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U.S. Increasing Use of Private Contractors in War Zone

In Iraq, armed contractors are increasing as US troops “drawdown.” In Afghanistan, the increases are across the board.

by Jeremy Scahill

The Department of Defense has released an updated census of Pentagon contractors deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and CENTCOM's area of operations. The overall number of contractors in the third quarter of 2009 increased slightly from 243,000 to 244,000, which means that private forces continue to constitute about half of the total US force deployed in these two wars.

Two other statistics jump out. First, in Iraq, the DoD reports that there was "a 19 % increase (from 10,743 to 13,232) of armed DoD PSCs in Iraq compared to the 2nd quarter FY 2009 census." The DoD says the "increase can be attributed to an increased need for PSCs to provide security as the military begins to drawdown forces and to our continued improved ability to account for subcontractors who are providing security services." In other words, less soldiers means more mercenaries in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, there continue to be more private contractors than US soldiers. There was "a 20% increase (from 4,111 to 5,165) of armed DoD PSCs in Afghanistan compared to the 1st quarter FY 2009 census," according to the DoD.  That increase is, predictably, linked to the overall "build up of forces" in Afghanistan.

In neither Iraq, nor Afghanistan, do these numbers include the armed contractors working for the US Department of State or for private entities or individuals. That means that the Blackwater, DynCorp and Triple Canopy forces working for the State Department are not included in this count. Nor are those who work for the CIA or other covert US agencies. In other words, these statistics are a conservative estimate of the total number of private armed personnel on the US payroll in these countries.

In Iraq, there has been an overall 10% decrease in the total number of private contractors- there are now 119,706. According to DoD this is "due to ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq." Interestingly, there has been an increase in the overall number of contractors in Afghanistan- "a 9% increase (from 68K to 74K) in contractor personnel in Afghanistan." Kuwait has also seen a "significant" increase in US contractor personnel. The report was prepared by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Program Support.

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