by Robert Johnson
April 23, 2013
Its been a banner decade for modern military
fighting. In 2010 alone there were more than 70 armed conflicts across
the globe from
As different as each of them were, they all
had one thing in common, at some point one side wanted more troops.
Most battles eventually come down to boots
on the ground and rifles in the field. So when commanders are building
their ranks it's often with professional soldiers who know how to fight,
and get paid well to do it.
The idea of a mercenary may seem a bit
quaint in the 21st century, but those forces make a difference and are
often all that stands between a leader and his fate.
Security giant G4S
second-largest private employer on earth
With more than 625,000 employees, this
listed security giant is the
second-largest private employer in the world (behind Wal-Mart).
While some of its business is focused on routine bank, prison and
airport security, G4S also plays an important role in crisis-zones
right around the world.
In 2008, G4S swallowed up Armorgroup,
whose 9,000-strong army of guards has protected about one third of
all non-military supply convoys in Iraq (it's also notorious for
parties and for having
Afghan warlords on its payroll).
But the combined group has a security
more than 125 countries, including some of the most dangerous
parts of Africa and Latin America, where it offers government
agencies and private companies heavily-armed security forces,
land-mine clearance, military intelligence and training.
Unity Resources Group
in the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Asia
With more than 1,200 staff worldwide,
the Australian-owned Unity Resources has been able to grow its
presence in Iraq as sovereign armies withdraw.
consists of veterans from Australia, the U.S. and Great Britain.
The private military firm is best-known
for guarding the Australian embassy in Baghdad, where, as of 2010,
it had trained
Chilean soldiers to man gates and machine-gun nests. Unity
personnel were also responsible for two controversial car shootings
in Iraq: one
killed an Australian professor, another resulted in the deaths
two civilian women.
Outside Iraq, Unity has assisted with
security during parliamentary elections in Lebanon and helped
evacuate private oil companies from crisis zones in Bahrain.
firm also operates
throughout Africa, the Americas, Central Asia and Europe.
guarded most of Iraq's vital oil assets
Erinys has also followed U.S. State
Department contracts to Iraq.
Its biggest mission in recent years
of its guards to 282 locations around the country, where they
protected key oil pipelines and other energy assets. The group also maintains a presence in
Africa, where it has traditionally focused its operations.
was recently awarded two contracts in the Republic of Congo, for
security at major iron ore and oil and gas projects.
Asia Security Group
powerful Afghan force linked to president Karzai
Formerly owned by Hashmat Karzai, the
first cousin of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Asia Security Group
is a major local force in the war-torn nation. It employs about
The private army, headquartered
in Kabul, has been awarded
millions of dollars in contracts from the U.S. military and is
said to protect Coalition supply convoys traveling in Afghanistan's
Mercenaries from Asia Security Group
have also been recruited by DynCorp, a U.S.-owned contractor with a
big footprint in the region.
battled Colombian rebels and drug-runners in Peru
DynCorp, based in Virginia, is one of
eight private military firms specially chosen by the U.S. State
Department to remain in Iraq as official American forces pull out.
But the huge group, which brings in
$3.4 billion in revenue every year, is also active throughout
Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America, with a
staff in excess of 10,000.
earned a trigger-happy reputation as its soldiers fought rebel
groups in Colombia in the early 2000s.
Its troops have also engaged in
anti-drug missions in Peru and were sent to disarm fighters in
Somalia, Liberia and southern Sudan.
...has won a
security contract in Iraq worth up to $1.5 billion
Another of the eight contractors
recruited to replace official U.S. forces in Iraq,
Triple Canopy has
an army of about
1,800 troops in the country - mostly from Uganda and Peru - on
contracts worth up to $1.5 billion.
review of the firm's team in Iraq concluded it was a,
"well-trained, professional work force with significant prior
But the private military - whose name refers to the
canopies in the jungles where its founding Army specialists received
their training - also employs another 3,000 personnel globally.
Contracts in other parts of the world
have taken Triple Canopy to Haiti,
where it guarded the U.S. embassy, and to
Israel, where agents provided personal protective services for
the U.S. State Department.
Aegis Defense Services
the UN, US, and oil companies
Aegis supplies forces for private
clients, U.N. missions and the U.S. government, especially in Iraq.
But its staff,
estimated to be as big as 5,000, is also spread across offices
in Afghanistan and Bahrain, where the contractor offers emergency
response, risk assessments, and protects private oil interests.
The private military contractor is
probably best-known for
a video that surfaced in 2005, which allegedly showed Aegis
forces firing at Iraqi civilians.
thousands of fighters from developing countries
In the past, Triple Canopy has recruited
heavily from the ranks of
Defion Internacional, which sources and
trains private military personnel from Latin America for jobs right
around the world.
Headquartered in Peru, and with offices
in Dubai, Iraq, Philippines and Sri Lanka, the firm contracts and
trains bodyguards, drivers, static guards and logistics specialists
from a number of developing countries.
In some cases, these agents
are paid as little as $1,000 per month, which has drawn
international ire - especially for jobs linked to the U.S. State
At one stage
there were more than 1,000 Latin Americans guns-for-hire in the
Middle East, although it is unclear how many of those fighters
Defion was responsible for given that it is not required to disclose
runs one of the most advanced private military training facilities in
Blackwater, then Xe Services,
Academi runs a 7,000 acre training facility deep in the North
Carolina wilderness - one of the biggest and most complex private
military training grounds in the world.
According to a book written
on Blackwater in 2007, the facility had by then produced an army of
20,000 troops, 20 aircraft, a fleet of armored vehicles and trained
war dogs. Most of those resources were shipped to Iraq and
Afghanistan on U.S. government contracts.
Academi probably scaled back after a
wrongful shootings and other controversies angered the Iraq
government and jeopardized important contracts.
Outside the Middle East, Academi was
recruited to protect the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane
It has also
protected Japan's missile defence systems and assisted with the
war on drugs around the world.
BONUS - Starting out
as a mercenary?
Take a course at Academi's premier
training facility in North Carolina.
The firm offers
custom courses for allied security forces and corporates, such
as live-fire driving instruction, counter-terrorism training -
including dealing with weapons of mass destruction - and executive
You can also get equipped at the Academi
web store, which stocks everything from protective sunglasses to
sniper mission logs - even branded gifts.