Posts Tagged PMSC

Publications: Nigeria’s Private Army–A Perception Study Of PMSC’s In The War Against Boko Haram

As soon as I found this, I had to share. I have never seen anyone do an analysis like this about our industry and it needs to be put out there for consumption. These folks attempted to get actual public perception about PMSC’s fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria. And even though they do not mention STTEP specifically, this is the company they are absolutely talking about.

It should be noted though that the study had none of the pertinent links to the reportage done on STTEP in Nigeria. Specifically the excellent articles by SOFREP and their interview with Eeben Barlow, the chairman of STTEP. After all, they are the only site that Eeben gave an interview too in regards to this contract. Eeben also gave plenty of information about what STTEP did on his blog, so it was odd to not see any links to those sources in the footnotes.

For whatever reason, they decided to keep the report free from those sources, and focus solely on doing their survey of Nigerians and their perceptions of PMSC’s in Nigeria. Specifically, PMSC’s and their role in countering Boko Haram.

Below I have posted their findings, and I was kind of shocked. Overall, there was very high support for using private military contractors against Boko Haram. 75 percent of respondents in telephone surveys supported groups like STTEP fighting Boko Haram. On social media it was 62 percent! That is incredible.

The reasons for supporting companies like STTEP are pretty simple. They could care less who they used to defeat Boko Haram, just as long as they were defeated. As for those that opposed using PMSC’s, they expressed that Nigeria should do this themselves.

Very cool and this will go into the archive here for anyone needing to come back to it. You can find a copy of this report at Remote Control’s website, and this is the pdf for it. I posted the findings below, but please check out the rest of the report to dig into how they conducted the survey or check out their website to learn more about the group. –Matt



Commissioned by the Remote Control project, the Nigeria Security Network carried out a perception study into the use of private military contractors. The study suggests that the majority of Nigerians support using private military contractors to fight Boko Haram. However, within the minority that oppose their use, some expressed opinions that could be vulnerable to manipulation by Boko Haram, due to their similar emphasis on western meddling in Nigerian affairs. The research suggests that opposition to PMSCs is strongest when they are engaged in combat roles, and that their potential for carrying out human rights abuses with impunity was of particular concern. The report concludes with a series of recommendations.

Level of support

Our study found that the majority of Nigerians are in favour of using private military contractors against Boko Haram. 75 percent of respondents to our telephone survey said they support using foreign mercenaries. 23 percent, meanwhile, said they oppose with only 3 per cent not having a view.
There was a significant difference in responses between men and women, with 80 percent of women saying they support using mercenaries compared to 69 percent of men. Conversely, 17 percent of women opposed using mercenaries while 23 percent of men opposed them. The reasons for this fall outside the re mit of this study, but may be an indication of heightened fear among female segments of the population following large numbers of abductions of women and girls by Boko Haram.
There was a little regional variation beyond the margin of error, with opposition significantly stronger than average in the South East and weaker in North Central. This is notable since the North Central region, including the city of Kano, is an area that has been significantly affected by Boko Haram’s violence. The higher than average support for mercenaries may be due to the region’s heightened experiences of violence. Conversely, the South East is one of the least affected regions. However, respondents in the most affected region – Nigeria’s North East – answered much closer to the average, making it difficult to draw conclusions about these regional variations.
On social media, of our sample 62 percent supported the use of private military contractors, with 36 percent opposing and 2 percent expressing a mixed opinion.
Reasons for supporting
Reasons for supporting private military contractors varied. The most popular reason was that people did not care what method was used to defeat Boko Haram, as long as they are defeated. 42 percent of support- ers argued this. Meanwhile, 27 percent suggested the contractors could offer better capabilities, while 20 percent said the Nigerian army is not effective enough to stop Boko Haram by itself. 6 percent said Nigeria can benefit from using foreign fighters since Boko Haram does the same.
These reasons were also reflected in our social media analysis. The most common reason was again that the method of defeating Boko Haram shouldn’t matter, with 47 per cent of those in favour arguing this.
Other common reasons included a feeling that Nigeria was being singled out for using private contractors when it is normal for other countries to do so, and a belief that contractors would be more effective.
Reasons for opposing
Of those telephone survey respondents opposed to using foreign mercenaries to fight Boko Haram, most (51 percent) expressed opposition to private military contractors on the grounds that Nigeria should have the capabilities to defeat Boko Haram without outside help. A further 27 percent of respondents cited reasons that could be interpreted as aligning with the insurgency’s messages or that could be manipulated by the insurgency to gain support. Within this group, 12 percent said foreign mercenaries are more likely than Nigerian troops to hurt civilians or commit human rights violations, 9 per cent said foreign mercenaries are trying to control or colonise Nigeria, and 6 per cent said they are trying to impose Western ideas on Nigeria.
16 percent gave “other” reasons for opposing contractors that were not anticipated, for example that the Nigerian army knows the terrain better.
Like with the telephone survey results, our social media analysis revealed that the largest number (46 percent) of tweeters who opposed private military contractors did so on the grounds that the Nigerian army should be able to defeat Boko Haram itself. Other, less common reasons included the perception that mercenaries were trying to advance a colonial agenda, that using them may back re, and that the Nigerian state should not re- cruit soldiers associated with the Apartheid era in South Africa.
To determine whether perceptions of private military contractors changed according to their role, we asked respondents their views of contractors if they were restricted to a training role versus a combat role.
This variable made a small but perceptible difference. If used only in a training role, 78 percent of respondents supported using the private contractors, whereas if used in a combat role 71 percent supported their use. Similarly, if used in a training role, 21 percent opposed their use, while 27 percent opposed their use if used in a combat role.
7 and 6 percent respectively may seem like a small amount. However, when considering the population of Borno state alone, which is likely to be around 4.5 million, 6 percent represents 270,000 people. Even if a tiny fraction of these were so angered by the use of private military contractors that they were tempted to support Boko Haram, this could result in thousands of new supporters.
This switcher group is especially important because those who switched were mostly the same people who were concerned about private military contractors imposing Western values or colonialism on Nigeria,
or abusing human rights, rather than simply opposing them because they think the Nigerian Army should not need such assistance. In total, there were 18 respondents in the former category. Of these 18, 16 switched their opinion if private contractors take only a training role. This suggests a restricted role for private military contractors could mitigate the perceptual backlash and reduce the risk of Boko Haram gaining support as a result. However, it must be noted that because the group expressing negative opinions for these reasons was so small, further research would be needed to ensure these ndings are not a statistical anomaly.

Read the rest of the report here.

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Syria: Nine Russian Contractors From PMC Wagner Killed

Rest in peace to the fallen…

In my last post on Russian contractors, I mentioned briefly about a PMSC called PMC Wagner or OSM. The Wall Street Journal is the first large media group that I know of that has talked about this company in a story, and I thought I would share that here. I want to keep a record of this stuff so that it can be a reference for how the Russian market is developing in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.

So why do I continue to focus on the Russian market? Primarily because if the Russian PMSC’s start delving more into offensive operations, then that could be a sign of things to come for the rest of the industry. I like to follow the offensive aspects of PMSC use because that will have impact on the future of this industry. Meaning as more and more private companies from other countries get into the game of war fighting, and actually winning wars like what Executive Outcomes was able to do, then that would move the marker of what is acceptable and possible within this industry.

It will give countries an option other than using and paying for a standing military, or for countries who lack those kinds of war fighting and winning capabilities within their own military.

One country might view another country’s PMSC industry as a strategic advantage. Something that they want in their tool kit of force. Especially if PMSC’s start winning wars and battles, and especially if a country is flush with cash but lacks manpower. A country that is in a fight for their survival (like Assad’s Syria) will do everything it can to win, and really could care less where that manpower comes from at the end of the day. Enter the PMSC market.

Back to the article below. The quote that caught my attention was this one:

An official close to the Russian Defense Ministry said that the group had numbered around 1,000. Unlike Western security contractors, who are typically armed with only light weapons, members of the group were operating T-90 tanks and howitzers.

Contractors operating T-90 tanks and howitzers? lol That is some serious weaponry and I would love to hear more about what exactly these guys were doing with this stuff. EO used tanks and APC’s in their wars pretty effectively, and it is interesting to hear about private companies actually operating this type of equipment. Imagine that training course? lol

The other interesting quote below is the leader of PMC Wagner/OSM, came from the Slavonic Corps. The Slavonic Corps was also given tanks to use, but that was a big surprise for the contractors involved apparently.  So will PMC Wagner pick up where the Slavonic Corps left off, and do better?  We will see. –Matt

Edit: 12/19/2015- The guy in the photo below was an entertainer that was working at Latakia Air Base at the time and not some soldier or contractor according to my readership. There is a question on how many contractors were killed as well. One of my readers said that an article from Reuters was written last October in regards to this incident and they only mentioned three Russians that were killed. Also, the 1,000 contractor headcount is not realistic according to the readership. That is a pretty big footprint for a contractor force so I would imagine that number is a lot lower.

Edit: 03/10/2016- War is Boring wrote an interesting article that talked more about Russia and it’s use of PMSC’s. This quote on PMC Wagner is what I wanted to put out there for the record:

It now seems the TchVK Wagner is building on the Slavonic Corps’ misfortune. Indeed, many members of this mysterious organization, as well as its leader — a former major in the Spetsnaz and ex-employee of Moran Security — were also members of the luckless 2013 expedition in Syria. According to the journalist Denis Korotkov, author of numerous articles on the TchKV Wagner, these contractors are active in Syria and entertain “close links with the Russian army.”

“TchVK Wagner is not a PMC, but a paramilitary organization with no official status,” Korotkov insists. “It is obvious that this task force could not exist without serious support from high-ranking government officials.”

Oleg Krinitsyn, head of the Russian PMC RSB Group, says he agrees with that assessment.

According to Korotkov, neither Moran Security nor RSB Group are active in eastern Ukraine — and this for legal reasons and in order to preserve their contracts abroad. Furthermore it seems the Russian army in Syria does not make use of these two PMCs. For sure, these companies do employ droves of former FSB agents, and one can easily imagine that they offer piecemeal services to the Russian state while on duty abroad, especially in Africa.



Up to Nine Russian Contractors Die in Syria, Experts Say
Incident shows how the country is using private groups to avoid deploying uniform troops, they say
Dec. 18, 2015
As many as nine Russian contractors died in October when a mortar round hit their base in western Syria, according to several people familiar with the matter.
The incident, experts say, shows how Russia has used contractors to perform quasi-military tasks, avoiding the political repercussions of deploying uniformed troops—and steering clear of the domestic concerns that come with the deaths of soldiers.
The Russian government hasn’t acknowledged the deaths, described to The Wall Street Journal by three people.
“It’s one of Russia’s first attempts at trying to create a private military company like what was Blackwater,” said one of them, Ivan Konovalov, director of a Moscow-based security think tank and a consultant to lawmakers who are trying to create the legal basis for such military companies, which now fall in a legal gray zone.
Blackwater, which provided armed security, logistics and other support to U.S. government agencies, became emblematic of Washington’s reliance on private-sector firms to advance foreign-policy aims in conflict zones.
Unlike Blackwater, though, the Russian Defense Ministry hasn’t publicly acknowledged their existence. It isn’t clear whether the men’s role went beyond protecting government installations to direct involvement in fighting.
Founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, Blackwater was involved in a series of controversial incidents, including a deadly 2007 shootout in Iraq that ultimately led to its reorganization and rebranding as Academi and to Mr. Prince’s exit from the business. Blackwater said it was carrying out dangerous work on behalf the U.S. government in a way that was more cost-effective than using uniformed personnel. Four former guards were convicted after the shooting, but said they shot in self defense.
The Russians killed in Syria belonged to a private group called OSM, according to Denis Korotkov, a former security adviser and journalist. The group is known informally as Wagner, after the nom de guerre of its leader, a former military intelligence officer who has served in several conflicts since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Syria wasn’t the group’s first deployment. According to all three people, the group operated in eastern Ukraine, where its members were charged with protecting factories and pro-Russian rebel leaders.
In Ukraine, the Kremlin employed “hybrid warfare”—a term national-security experts use to describe the use of irregular forces, propaganda campaigns, economic coercion and sometimes direct military action.
Groups with connections to Russian military and intelligence, and whose activities can be denied, have operated in the conflict zones that flared up since the fall of the Soviet Union. Wagner’s group however has emerged as one of the most prominent both in terms of the size and missions, according to Mr. Konovalov.
Based in the southern Russian region of Krasnodar, the group deployed to Syria after a contract was drawn up with Syrian authorities, Mr. Konovalov said.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia: So Where Are Russian PMSC’s Working In The World?

This is a great graphic from InformNapalm, along with a link to the article. I have heard about a few of these companies, but this is by far the most comprehensive collection that I have seen posted. There was quite a bit of interest the last time I posted about Russian PMSC’s here and here, and we will see if anyone wants to pop up and add to this stuff.

The story about PMC Vagner (or Wagner) is interesting. I actually heard some information about them from other sources and they are definitely mixing it up in Syria. Here is a quote from the article that perked me up.

For example, ‘Vagner’ private military company (incorporated in Argentina) poses itself as a closed militarized structure; its training camp is located in the village of Molkino in Krasnodar krai, at the training site of the 10th special forces brigade of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Federation. With high probability we can assume that we observe here the mentioned above mechanism for the creation of voluntary units of Russian GRU’s reservists.

Everything is organized as in a Special Forces: arrival, interviewing, testing, quarantine, intensive special training, examination and sending on a mission. At the same time the main priority is to keep the information in secret.

According to closed sources, the main task is to prepare the ‘Vagner’s fighters for the war in Syria and send them there. This version is confirmed by the data from numerous printed materials.

Obviously, these men are the backbone of ground operations’ troops and they fight under the guise of Assad’s volunteers. Detachments of ‘vacationers’ are sent to Syria from Primorsko-Akhtarsky military airfield, which is located in 200 km from the training center.

According to confidential information, there are hundreds of killed fighters in the ranks of ‘Vagner’ PMC. This information is partially confirmed by the data in open sources:

24.09.2015 – 10 coffins arrived to Sevastopol from Syria;

20.10.2015 – Vessel with bodies of 26 killed marines from 810th brigade arrived to Sevastopol;

27.10.2015 – A coffin with a soldier died in Syria arrived to Sevastopol.

In the article they also posted a video and links to these various companies. Check it out. –Matt


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Cool Stuff: A Russian Contractor Gives The Low Down On His Industry

After posting my deal on Russia’s PMSC market, I got some interesting feedback from the readership. Specifically, I got a great message on Facebook from a Russian security contractor whom has been working in his industry since 2005. He was kind enough to send me his input about the state of the Russian PMSC market and his opinion on the various players in that market. And as you can see below with his post, the western media tends to put a slant on things. lol

On this blog, I try to cover the international security contracting scene and it can be very difficult to get a good read on the various markets out there. I am an American, and have worked for American companies overseas and that is it. So the market in China or Russia or wherever is not my area of expertise. So like everyone else, I have to count on the available open source information (in english) and the feedback from my readership (which are mostly western). Hopefully this blog can attract the experts in those markets, and get their help on getting the story right. Or at least let them give their side of the story, which is something I try to do for all of the posts here.

With that said, here it is. Also, on a side note, I have never met this individual or worked with them, so I cannot vouch for them personally. Out of respect for the author’s wishes, I have not listed their name here. Enjoy. –Matt



Members of the Slavonic Corps in Syria.


First of all, I’ve been reading your website and FB for ages. One of the top spots on a web to read about PMSC and all the things related. Thanks a lot for all the effort you put in!

Just recently saw your post on Russian PMSC. With all due respect and understanding that Russian mercs are exotic beasts for your audience, sometimes we get a lot of laughs reading BS about us. ))

I’ve been doing PMSC since 2005 with Russian companies. I’m Russian. V’been in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. I know what I’m talking about.

Russian PMSC market simply doesn’t exist. RSB Group that you mention is not very big, though they try hard and do some nice online marketing. The only real and good professional team made of Russian mercs today is Moran Security, based in St.Petersburg, and the only cool thing about them is that they really do a lot of cheap marsec jobs in Indian ocean.

And that’s all. All the Russian real business PMSC-market consists of about 50 people and most of them have a dual citizenship (including US, UK, NZ and etc) and we don’t visit Russia for years.

“Grey area” Russian geopolitics and all the blah-blah-blah is for journos.

In Iraq for example Russian oil companies prefer to sign contracts with British PMSC, not Russian PMSC, and thus they justify huge budgets on security. Half of the money they sip off for security fog is nicely landing in Malta and California villas for top-management of Lukoil.

In Iraq in 2009-2011 we’ve done few security jobs for local warlords and Kurds, but not too much of serious staff. Our peak activity was in 2005 when we were securing regular truck convoys going from Turkey to Basra in the south.

In Central Asia small Russian proto-PMSC were simply slaughtered by islamists and in-prisoned by official local intelligence services.

In Syria the infamous Slavonic Corps was a joke. In Russia we are having a lot of giggles reading the western overstated mass-media reports on its “mighty force of 200 fighters”. It’s a joke. Divide by ten. )))

In Afghanistan we had only a couple of small jobs securing convoys very close to the northern border.

UN approached us for a few gigs in Iraq but it didn’t materialized.

As to Ukraine – it has nothing to do with Russian PMSC. All the fighters from Russian side who go to Donbass to fight are tightly controlled by FSB, have FSB-controlled training camps close to the border and they have nothing to do with PMSC, business or market issues. It’s a Russian version of patriotic ideological madness and Russian version of state-controlled ISIS.

We had a few small contracts guarding Russian mineral companies in Africa, but that was on a minor scale as well. Nothing to be proud about.

So for the last 10 years we have no real Russian PMSCs succeeding in international market and all the Russian mercs apart from those 50 people from RSB and Moran Groups today are trying to join some western security companies with very little success.

There is no reason to exaggerate Russian PMSCs presence anywhere as they simply do not exist as business units. But it’s a lot of fun to tickle western audience with fairytales about exotic Russian mercs roaming Middle East and Africa. )))

Once again, thanks a lot for your blogging and info-sharing.

All the best and huge regards, FJ!

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Russia: PMSC’s Operating In A Legal Grey Area

This is a good little report on the status of Russian PMSC’s, with a mention of the Slavonic Corps debacle. I have written in the past about Russia’s use of PMSC’s and their efforts on legalizing it. But as the report mentions, Russia also benefits from keeping their industry in the legal grey area of war fighting. Especially if you see how ‘volunteers’ (who are paid by the way) are being used in places like the Ukraine. It is not too much of  a stretch for Russia to just outright contract out various aspects of their war there.

While he says his fighters are “volunteers” rather than mercenaries, they are paid salaries: from $1,000 per month for a low-ranking enlisted man to $2,000 to $4,000 for officers. Yefimov did not answer the reporter’s question about who pays the salaries.

Ukraine’s government says more than 10,000 Russian mercenaries form the bulk of the Russian proxy forces that the Kremlin has used to sponsor the creation of the separatist “people’s republics” in parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk provinces. Many fighters are motivated by the propaganda of the Kremlin-controlled media, Yefimov says.

“Our press and television present the dramatic facts. The Russian people cannot tolerate the terror that the fascists have staged there [in Ukraine]. Killing women, children and the elderly. Most of those who go [to fight] are sensitive and empathetic; they want to help. This is especially true for people from 40 to 60 years of age, who were brought up under Soviet traditions.” Other fighters go because they miss the adrenaline of war or to earn money, he said.

Although for using Russian PMSC’s on the international market, they will have to have some protections. Compared to the west’s market of force, they have a lot of catching up to do.

With that said, one area that interests me is Assad’s manpower issues in Syria. Will we see more Slavonic Corps type contracts pop up where Russian PMSC’s answer the manpower call in Syria? We will see. Russian PMSC’s are already doing the maritime security game, and operating in the middle east protecting oil company facilities and their employees.

The one company mentioned in this video was RSB. The key thing the president mentioned was the legalities of operating as a PMSC. That Russian law has it’s roots from the Byzantine era, and that whatever is not explicitly banned, is legal. So operating outside of the country as a PMSC, is not explicitly banned in his view. Interesting comment, although as you can see with the Slavonic Corps, you can still be thrown in prison for such activities–based on the whims of their government.

He also mentioned he could raise an army of  1,000 plus troops, which is typical talk from a company CEO. If you have the attention of journalists, you always want to promote capability when you can. lol

Also, they cut the youtube video a little short. For the full video, go here. –Matt


RSB contractor.

RSB contractor performing maritime security.



Russia’s private military firms operate in legal grey area

July 28, 2015

Since the conflict in Ukraine began, Kiev and the West have accused Russians of participating on a massive scale. The Kremlin denies sending professional troops to Ukraine and insists the Russian citizens there are volunteers who have signed up to help the separatists. Increasingly, experts are pointing to the presence of a third category of fighters: the employees of private military companies, or PMCs.

While the private security industry is well established in the United States – with globally recognised brands such as Academi (formerly Blackwater) – Russia has never legalised their use. That could be about to change, however, as Russian PMCs certainly do exist and are now active internationally.

Programme prepared by Patrick Lovett and Elom Marcel Toble.

By Gulliver CRAGG , Ksenia BOLCHAKOVA

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Podcasts: Sean McFate, Author Of The Modern Mercenary On NPR

This is interesting. Sean McFate is the author of the book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order and he is making the rounds promoting his book. He will also be at several speaking events in the near future. One will be at the Atlantic Council on March 3 and the other will be at the World Affairs Council on March 24. His background is that he worked for DynCorp International in Africa on a unique project to rebuild Liberia’s army back in 2004.

In the podcast, he gets into the nitty gritty of what this industry is currently involved with, and where he thinks it is going. Check it out. –Matt

Listen to the podcast here.




From NPR

In World War II, contractors made up just 10 percent of the military workforce; by the Iraq war, that number had risen to 50 percent. And that number is climbing – not just in the U.S. but worldwide, as governments look to save money and keep casualty numbers down for their own militaries. But what does this trend toward private-run warfare mean for the future of international relations? One former contractor warns that armies-for-hire will soon be the norm, making it easier than ever to wage war. What an increased reliance on private armies could mean for modern warfare and global security.


Sean McFate senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Former paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and former private military contractor in Africa.

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