel with Combat Experience in Iraq Will Become Hot Property in the Recruitment Market. Jeremy Lovell Looks at How a Privatised Military Could Be the Way for the Future


Byline: Jeremy Lovell

Mercenaries no more, the successors to the dogs of war who rampaged across post-colonial Africa now call themselves private military companies, focusing on post-war reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

The infamous private armies of the likes of 'Mad' Mike Hoare, 'Black Jacques' Schramme and Bob Denard are long gone.

Missions like Hoare's failed 1981 take-over of the Seychelles and Tim Spicer's abortive 1997 coup in Papua New Guinea are epitaphs to the post-Second World War era of anarchy.

In their place are private military companies (PMCs), staffed by former special forces and front-line soldiers who find no call for their services in the civilian world but dislike the term mercenaries.

'We are not mercenaries,' said Andrew Williams, of the Anglo-American company Northbridge Services Group. 'Northbridge is a legitimate private military company that only works for democratically-elected national governments or recognised agencies.

'Our people are contracted to us, not directly to any government or other organisation. We have been approached for other work but rejected it because it was illegal.'

Northbridge was formed barely two years ago by Williams, a former British paratrooper who fought in the Falklands War and has been involved in operations from the Middle East to Latin America. For a range of reasons, governments across the globe are reducing the size of their standing armies without losing the desire to get involved in occasional muscular diplomacy.

'Take Afghanistan, the Balkans and now Iraq,' Williams said. 'National armed forces are over-stretched. We can offer legitimate governments the flexibility and breathing space they need for peacekeeping operations.

'Working with the Americans we can put a brigade on the ground fully equipped and with full logistical support anywhere in the world within three weeks.' A brigade typically numbers 5,000 soldiers.

Northbridge has 3,000 fully vetted British ex-servicemen, with more from the US.

An industry insider with years of experience in the world of private military companies said they had no role in high intensity conflicts but vast potential in low intensity wars and post-war clean-ups.

'There has been a lot of interest in helping sort out the Congo conflict. …

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