Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Britain's secret army in Iraq

The Independent (UK) reports that so many British security firms are cashing in on the violence in Iraq that armed private security men now outnumber most of the national army contingents in the country. Thousands of former soldiers and police officers from Britain, the US, Australia and South Africa are earning wages as high as £600 a day to protect Western officials, oil company executives and construction firm bosses in Iraq. The SAS is said to be suffering an unprecedented loss of personnel as its highly trained soldiers are lured by lucrative private security work. With business of around £1bn, British companies are estimated to have the biggest share of private security contracts in Iraq. According to experts, between 1,200 and 1,500 former British soldiers and police officers, including former SAS, Marines, paratroopers and RUC officers, are working in Iraq. Some privately estimate that the total number of foreigners working for private security companies now exceeds the 8,700 British troops there.