This is a guest article by author D. Alan Johnson. His latest book Asgard is set in Africa and looks at the role of Private Military Contractors. David himself is a Military Contractor and has been since 1988. We were talking recently about life in general, and the world as a whole. I invited him to offer his thoughts – Simon

No one knows the future. But we can sometimes give out a pretty good guess. Even thought logic would scream out that private military contractors based in Afghanistan (AFG) will be going home with the troops, I don’t think it will work out that way.

Let’s take a look at the factors that will influence the PMC job situation:

•    The US Government is running out of money.
•    Multinational Corporations are hungry for the resources in the region.
•    Afghanistan is the crossroads of Southwest Asia.
•    Afghanistan grows more poppies and produces more opium than any other country.
•    Religious fanatics will continue to attempt to disrupt business, education, government, and resource extraction.
•    There will be continued unrest in Iran.

With the US Gov’t out of money, they must pull back the soldiers. Using his oratorical skills, Obama has put the best face on this ugly truth. No leader likes to admit they can no longer play the “Great Game”. (I sometimes think the world leaders enjoy military operations, even when we have no vested interests.)

This would lead one to wager that contractor budgets would be cut right along with the military. The government will play a smaller bit in the ongoing drama, but contractor budgets can get hidden in USAID, CIA, DEA, and UN budgets. The US Gov’t won’t completely get out of the PMC business.

The second, and larger factor is the Multinational Corporations. These are big players. And they are not just American companies. Japanese, Chinese, and Australian groups are also operating in the area. We have known for years about the giant oil fields to the north of AFG in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and other ‘stans. To get that oil to market, they must build pipelines. And, as crazy as it seems, the corporate planners see AFG as more stable than running a pipeline through Russia or Iran. So they plan to construct a series of pipelines running south through AFG and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.

But it is not only oil. During this war, enough area has been pacified that prospectors have been in areas never really searched for minerals. Rich veins of chromite, iron ore, copper, gold, and coal have been discovered. And those are just the ones we know about. With AFG so close to India and China, this new treasure takes on even more importance.

So, as the budgets shrink for the military to fund military contractors, the corporations will step up and spend the money they must to protect their investments in the region. The threats of illicit drug crops and smuggling, religious warfare, and Iranian destabilization will not go away any time soon. These corporations cannot and will not desert the region due to the riches of the resources and the strategic position of the country.

Just as we have seen in Colombia and the Congo, lack of government, illegal activities, and even low intensity warfare will not drive out multinationals set on extracting natural resources. The corporations will pay for protection, and this is how is should be. The American taxpayer should not be paying for pacification and nation building so that Chinese and Japanese mining companies can prosper.

Corporations can and should pay for their own security forces. So, for all my buddies still out there in the Sand Box, the name at the top of your paycheck may change, but there will be jobs for shooters, pilots, managers, mechanics, and intel specialists for the next 25 years.

D. Alan Johnson

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