The US Department of Defense has 19 per cent more contractor personnel (207, 600) in Iraq and Afghanistan than uniformed personnel (175,000), according to a recent report from the US Congressional Research Service.
The impact of such huge numbers of contractors on military doctrine, not to mention the difficulty of managing them, are problems that have still not been solved. "These efforts are still in progress and could take three years or more to effectively implement," says the report.
The figures for Afghanistan show that in March this year there were 112,092 contractors working for the DoD. Of these, 16,081 were US citizens and 17,512 were third-country nationals. The rest, 78,499, were Afghan nationals. The DoD uses significantly more local nationals in Afghanistan than US citizens and third-country citizens combined. More of this kind of stuff can be found here.
And you might want to look here where a CRS report published last week discusses US Special Operations Forces (SOF). In relation to Afghanistan, the report notes the change of command of SOF in March from the Special Operations Command-Central to the Commander of ISAF, then General Stanley McChrystal. The report notes this probably happened because of a lack of unity of command, combined with criticism of a large number of civilian casualties resulting from SOF night missions.
The report's author does not know whether General David Petraeus will stick with the same policy, which has been severely criticised within the US military hierarchy.
US military officials have said that SOF raids have killed or captured 186 insurgent leaders and detained an additional 925 lower-level insurgents in the past 110 days. The raids have been particularly effective around Kandahar, they say, where there are "indications that IED attacks have decreased and that Taliban control appears to be weakening". It really does say this.
The report goes on "Senior NATO officials note that intelligence suggests that SOF missions aimed at provincial insurgent leaders have compelled some Taliban leaders to begin internal discussions about accepting the Karzai government’s offer of reconciliation. It has also been reported that a number of insurgent leaders have left their bases in Afghanistan to seek sanctuary in Pakistan because of the raids."
Officials also say that in 80 per cent of these raids no shots are fired. SOF units have been carrying out five raids a day against a "constantly updated list of high-value targets."
The same report also provides some interesting information on the US Village Stabilisation Program, which is set to be rolled out in 23 rural areas where regular forces cannot operate.
This militia programme will see local Afghan police chiefs in charge of the armed groups, watched over - hopefully - by US Special Forces Operational Detachment - Alphas (ODAs). To ensure that the militias do not turn on the Karzai government and its US allies, the report suggests that US army instructors do not provide the militias with tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by US and NATO forces. Hmmm. The Taliban seems to be doing well enough without being taught the finer points of soldiering.