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ArmorGroup To Broaden Afghan Training Operations Print
By DAVID PUGLIESE, ANJUMAN BASE, Afghanistan - 11.6.2007

One of the biggest private military firms working in Afghanistan plans to expand its operations and infrastructure here so it can offer training and security accreditation to Afghan guards, and eventually to Afghan government personnel.
ArmorGroup Ltd., which has constructed a secure, state-of-the-art facility on the outskirts of Kabul, recently won contracts to provide security services to the U.S. Embassy and has had its contract to provide security for British government personnel and offices here renewed.

The British-based company is in the first year of a 10-year business plan for Afghanistan that will see the construction of training facilities and the expansion of the services it offers, company officials said. Growth areas include the provision of security for NATO and coalition convoys, particularly those operating in the southern portion of the country, as well as land mine clearance.
But Alex Brown, ArmorGroup’s director of operations here, said the firm also intends to offer its training courses to Afghans who want to work as security professionals as well as Afghanistan government employees.
 
“What we want is to get into a higher volume of training as well as offer accreditation for those security skills,” Brown said. “The market will be the new generation of Afghan police.”
The Afghan National Police force is scheduled to expand from its current size of about 52,000 people to 82,000 by 2008. At this point, training for the force is handled by troops from NATO nations.
The international community has also pledged around $10.5 billion over the next five years to assist with reconstruction and to improve security, a commitment that Brown said will help fuel the growing market for private security services in Afghanistan.
 
He noted that there are a large number of security contractors operating in the country who are unregulated and lack the proper training.
 
“The Afghan government is worried about the number of Afghan-armed people who are not regulated,” Brown explained. “We could offer credible training at a good training site.”
Peter Hornett, the firm’s country operations manager, said ArmorGroup intends to have a long-term presence in Afghanistan. It began operating in the country in 2003.
 
ArmorGroup has spent $4 million to build a fairly comprehensive infrastructure across the country at several locations, with Anjuman Base being its main facility.
 
Anjuman can accommodate 300 visitors and has a 24-hour operations center, a medical clinic, gymnasium, training classrooms, off-road driving track and a close-quarter battle training house. It was the first commercial security base built in Afghanistan, company officials said.
“This facility is the only one of its kind in Afghanistan,” Hornett said. “Other companies have training but they don’t have such a centralized facility.”
 
ArmorGroup moved into the base in March 2006 and has rapidly expanded the site since then, Hornett added.
Plans include the construction of a firing range and more housing for clients. Hornett said additional training facilities are also planned, including the construction of a mock police station, cells and checkpoints.
Such training systems could be used in the accreditation of Afghan security contractors, Hornett said.
Much of the growth is being fueled by ArmorGroup’s win of two major contracts in Afghanistan. In April, the firm announced that its subsidiary, ArmorGroup North America, McLean, Va., had been awarded a contract to provide security services to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The contract is worth up to $189 million and is expected to run for five years.
 
The contract includes the provision of guards, mainly former Gurkha soldiers and Afghan personnel, for protecting personnel and assets at the Embassy and other facilities in Kabul. Also included is support for other facilities, including catering and laundry services. The firm also will provide explosive-detection dogs and handlers to improve access point and perimeter protection.
ArmorGroup already has about 600 personnel in Afghanistan. With the new contract, the firm expects to add another 400.
 
Also in April, ArmorGroup signed an extension of its contract with the U.K. government to provide security services to the British Embassy here as well as guard its various offices and personnel in Afghanistan. That contract is worth $39 million annually and is expected to run for three years.
In addition, ArmorGroup has a $1 million contract to provide police mentors in the country’s volatile Helmand province, where major fighting between coalition forces and the Taliban occurred earlier this year. ArmorGroup is using former British police officers for those roles.
 
Hornett said the various contracts have been good for furthering the firm’s reputation, and its name is now at the forefront of professional security in Afghanistan.
ArmorGroup’s main competitors in Afghanistan, Blackwater USA, Moyock, N.C., and MPRI, Alexandria, Va., did not respond to requests to discuss their operations in the country.
ArmorGroup has six major training centers around the world, including the Afghan site, which are supplemented by mobile training teams. In total, it has about 100 instructors who deliver 50 separate courses to more than 7,000 students a year.
 
ArmorGroup’s clients include the U.S. Department of Defense, the State Department, United Kingdom government agencies and commercial clients. In total, the firm has operations in 38 countries with about 9,000 employees.
 
Hornett said the company is at the forefront of using long-term salaried employees instead of providing short-term contracts common in the private security industry. Such employees include both Afghans and expatriates, who receive health care benefits and insurance. “You get as good a career path as you can in this industry,” Hornett added. •
 
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