While Washington is pulling out its military might from Afghanistan next year, it is stepping up efforts to supply the war-torn state with plenty of military contractors, practically switching from national armed forces to mercenaries.
According to the latest census on contractors accompanying US forces performed by the Professional Overseas Contractors industry group, the US employs 110,404 people in Afghanistan, 33,444 of which are Americans. Their job classifications include everything from base support to construction and from logistics to security.
“There are already far more contractors or mercenaries in Afghanistan than there are [US] troops,” Middle East expert, Phyllis Bennis told RT.
Once US troops withdraw, it will be up to this private military to train the Afghan police and army. They will also take charge of the development and reconstruction effort. All of this is stipulated in the Afghan-American strategic partnership agreement which allows a small number of US forces to remain in the country until 2024.
Under this strategic partnership agreement the remaining troops — the number of which has not yet been made public — will remain “until the future government in Afghanistan says that they can’t,” Bennis says.
But since only a small number of US military personnel will stay, these “would likely be mainly special forces” whose only job “will be largely to kill Afghans, not to do anything else,” Bennis believes.
“We don’t know either the final number, if that’s been agreed to yet it’s being held privately, and we also don’t know the critical question of whether the Afghan government will allow those US troops to serve with immunity. That was the reason they were all pulled out of Iraq,” she added.
The military troops however may have to leave all together if the Afghan government refuses to grant them immunity, leaving US soldiers prone to prosecution.
“The Obama administration was not prepared to have US troops who might be accused of war crimes and might indeed be guilty of war crimes be sent to trial in Iraqi courts,” Bennis explained. “They may face the same decision in Afghanistan.”
In any case, experts agree, the US paid contractors will stay in Afghanistan for many years to come.