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The ongoing outsourcing in Afghanistan

May 29, 2009

The ongoing outsourcing in Afghanistan


The ongoing outsourcing in Afghanistan

Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar, Afghanistan will not be put in harms way, despite the oft-repeated political promise that all of Canada’s ground troops will be withdrawn by 2011. The responsibility of the security of these specialists-contractors themselves- will instead be provided by private companies, who will need to go through a selection process, according to Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Ron Hoffmann who spoke to journalists via video-conference, earlier this week.

This is not the first time that the Canadian government has decided to hire private security companies in Afghanistan. The British based firm, Saladin Security , has been protecting the Canadian Embassy in Kabul for many years, while many Afghan contractors including warlords, have been hired to protects convoys of Canadian personnel or provide a "security cordon" for high risk situations, such as roadside bombs going off.

In 2007, the Canadian Forces hired the British Firm ‘Hart Security’ to protect Canada’s Strategic Advisory Team, a small elite group made up of business and government representatives, whose job was to advise the Afghan government in Kabul on how Canada and their allies wanted the country run. Interesting to note is that ‘Hart Security’ has hired personnel who worked in South Africa during the apartheid regime, and would assassinate opponents of the government, as well as run special ‘operations’ in Zimbabwe. They also lay the claim of being the largest private security company in the south of Iraq, a country they have also been operating in since 2003.

While we still do not know who will receive these contracts, given the personal involvement of certain high profile politicians in Canada to the companies that make tremendous profits off of the ongoing conflicts around the world, and never-ending ‘war against terror’ it is fair to assume that perhaps these companies will be at the front of the tender and bidding line, whether it be to provide the actual security or provide the support work necessary.

Arguably the most obvious company would be GardaWorld who has a history of receiving Tory government contracts, including the $10 million Canada Border Services Agency contract received in 2007 to guard the Immigration Prevention Centre in Laval. Montreal based GardaWorld has been heavily involved in the personal security business for awhile, but got thick deep in the industry a few years ago when it acquired Vance International Inc. as well as Kroll Security International both of which had lucrative contracts to provide security in the green-zone Iraq (providing another glaring example of Canada’s participation to the ‘Coalition of the Willing’).

Another company to keep your eyes on is Optosecurity Inc who, earlier this month received a $2 million tax credit personally from the Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food), Jean-Pierre Blackburn. Optosecurity Inc develops and sells security products used in the transportation and security industries.

Given that so many of the Provincial Reconstruction Team projects are behind schedule and will go beyond 2012, it is unclear how long the private security contracts will be drawn up for, similar to how when the Canadian Forces took over the American PRT in 2005, it was uncertain how long they would be around. The Canadian PRT is stationed in downtown Kandahar City in a compound where approximately 100 civilians, made up of members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, (DFAIT) The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the RCMP work together on ‘assisting security as well as reconstruction and development projects’ in the region.

Although very little scrutiny has been given to these projects, the snippets of information that have come to the surface, raises many troubling questions. The most grandiose project that the PRT is involved in directing and funding, is the Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation Project, a gigantic dam and bridge that has been mired in, controversy ranging from use of child labour, to local workers who are injured on the job being replaced with zero compensation. After two years of planning with an estimated cost of $50 million$, CIDA gave the contract to SNC Lavalin the same company that was heavily involved in the largest corruption in trial in India, and lest we forget, had been producing the munition used by the US military in Iraq over many years. (This contract has since been switched over to General Dynamics Corp when they bought SNC technologies, formerly a SNC-Lavalin subsidy).

While the Canadian government continues to prioritize a military-and private company based notion of security that refuses to negotiate with the Taliban, there is ample proof that wide scale starvation continues to occur each winter in Afghanistan, with much evidence showing that poverty continues to drive local support for the Taliban. As long as private contractors and their friends in government will profit from this ongoing instability, it is unlikely that any peace or development will occur in Afghanistan.

Please Note: The original blog piece had written that Hart had a contract in South Africa during the apartheid regime. In fact Hart did not hold any public contracts in South Africa during this period. Amy Miller apologizes for this error.

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