Ulrich Petersohn, who lectures in international politics at the University of Liverpool, has published a number of books and studies on privatized military forces and intervention.
In an essay for the Conversation website, he argued that using soldiers for hire to fight IS should be avoided. This despite a number of major mercenary firms, including Academi (formerly known as Blackwater), looking to cash in on the conflict.
He warned that, although mercenary interventions in places like Sierra Leone by the now-defunct Executive Outcomes group are still seen as success stories, this was because there had been a clear enemy and a set of clearly defined aims.
In Syria, there is no such clarity and the war is being contested by major powers – it is not just a marginal conflict.
“Multiple regional and world powers are involved in the conflict, and they disagree on whom to support. In addition, even if a consensus could be reached, alliances between conflict parties constantly shift in this war zone,” Petersohn said.
He also warned that the capabilities of the combatants in Sierra Leone were very different.
“The rebel force Executive Outcomes faced in Sierra Leone was disorganized and poorly trained,” Petersohn said.
“IS, on the other hand, commands remarkable military experience, resources, and strategic prowess. Undoubtedly, highly qualified PMSC [private military and security company] operators would be able to take on the force, yet a quick victory would be impossible.”
The idea of using private military personnel to fight jihadi groups has been floated by a number of figures in recent years.
Among them is Simon Mann, a former SAS officer turned mercenary who was imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea after a failed coup in 2004.
Mann, who received an early release from his 34 year sentence in 2009, told the Telegraph in 2015 that privatized military may provide an answer in the fight against IS.
“I would form a kind of Arab Legion, just like the British did in the old days,” he said, adding “with the right training, probably a minimum of two months, you can turn pretty much anyone into good troops, as long as you have good officers and good NCOs.”