While U.S. military forces have left Iraq and are winding
down in Afghanistan, private military and security contractors
still maintain a strong presence in the Middle East.
In Afghanistan, there are more contractors than U.S. troops
according to the most recent quarterly contractor census
report issued by the U.S. Central Command. There were
approximately 137,000 contractors working for the Pentagon in
the region that covers Iraq, Afghanistan and 18 other
countries from Egypt to Kazakhstan. In Afghanistan, there were
113,376 contractors and Iraq had 7,336, with 40,110 who were
U.S. citizens, 50,560 local hires, and 46,231 from neither the
U.S. nor the country where they were working.
Yet the report does not include contractors from the U.S.
State Department, which is approximately 13,500, according to
the CENTCOM report.
DOD data reveals that from FY2008 to FY2011, contractors in
Iraq and Afghanistan represented 52 percent of the total
force, averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000 uniformed
personnel, said Moshe Schwartz, a defense expert at the
Congressional Research Service, at a congressional hearing
last month, as reported by Time.
Over the last five fiscal years, DOD obligations for
contracts performed just in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of
operation ($132 billion) exceeded total contract obligations
of any other U.S. federal agency.
“Contractors can provide significant operational benefits
to DOD, including freeing up uniformed personnel to conduct
combat operations; providing expertise in specialized fields,
such as linguistics or weapon maintenance; and providing a
surge capability, quickly delivering critical support
capabilities tailored to specific military needs,” Schwartz
said. “Because contractors can be hired when a particular need
arises and let go when their services are no longer needed, in
some circumstances, hiring contractors can be cheaper in the
long run than maintaining a permanent in-house