Friday, December 25, 2009

A Dangerous U.S. Dependency on Shady Afghan Private Contractors

With the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, a surge of Afghan private troops is sure to follow. According to the Defense Department, the current number of contractors in Afghanistan (most of whom are Afghans) stands at 104,100. In December, a report by the Congressional Research Service projects that the overall number of contractors in Afghanistan could swell to 160,000. These contractors will be hired to work at U.S. bases, guard U.S. installations, and participate in expanded U.S. training programs.

Unfortunately, according a report released in the Army Times, these private security guards are "trigger-happy" and are "killing civilians and undercutting counterinsurgency efforts." According to a U.S. officer in the area, Capt. Casey Thoreen, the heavily armed guards are like "gun-toting mercenaries with probably not a whole lot of training" and are "light on the trigger-finger." The Afghan district chief has said that most of them are "heroin addicts armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles".

Citing the district's senior Afghan intelligence representative, the Army Times reports that on one particular road, Highway 1 in Afghanistan, where vehicles ferry supplies to coalition bases, "more than 30 civilians have been wounded or killed in the past four years by the private guards tasked with protecting the convoys."

Since locals associate these contractors with the coalition, their reckless behavior is not only morally unacceptable, but it is also contributing to the occupying forces' staggering unpopularity in the region. Ultimately, these are the factors that are lining this war up to amount to a military disaster.

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