The Pri­vate Se­cu­rity In­dus­try in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Twana Fars Bawe

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion is ar­guably unique in its sta­tus as a rapidly de­vel­op­ing tran­si­tional so­ci­ety that, owing to its semi­au­tonomous na­ture, is of­ten per­ceived as a state within a state. It shall be ar­gued here that it is likely that the pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try (PSI) will play a ma­jor role in as­sist­ing the rapid de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion, and may prove in­valu­able to the se­cu­rity of Kur­dis­tan amidst the cur­rent con­flict with Is­lamic State (IS) in­sur­gents.

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion is pre­car­i­ously sit­u­ated in the midst of a Mid­dle East in tur­moil. With Syria to the west, and a frag­mented Iraq to the south, dis­placed peo­ple and IS in­sur­gents are putting great pres­sure on the al­ready over-bur­dened se­cu­rity forces of the KRG. The need for a strong se­cu­rity sec­tor is with­out ques­tion.

The pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try has un­doubt­edly ex­pe­ri­enced a pe­riod of ex­tremely rapid growth since the first ‘pri­va­tised war’ in Iraq in 2003, and it is ar­guable that the in­dus­try has de­vel­oped too quickly for the law to keep up with it. This is es­pe­cially per­ti­nent con­sid­er­ing that, for the last decade or so, the PSI has adopted roles tra­di­tion­ally un­der­stood to be the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of the state.

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gion is an au­ton­o­mous en­tity with a per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion. It ex­ists in a ter­ri­to­ri­ally de­fined space (al­beit con­tested to the south), and has a gov­ern­ment (the KRG) that is recog­nised as le­git­i­mate amongst its cit­i­zens and has the ca­pac­ity to en­ter into re­la­tions with other states. Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics meet the cri­te­ria for the clas­sic def­i­ni­tion of a state as ar­tic­u­lated in the 1933 Mon­te­v­ideo Con­ven­tion on the Rights and Du­ties of States. In light of this, in vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­ceiv­able as­pect, the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion has be­come an en­tity that pos­sesses the nec­es­sary do­mes­tic at­tributes to move from be­ing a re­gion of Iraq to the Repub­lic of Kur­dis­tan. There­fore, it is vi­tal that the se­cu­rity sec­tor is strong enough to ad­e­quately de­fend Kur­dis­tan’s bor­ders, and of­fer se­cu­rity pro­vi­sion for for­eign firms op­er­at­ing in the re­gion.

As Harry Schute notes, the PSI is

“An in­valu­able tool for the de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion. Western com­pa­nies and NGOs are vi­tal for re­de­vel­op­ment, but the fact of the mat­ter is that many of them will not op­er­ate here with­out pri­vate se­cu­rity. Their in­surance won’t al­low it; their board of le­gal ad­vi­sors will not al­low it. So if we want to have those guys here par­tic­i­pat­ing in the de­vel­op­ment of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, pri­vate se­cu­rity is go­ing to be an ex­tremely use­ful tool.”

As it stands, there are no do­mes­tic laws that cover the ac­tiv­i­ties of the PSI in ei­ther Iraq or Kur­dis­tan. This is a con­cern, as the pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try is the fourth largest in­dus­try in the re­gion, be­hind the gov­ern­ment, the oil and con­struc­tion in­dus­try. Ac­cord­ing to the KRG Min­istry of In­te­rior (MOI), there are 50 li­censed PMSCs op­er­at­ing in Kur­dis­tan, em­ploy­ing just over 6000 con­trac­tors, a num­ber that is likely to in­crease.

How­ever, at the time of writ­ing there is still no po­lit­i­cal man­date to deal with the ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion of this ever-grow­ing in­dus­try. The pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try in Kur­dis­tan gen­er­ates over $1 bil­lion an­nu­ally, and although the MOI has is­sued guide­lines con­cern­ing the ac­tiv­ity of the PSI, there is no law in place gov­ern­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties.

Cur­rently, 60% of gov- ern­ment spend­ing goes to pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees, and the do­mes­tic se­cu­rity sec­tor is strug­gling to ef­fec­tively deal with the huge de­mands placed on it by the cur­rent con­flict against IS in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. How­ever, re­cent de­vel­op­ments in Rus­sia could prove ben­e­fi­cial for the KRG.

As it is be­ing pro­posed that state con­tracts are granted to the PSI, whilst at the same time giv­ing con­trol over con­trac­tors to the De­fence Min­istry. The PSI would then be used for im­me­di­ate re­sponse to var­i­ous threats, and could be­come a hid­den re­serve for the reg­u­lar mil­i­tary forces, join­ing them au­to­mat­i­cally in pe­ri­ods of con­flict. This draft bill is cur­rently be­ing ex­am­ined in Rus­sia, and could prove quite fea­si­ble, as firms op­er­at­ing un­der the con­trol of a na­tional se­cu­rity ser­vice or gov­ern­ment ar­guably en­sures ac­count­abil­ity and con­trol of the sec­tor.

This method of con­trol could prove suc­cess­ful in the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion. The do­mes­tic pri­vate se­cu­rity in­dus­try could fall un­der the Min­istry of Pesh­merga or Min­istry of In­te­rior so that the con­trac­tors could be used as re­servists when Kur­dis­tan is un­der ex­ter­nal threat. One of the ma­jor ben­e­fits is the fact that con­trac­tors are not pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees, but part of the pri­vate sec­tor, re­duc­ing the bur­den on the state when it comes to se­cu­rity pro­vi­sion. The Min­istry of Pesh­merga or Min­istry of In­te­rior would be able to utilise a fully trained, com­bat ready force, when nec­es­sary, and would have con­trol over their ac­tions, adding a level of ac­count­abil­ity that is cur­rently lack­ing.

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