In this way, the Pentagon and the Afghan government could circumvent the terms of the agreement that the United States has reached with the Taliban, which means that the Americans will no longer have private contractors in the country after the withdrawal. Like CIA employees, contractors can be nowhere to be found, and they exist countless times while supporting the military with logistical roles such as transportation. Some have darker roles in the shadow world of dark proxy operations and mercenaries. Others are helping to exploit billions of dollars of U.S. equipment and heavy weapons within the Afghan military: contractors take care of all the maintenance of the Black Hawk helicopters and C-130 cargo planes made in the United States by the Afghan Air Force. Air traffic controllers at the country`s airports are international entrepreneurs, Watkins said, with no organic local labor pool of Afghans trained for the work they can tap into. “Most entrepreneurs will leave, and certainly the United States. The contractors will leave,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on April 20. He gave no details and later in the week, at a Pentagon press conference, he said: “American entrepreneurs will come out when we come out. That is part of the planned withdrawal that we have right now. In addition to maintaining airports and bases, equipment and aircraft, the army and contractors rely on a force of Afghan contractors and premises for workers, such as cooks, laundry staff, drivers and translators – employees who will be most financially affected by the withdrawal.
At the height of the war, it was estimated that more than 12,000 Afghans were working in Bagram. Today, there are still about 1,700. “After four years as a translator, I fear being fired. We are all worried. We`ve seen this before, and in what seemed like a day, hundreds of us left the bases for the last time,” says an Afghan entrepreneur who works in Bagram. “I was lucky, but I`m not betting on keeping my job this time. Maybe I`ve already seen my last paycheck. We are all preparing for the worst. These entrepreneurs have done their job. Troops were fed and housed, vehicles were maintained and supplies were delivered.
Even the highly critical Commission on Wartime Contracting acknowledged: “In general, entrepreneurs have performed well in supporting defence, diplomacy and development objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan.” U.S. entrepreneurs are envisioning a tight deadline — with very little direction — to leave Afghanistan through President Joe Biden`s planned troop withdrawal on Sept. 11. Right now, emotions are high in Afghanistan and people want someone to be responsible for the horrific images we see every night. It is a human reaction. But blaming entrepreneurs, many of whom have spent years of their lives avoiding this kind of catastrophe, is neither fair nor just. The Department of Defense employs 16,832 workers employed by contractors in Afghanistan, 6,147 of whom are U.S. citizens. That`s more than double the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops. Entrepreneurs support the military with everything from accommodation, laundry and food to transportation, equipment maintenance and fuel. Since 2002, the Pentagon has spent $107.9 billion on contract services in Afghanistan, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg administration.
The departure of the contractors was largely ignored as the focus was on when Biden would withdraw the military, Sopko said at a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But negative incidents, while real and serious, are the exception. The truth is that the armed forces in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) could not have functioned without the services provided. And the entrepreneurs performed well: they supported the troops during the long years of war in Afghanistan and remained under fire until the final collapse. As the wars in the Middle East draw to a close, the achievements and sacrifices of these entrepreneurs deserve to be recognized. As a result, operational or battlefield contractors have significantly outperformed military personnel in the CENTCOM region (43,800 contractors for 15,000 military personnel as of October 2020). In Afghanistan, the ratio of contractors to military personnel went from 1:1 in 2010-2011 to 3:1 at the end. “The [Afghan army] could still conduct operations without subcontractors – they could fight, maneuver, shoot, all bases. But without the ISR [reconnaissance, surveillance and reconnaissance] safety net and air support, many Afghan soldiers did not want to confront the Taliban.
About 7,000 military personnel died in all conflicts after 9/11, but nearly 8,000 entrepreneurs, according to another study on the cost of war. Contractors continued to advise Afghan troops via video, but former officials said it was no substitute for working with them. This demand could be met by the billion-dollar industry of private military contractors, as they are not considered “boots on the ground,” but offer the same level and range of capabilities – all at much lower political costs and with a dose of secrecy. The boundaries that distinguish these entrepreneurs from mercenaries are blurred: while private military contractors are considered legal, mercenaries are prohibited by international and American law, which caused problems for Prince when it was determined that he was training and training private armies in Iraq and Libya and intended to privatize the war in Afghanistan. It is important to remember that while armed entrepreneurs stimulated the public`s imagination, the vast majority of entrepreneurs performed administrative and logistical tasks. In January, before the final withdrawal began, U.S. Central Command reported 22,900 contractors in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The largest group performed logistics and maintenance tasks (8,100), followed by those providing basic support (3,200). The security forces numbered 3,000, of which 1,575 – just under 7 percent of all contractors – were armed private security forces, the group most scrutinized for walking with weapons off the wire. In recent weeks, it has been hoped that the United States could leave contractors in the country to get the air force, according to a senior Afghan official who recently spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity.
And Kabul also hoped to turn the young militias that had sprung up in the Afghan countryside into vigilant peacekeeping forces to prevent the movement from spreading. Dealing with contractors is just one of the many pressing problems created by the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops. The CIA is struggling to ensure that it can gather information about potential threats from Afghanistan once the U.S. military presence is over. Military analysts trying to understand the staggering collapse of the Afghan military increasingly point to the departure of contractors from the US government, which began a month ago, as one of the most important turning points. When U.S. contractors withdrew with U.S. troops this spring and summer, taking with them their knowledge of the maintenance of U.S.-supplied aircraft, Afghan leaders complained bitterly to the U.S. that they had deprived them of a significant advantage over the Taliban. One such company is Triple Canopy, which is owned by Constellis, a company that also owns Academi, the recent iteration of Erik Prince`s famous private and military entrepreneurs, Blackwater. Triple Canopy hires armed guards in Bagram to ensure the safety of remaining U.S.
personnel at four locations across the country. Raytheon Technologies writes positions as a logistics and intelligence analyst at Bagram. Both CACI and BAE Systems have announced jobs for signals intelligence specialists for an estimated 12 months. SOSi has released open positions for intelligence analysts for one-year deployments where “the work environment could take up 100% of the time spent outdoors.” PAE, Inc., which has four-year contracts worth nearly a billion dollars with the Pentagon, is hiring for a contract for the State Department. Fluor Corporation hires technicians who work for both the U.S. and the private sector. Louis Berger, which built and maintained the nation`s largest power plant in Bagram, is hiring more than 20 new jobs at the base. “It`s the same situation that affects foreign entrepreneurs around the world, people who have little understanding of where they`re going, and very uncertain relationships once they arrive to determine their legal status and movements,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. .