[News] US Currently Has 189, 000 Personnel in Afghanistan - Majority are Private Contractors

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 18 12:29:11 EST 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/scahill12182009.html

December 18-20, 2009


The US Currently Has 189,000 Personnel in Afghanistan


Stunning Statistics About the War That Everyone Should Know

By JEREMY SCAHILL

A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract 
Oversightsubcommittee on contracting in 
Afghanistan has highlighted some important 
statistics that provide a window into the extent 
to which the Obama administration has picked up 
the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted 
with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a 
whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total 
workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to 
military personnel in US history.” That’s not in 
one war zone­that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.

In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows 
the Bush administration out of the privatized 
water. According to a memo[PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff,

“From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 
40% increase in Defense Department contractors in 
Afghanistan. During the same period, the number 
of armed private security contractors working for 
the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, 
increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”

At present, there are 104,000 Department of 
Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to 
a report this week from the Congressional 
Research Service, as a result of the coming surge 
of 30,000 troops in 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/156858394X/counterpunchmaga>
[]
Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional 
contractors deployed. But here is another group 
of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 
State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID 
contractors. That means that the current total US 
force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 
personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 
contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And 
that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative 
estimate. A year from now, we will likely see 
more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.

The US has spent more than $23 billion on 
contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. By next 
year, the number of contractors will have doubled 
since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion 
in Afghanistan-related contracts.

Despite the massive number of contracts and 
contractors in Afghanistan, oversight is utterly 
lacking. “The increase in Afghanistan contracts 
has not seen a corresponding increase in contract 
management and oversight,” according to 
McCaskill’s briefing paper. “In May 2009, DCMA 
[Defense Contract Management Agency] Director 
Charlie Williams told the Commission on Wartime 
Contracting that as many as 362 positions for 
Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) in 
Afghanistan were currently vacant.”

A former USAID official, Michael Walsh, the 
former director of USAID’s Office of Acquisition 
and Assistance and Chief Acquisition Officer, 
told the Commission that many USAID staff are 
“administering huge awards with limited knowledge 
of or experience with the rules and regulations.” 
According to one USAID official, the agency is 
“sending too much money, too fast with too few 
people looking over how it is spent.” As a 
result, the agency does not “know 
 where the money is going.”

The Obama administration is continuing the 
Bush-era policy of hiring contractors to oversee 
contractors. According to the McCaskill memo:

In Afghanistan, USAID is relying on contractors 
to provide oversight of its large reconstruction 
and development projects. According to 
information provided to the Subcommittee, 
International Relief and Development (IRD) was 
awarded a five-year contract in 2006 to oversee 
the $1.4 billion infrastructure contract awarded 
to a joint venture of the Louis Berger Group and 
Black and Veatch Special Projects. USAID has also 
awarded a contract Checci and Company to provide 
support for contracts in Afghanistan.

The private security industry and the US 
government have pointed to the Synchronized 
Predeployment and Operational Tracker(SPOT) as 
evidence of greater government oversight of 
contractor activities. But McCaskill’s 
subcommittee found that system utterly lacking, 
stating: “The Subcommittee obtained current SPOT 
data showing that there are currently 1,123 State 
Department contractors and no USAID contractors 
working in Afghanistan.” Remember, there are 
officially 14,000 USAID contractors and the 
official monitoring and tracking system found 
none of these people and less than half of the State Department contractors.

As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says 
that the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified 
more than $950 million in questioned and 
unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department 
contracts for work in Afghanistan. That’s 16% of 
the total contract dollars reviewed.

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who 
reports frequently for the national radio and TV 
program Democracy Now, has spent extensive time 
reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is 
currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation 
Institute. Scahill is the author of 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/156858394X/counterpunchmaga>Blackwater: 
The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary 
Army.His new website is <mailto:RebelReports.com>RebelReports.com




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