A US Congressional report shows that From FY2007 to FY2016, obligations for all DOD-funded contracts performed with in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation totaled approximately $249 billion in FY2017 dollars.
For the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, CENTCOM reported 42,592 contractor personnel working for DOD within its area of responsibility, which included 28,189 individuals located in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the end of the Obama administration contractors outnumbered US soldiers in Afghanistan by 3 to 1. For the fourth quarter of FY2016, DOD reported 3,053 private security contractors in Afghanistan, with 813 categorized as armed private security contractors. DOD reported 239 security contractor personnel in Iraq during the same period, none of whom were identified as armed private security contractors. Private security contractors peaked in Afghanistan in 2012 at more than 28,000 and in Iraq in 2009 at more than 15,000.
In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Erik Prince (who founded Blackwater – famous mercenary operation) laid out a plan whereby the fighting force would be led by an American viceroy who would report directly to Trump. Modeled after General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled Japan after World War II, the viceroy would consolidate all American power in a single person. His mission: Do whatever it takes to pacify Afghanistan.
The idea appears to be gaining traction in Washington. Bannon recently went to the Pentagon to push for it, and others in the private military industry are lobbying in support.
Countries around the world are increasingly turning to private military solutions to solve their problems, all in the shadows. Two years ago, Nigeria secretly hired mercenaries after a six-year struggle against Boko Haram, a jihadi terrorist group. They showed up with attack helicopters and special forces teams, and accomplished in weeks what the Nigerian military alone could not: Push Boko Haram out of much of the territory it held in Nigeria. Some quietly wonder if the same thing could be done against the Islamic State or al Shabaab.
Nigeria is not unique. Russia, the Emirates, Uganda and even terrorist groups, hire private fighters to wage secret wars everywhere. Ships enlist them as “embarked security” to fight pirates. There are even private cyber warriors, called “hack back companies,” who hunt hackers that attack their clients. In some ways, the Trump administration is just making this furtive trend fully apparent, a final stroke and affirmation of what has been building for nearly two decades now.
The privatization of war is already underway. Denial is not a strategy to manage this growing problem.