Australia begins to copy the American mercenary model; outsourcing essential tasks with little or no parliamentary oversight:
Australia has awarded a $20 million two-year contract guarding diplomats in Kabul to a private security company owned by a special forces soldier turned British lord and that once hired a former South African apartheid-era assassin.
The move is part of an increasing trend by the government to contract out the security of diplomats in the world’s most dangerous locations, instead of using Australian soldiers.
The cost is also double the amount of the previous contract, held by another major international security company, Control Risks Group.Advertisement: Story continues below
”The complex and volatile security environment in Kabul requires the provision of high-quality security protection,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
The spokesman would not comment on the reasons behind the increase in the contract’s cost, but said the ”nature, complexity and scale” of the work in Kabul had increased. This was due to ”expanding staff numbers and additional operational sites requiring increased protected travel and static guarding services,” he said.
Australia’s embassy in Kabul is home to the ambassador, Paul Foley, and six foreign affairs staff.
There are about 30 Australian public servants in Afghanistan, based mainly in Kabul but also in Kandahar and Tarin Kowt.
Those 30 would include staff from the federal police and AusAID, as well as diplomats and their staff and intelligence officers with Australia’s foreign spy agency, ASIS.
In Baghdad, Australia’s embassy is guarded by the controversial outfit Unity Resources Group, which killed an Australian resident and two Iraqi women in separate incidents several years ago.
Until recently the embassy and staff were guarded by a combination of Australian troops and private security guards, but Defence has confirmed its troops no longer provide ”physical security”.
”Hart’s tender was judged to provide the best value to the Commonwealth in accordance with the requirements of the tender,” the foreign affairs spokesman said.
Hart Security is a well-known veteran security company, and was formed in 1999 by a former British special forces officer, Richard Bethell. He has since been granted a peerage and is now known as Lord Westbury.
His company has also attracted some controversy. In 2004 it came in for criticism after a Hart employee, 55-year-old South African Gary Branfield, was killed in a firefight in Iraq.
It later emerged that during the 1980s Branfield ran a ”special operations unit” in Zimbabwe for the apartheid-era South African government.
According to a report by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Branfield led a team that set off a truck bomb which killed a Zimbabwean and injured six members of the African National Congress.
Hart has since said they were unaware of Branfield’s background when hiring him.