Canadian Security Magazine

Private security, Kandahar style

Jennifer Brown   

Features Opinion

Think you have a hard time finding good people for your guard force? You may look at your people and the relationship you have with public police differently if you consider the challenge Major Chuck Bamlett faced when he went to Afghanistan as a member of the military police.

Not only was he sent to help bridge the communication gap between the
Afghan Army and Police, but also to train local citizens in private
security. He also had to trust them to protect him in while stationed
in Kandahar City.

Bamlett spoke Nov. 25 (see photo page 8) at the monthly CSIS meeting on
the topic of Security and Culture in Afghanistan. The 30-year civilian
police officer and army reservist is currently on active duty at CFB
Borden. He has more than 40 years of military experience and just
returned from an eight-month tour in Afghanistan where he witnessed the
use of private security and assisted in the training of local private
security officers responsible for protecting him while he slept.

In some cases, Bamlett said they couldn’t completely trust the people
guarding them because they often “belonged to the same group trying to
kill us.”

To qualify to be a private security guard in Kandahar, individuals
simply had to be male, over 18 years of age — no background check here
— and preferably have their own weapon. The pay? Between $120 and $200
a month, but take into consideration that they might pocket about half
of that for themselves after paying off various people for protection.


It’s a job that’s dangerous and not well supported.

Bamlett listed several hazards of being a private security guard in
Afghanistan. It’s a wonder anyone signs up for the job, except of
course that there are few opportunities for Afghan citizens to earn
money legitimately.

According to Bamlett, a private security guard could be kidnapped,
tortured, killed or injured in the line of duty. Their family members
could also be kidnapped or killed. They also face blackmail and
intimidation and are offered bribes.

Often, guards hired to provide private security have never held a gun
before, let alone fired one. They also don’t have proper uniforms or
proper clothing for the elements. Bamlett showed photographs of guards
wearing open-toed sandals or faded camo uniforms they obtained from
American solders from two or three years ago. The odd one might have
obtained a protective vest, but few were actually of any quality to
actually protect them sufficiently and helmets were almost non-existent.

Bamlett also had the task of trying to boost communication between the
Afghan police and the Afghan army. He also worked in an Emergency
Coordination Centre in downtown Kandahar City mentoring the Afghan
Police and Afghan Army. His team was the link between coalition forces
and the Governor of the Kandahar Province.

Reflecting back on his time in Kandahar, Bamlett said he feels “slow
progress” is being made. But in a country where a culture of corruption
is so ingrained,  it will take a lot of effort to improve the
relationships between public and private security and the army, all
while the country and the coalition forces fight back against the

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