Coercion and Capital in Afghanistan

The Rise, Transformation and Fall of the Afghan Commercial Security Sector 1

Authored by: Christian Olsson

The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing in the Twenty-first Century

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472426833
eBook ISBN: 9781315613376
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042228


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As for many other aspects of the international engagement in Afghanistan since 2001, the issue of security and military outsourcing in the country has raised much less interest than in Iraq. From the point of view of the intervening parties, the effects have, however, been comparable. On the one hand, the resort to military service providers and private security companies (henceforth PSCs) has allowed for the military to focus on its ‘core mission’ by delegating non-combat tasks to these companies and for the CIA to boost its workforce in the country (Giustozzi 2007, Aikins 2012, Armendariz 2014). Moreover, to the extent that it has been instrumental to the strategy of the ‘light footprint’, that is the attempt to keep the number of troops in the country relatively low, it probably has helped reduce military casualties on the side of the international coalition. On the other hand, it has come, like in Iraq or for that matter the Balkans, with a multitude of cases of over-facturation, fraud, mistreatment or killing of civilians, allegations of sexual assault on minors …; often without any significant consequences for the companies because of the supposedly indispensable character of their contribution to operations (Sherman and DiDomenico 2009, Amendariz 2014). This aspect of military outsourcing has been relatively well documented (Olsson 2003, Leander 2013, Lovewine 2014). Our contribution will hence focus on another dimension: the emergence of an Afghan supply of private security services, while showing how the espousal by Afghan actors of commercial security practices is intertwined with ‘international’ strategies and actors.

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