The Emergence of Private Security in Kurdistan
The private security industry is still regarded as a relatively new phenomenon where both International and domestic law have not managed to catch up its rapid development.
The emergence of private security in the Kurdistan Region can be seen as a result of the 2003 Iraq War, which is widely considered to be the first “privatised war”. From the conflict’s inception, coalition forces began to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus, leading to a severe security vacuum across all of Iraq (with the exception of the Kurdistan Region, being governed by the KRG). This weakening of state security meant that coalition forces were unable to adequately provide security for diplomatic missions, NGO reconstruction efforts or humanitarian aid missions. It is arguably because of this that many domestic security operations were outsourced to private military and security companies.
One of the key factors in the emergence of private security in the Kurdistan Region is that many saw Kurdistan as synonymous with the rest of Iraq, and subsequently assumed that the security situation was the same. Many of the companies operating in the south of Iraq, where security was seriously lacking, saw Kurdistan in the same light, and therefore demanded the same level of protection offered by the private security companies in the south.
The Kurdistan Region is on the rise thanks to huge investment from Western companies that are able to utilise the vast areas of natural resources such as oil and natural gas. This Western involvement has been made possible due to the large numbers of PSCs providing adequate security provision for the energy industry, and other investment projects. Similarly, many domestic PSCs are filling the gaps in the security sector by providing protection for NGOs and the humanitarian community, supplementing security in the energy sector, protecting the business community, and providing protection for hotels, shopping malls, and gated communities. Private security is intrinsic to the provision of adequate protection to businesses and individuals in the region, and PSCs are also being used to train the KRG security forces in an attempt to reform the state security sector.
Whereas private security emerged as a response to the conflict in the Iraq, it has proven invaluable to the reconstruction and development of the Kurdistan Region, enabling great levels of foreign investment. Private security is vital to furthering the development of the Kurdistan Region, and has become an integral part of the fabric of the state. Private security is incredibly widespread and operates throughout the region in many roles. Because of this, it is vital for the public to trust and understand the nature of this newly developed industry that simply did not exist prior to the 2003 Iraq War and the majority of Kurdish citizens are unaware of the existence of the private security industry. Therefore, it is clear that there must be considerable developments in the areas of regulation and legislation as the existing KRG’s Ministry of Interior guidelines for private security industry in Kurdistan simply consist of basic day-to-day procedures. Indeed, the KRG should be applauded for taking the initiative and being reform-minded enough to allow the private security industry develop into an important player in Kurdish security provision. Many other Middle Eastern states hold the monopoly on security, and have developed into totalitarian police states, something which the KRG wishes to avoid. It must be remembered that Kurdistan is secular, and moving strongly towards the Western model. It rejects the strong anti-Western stance of others in the region, and openly seeks alliance with the UK, US, and other Western states. The involvement of both foreign and domestic PSCs to bolster state security and carry out security sector reform must be viewed as a positive step towards the development of the Kurdistan Region.
* Security and Intelligence Studies University of Buckingham