After nearly two decades of armed conflict, the role of private military companies (PMCs) is firmly rooted into the infrastructure of the global War on Terror. These businesses have served in a variety of functions during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. Companies like KBR and Northop Grumman act primarily in logistics and support roles. Contractors working for these businesses are often hired to be truck drivers, mechanics, supply techs, and construction workers. Other companies, however, hire contractors with a more lethal skill set. Our readers may be familiar with some of them. Companies like Blackwater (now known as Academi) and Triple Canopy perform paramilitary functions on behalf of the Department of Defense and other governmental agencies (as well as some private companies).
These corporations have served a vital role in the United States’ long and arduous conflict against terror networks throughout the world. There are simply too many jobs to be done and too few conventional forces to do them. This need is one of the reasons the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, India, and Japan refused to sign the 2001 United Nations Treaty prohibiting the use, training, and financing of mercenaries. Under this treaty, signed by thirty-five UN member nations, PMCs (specifically those who fight) are considered mercenaries, a classification the United States rejects out of hand.
Regardless of their classification and legal status, the usefulness of private military companies is unquestionable. That fact has not gone unnoticed by those previously on the receiving end of PMC services. A recent article by Foreign Policy details the exploits of Malhama Tactical, a PMC whose clientele is exclusively Jihadist. This small consulting firm, while not the first to operate in Syria, is currently one of the most in-demand PMCs in the region.
The group, consisting of Soviet-trained and battle-hardened fighters from Uzbekistan and other nations in the Caucasus, have a vibrant social media presence and are currently recruiting expert fighters to serve as instructors and trainers. The group also provides arms and equipment to the jihadists that employ them.
A generation of armed conflict has resulted in expertly trained and deadly warriors transitioning out of uniformed service to work for PMCs (where the money is far better), on both sides. This trend presents a unique problem to the Trump Administration. The enemy we now face is better trained, better equipped, and more experienced than the groups encountered in the past. Only time will tell how President Trump’s military and foreign policy will unfold, and how it adjusts to this threat.