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The world of mercenaries

Mercenary entrepreneurship is thriving across the world partly due to never-ending regional conflicts of a complex nature, ranging from small-scale land mafias to large-scale wars in different places.

Outsourcing is the order of the day, and the global economy sees outsourcing as the best option in place of full-fledged engagements, as performance outshines merits in such cases.

Across the world, game-changing mercenary outfits like Blackwater/Xe and the Wagner Group are all playing the role of security agencies at a large scale, giving strength to the idea of outsourcing a thriving business. The subject is quite interesting to read.

Historically, the East India Company was the first quasi-mercenary business outfit that slowly occupied the Subcontinent on behalf of Great Britain at that time. The company occupied the land of the golden sparrow on earth and grabbed everything – right from minerals to gold and silver – for the colonial power.

That was the time when the modern and refined concept of mercenaries did not exist, but the company was all out to help transport the wealth of India to greatly benefit the parent empire – Great Britain. Now we see a lot of mercenary business activities, expanding in the world to help save states’ resources as part of the larger concept of a business proposition.

Military contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan fetched millions of dollars for successful operations through mercenaries. Wars in Syria, Libya and Haiti have also been fought through mercenary contractors to get things done. It is believed that the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise in 2021 was, in fact, the task of such contractors.

The hired-gun bonanza with all its pomp and show has been all over the world, owing to the availability of mercenary labour working for contractors in the field.

The Wagner Group – or forces – has been reportedly undertaking a lot of tough operations in Ukraine, providing relief to the Russian army from direct, high-risk operations since the start of the war. Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin was a successful businessman as long as he remained loyal to Russian President Vladmir Putin.

The Wagner forces have reportedly carried out operations in Africa as well on behalf of their boss. The Wagner chief died in August this year in an air crash, a few months after his mutiny against the Russian president. No one knows the exact reason for the air accident, but there are speculations that his rebellious act might have led to this tragedy.

There are also reports that the mercenary operations started under the Wagner Group are being halted by the Russian president, and contracts are being suspended. Operations in Africa, led by the group, are also under the scrutiny of the Russian army apparently to cancel them. Financial losses incurred to mercenary groups like Blackwater and Wagner contractors in such eventuality are huge.

These groups thrive on conflicts arising out of any misunderstanding between two states or measures undertaken by world powers to secure their interests at the international level. Thousands of security or mercenary workers earn handsome incomes out of conflicts like the ones in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq or the Ukraine conflict.

Africa has been another niche or field of mercenary contractors earning millions of dollars owing to northern and sub-Saharan African conflicts. Reportedly, the Nigerian government hired mercenaries from southern Africa and ex-Soviet republics to combat Boko Haram in 2015. The same happened in Guinea in 2004.

Forces like Blackwater and the Wagner Group have a field day in such eventualities and their businesses thrive in these regional conflicts. Mercenary businesses grow owing to emerging conflict markets in the world. Poor countries with abundant rich natural resources with a long history of conflicts usually provide opportunities to mercenary groups to win over huge contracts of fighting illicit wars on behalf of the contracting states. That is how a big thriving mercenary business has evolved in the world.

This business is not limited to mercenary groups providing military units. These groups are now spreading their businesses through AI-based propaganda machinery to win wars. They skilfully expand their support base in favour of their contracting states.

The business techniques of mercenary outfits regarding their expansion are quite innovative. If reports are to be believed, the late Wagner chief earned about $250 million out of this internet-based business techniques in the recent Russian war against Ukraine to help secure support for Russia in the conflict.

Erik Prince of Blackwater once proposed to hand over the entire security of Afghanistan to his firm to extract rare minerals from conflict zones. So long as conflict zones are there, the mercenaries’ businesses will keep booming.

The new cold war will be dependent upon mercenaries or quasi-mercenary forces to win it. These people are all there for businesses, whether in peace or in war – in peace through peace groups and in wars through mercenary groups. But it is also a fact that as long as mercenary businesses are thriving in the world, wars in conflict zones will keep soaring.

Hassan Baig, "The world of mercenaries," The News. 2023-09-21.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Ukraine conflict , Businesses , President Putin , Yevgeny Prigozhin , Russia , Afghanistan