Tuesday 8 March 2011

Record number of security contractors in Afghanistan

As of December the number of private security contractors (PSCs) working in Afghanistan had reached 18,919 - the highest recorded number of PSCs used by the Department of Defense in any conflict in the history of the United States. Locals made up 95 per cent of all security personnel, with around 250 Americans and 731 from other nationalities, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.
The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress  says that from December 2008 to December 2010 the number of PSCs increased from 3,689 to 18,919, an increase of over 400%. The reason for this, says the DoD, is the increased operational tempo and efforts to stabilise and develop new and existing forward operating bases. During the same period troop levels increased by around 200%.
Despite totalling about 20% of the total number of troops, casualty rates for PSCs are higher than expected. From June 2009 to November 2010, 319 private security contractor personnel working for DOD were killed in action in Afghanistan, compared to 626 US troops killed in action over the same period. Adjusting for the difference in the number of PSC personnel compared to troops, a PSC employee working for DOD in Afghanistan is 2.75 times more likely to be killed in action than uniformed personnel.
The report examines the problem of contractors firing on civilians and also the practice of paying off the Taliban to secure safe passage of convoys and ends with suggestions for restricting the role that can be played by PSCs, none of which are likely ever to see the light of day.  

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