NEW STRATEGIC FORUM: Private Contractors in Conflict Zones
"Private Contractors in Conlflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact."
Strategic Forum # 260 October, 2010
By T.X. Hammes, PhD
"There has been very little investigation by the U.S. Government into the strategic impact of contractors. Yet contractors reduce the political capital necessary to commit U.S. forces to war, impact the legitimacy of a counterinsurgency effort, and reduce its perceived morality. These factors attack the Nation's critical vulnerability in an irregular war - the political will of the American people." - SF 260
The United States has hired record numbers of contractors to serve in the conflict zones of Iraq and Afghanistan but has not seriously examined their strategic impact. There are clearly advantages to using contractors in conflict zones, but they have three inherent characteristics that have srious negative effects during counterinsurgency operations.
As of March 31, 2010, the United States deployed 175,000 troops and 207,000 contractors in the war zones. Contractors represented 50 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) workforce in Iraq and 59 percent in Afghanistan. These numbers include both armed and unarmed contractors. The presence of contractors on the battlefield is obviously not a new phenomenon but has dramatically increased from the ratio of 1 contractor to 55 military personnel in Vietnam to 1:1 in the Iraq and 1.43:1 in Afghanistan.
In this new Strategic Forum, Dr. T.X. Hammes explores the question "Does using contractors in a conflict zone make strategic sense?"
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