Despite the wars in the Middle East showing no signs of slowing down, what is beginning to wane is the US government’s reliance on contractors to help. The Defense Department is using thousands of fewer military contractors in the early days of the Trump administration than at the end of the Obama presidency.
Whether or not the numbers stay low under a Trump administration remains to be seen. At least early in his presidency, he’s been much less restrictive about deploying conventional troops to the fray and then recently deployed 400 more Rangers and Marines to Syria where 1000 contractors now work along with 1000 Special Operations Forces.
More than 42,000 private contractors, including translators, administrators as well as security personnel, are currently operating in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, down from 45,500 in the waning days of the Obama administration, according to the latest quarterly report released this week. The bulk – almost 25,000 – are in Afghanistan compared to more than 26,000 in January, amid roughly 8,500 American troops there.
About 3,800 contractors are in Iraq contributing to the ongoing war against the Islamic State group, 200 more than in the last report, working with the roughly 5,000 uniformed personnel there.
The remaining 13,500, down from 16,000, are in other undisclosed locations in the Middle East, likely on major facilities the U.S. uses such as al-Udeid air base in Qatar from which it launches some of its heavier aircraft for operations in the region.
However, while the number of logistical support contractors has dropped in Afghanistan, the number of security contractors has risen from 3400 to 4000 since January.
In Syria, some security contractors protecting logistical support members double as intelligence gathers for US government agencies, lending support where they may not have as much manpower. Some members of Congress want to see that stopped.
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Photo courtesy The Economist