05 February 2015

Privatizing the Afghan War

Feasible Exit Strategy or Prescription for Perpetual War?

President Obama told Congress and the American people in his SoU address that the American combat mission in Afghanistan is over, but as the attached report shows, that claim is a bit disingenuous, to put it charitably.  

To be sure, the military presence has been reduced, and only 9,800 troops remain in Afghanistan. However, in response to a question posed during his confirmation hearing, the incoming Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, already indicated a willingness to slow down or possibility reverse the ongoing drawdown, should security conditions “degrade."  

As the attached report in The Nation by Tom Shorrock indicates, there is a ample potential for security conditions to degrade.  Almost 40,000 private contractors remain in Afghanistan.  These contractors have a twofold mission:  

First, they will train, support, and assist the Afghan security forces in its anti-Taliban and anti-drug operations.  The United States has already poured over $65 billion into this project with limited results and much corruption.  

Second, the contractors will run an un-auditable program known as Business Stability Operations, which is aimed at convincing private investors to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth (how such an exploitation will be interpreted by distrustful Afghans is an open question: but given the levels of corruption to date, a worst case assumption would be prudent).  

In short, these contractors will be lucrative targets for xenophobic Afghan guerrillas.

Readers longing for a little light at the end of the Afghan tunnel should also remember that the Obama Administration signed a bilateral security agreement that allows US troops to remain in Afghanistan until at least 2024 — and its language does not preclude these troops from engaging in combat operations

The Afghanistan War Is Still Raging—but This Time It's Being Waged by Contractors
Tim Shorrock, The Nation, February 4, 2015 - 11:05AM ET

The killing of three US Pentagon contractors at the hands of a uniformed Afghani Army soldier in Kabul last week casts considerable doubt on President Obama's recent proclamation that America's "combat mission in Afghanistan is over."
The US-trained Afghani security forces have now "taken the lead" in the 14-year-old war, Mr. Obama told Congress in his State of the Union address on January 20.
But after digging into the contractors involved and the circumstances behind their untimely deaths, it's apparent that the US-led war against the Taliban is still in full swing, and that Americans—along with many Afghans—will continue to die.  (continued)