Britain touts private security contractors for Libya

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Eurofighter Typhoon (German) in flight. These are among the aircraft being used by the United Kingdom to help enforce the multinational Libyan no-fly zone.
Image: Kogo.

Britain has raised the idea of using private security firms as part of efforts to bolster military support for Libyan rebels. Defence officials speaking to The Guardian have floated the idea as Western powers examine ways to turn the tide of the rebels' stuttering campaign against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The sources also urged Arab countries to fund training for the rebels, whose inferior weaponry and organisation is widely agreed to have allowed pro-Gaddafi forces to check the insurgency's recent gains.

The call to deploy private security contractors comes as the Afghan government has announced plans to phase out such operators over the next 12 months. The image of such firms has been severely tarnished by repeated revelations of abuse by the U.S. firm Blackwater Worldwide, subsequently renamed Xe Services. Blackwater executives and employees have faced civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations related to accusations of bribery and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The collapse of numerous investigations related to several alleged incidents has raised questions about the legal accountability of firms operating in war zones on behalf of Western governments.

The suggested training of rebels and deployment of contractors appears to confirm Western powers' determination to end Gaddafi's grip on power.

Yesterday's report in The Guardian interprets the move as the start of a new phase in the three-week-old NATO-led intervention in Libya, and a tacit admission by Western nations that the rebels are struggling to make ground despite NATO air support.

Britain's focus on Arab participation in funding and training the rebels reflects a will on Western powers' part to foster Arab ownership of the intervention, perceived as being crucial to building the legitimacy of the West's support to Libyan rebels.

According to The Guardian, Western military strategy is now turning to cementing the rebels' territorial gains before the negotiation of a ceasefire with the Gaddafi regime.