Up to half of the $ 14 trillion spent by the U.S. Department of Defense since the September 11, 2001 attacks, defense contractors have pursued for profit, a new report from the Costs of War project at Brown University and the Center for International Policy found.
And while much of the money has gone to arms suppliers, Monday’s report is the latest to point to U.S. dependence on contractor duties in the warzone, contributing particularly to failures in Afghanistan in particular. The newspaper has the title, Profits of War: Corporate Beneficiaries of the Post-9/11 Pentagon Spending Surge.
In the post-September 11 wars, U.S. corporations contracted by the Department of Defense not only handled logistics in the warzone, such as managing fuel convoys and chowline personnel. Taliban marched through the country.
Within weeks, and even before the U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban easily sent an Afghan government and army that spent 20 years and billions of dollars on Americans to stand up.
President Joe Biden blamed the Afghans themselves.
“We gave them every chance,” he said last month. “What we could not give them was the will to fight.”
But William Hartung, the newspaper’s author, and others said it was imperative that Americans investigate the role that dependence on private contractors played in the post-9/11 wars.
In Afghanistan, this has included contractors allegedly paying protection money to warlords and the Taliban themselves, and the Ministry of Defense has insisted on equipping the Afghan air force with complex Blackhawk helicopters and other aircraft little known to US contractors. to maintain it.
“If it were just the money, it would be outrageous enough,” Hartung, director of the weapons and security program at the Center for International Policy, said of cases where the Pentagon’s confidence in contractors was falling. “But the fact that it undermines the mission and endangers troops is even more outrageous.”
Earlier this year, before Biden began the final US withdrawal from Afghanistan, there were far more contractors in Afghanistan, as well as in Iraq, than US troops.
In the U.S., about 7,000 military members died in all conflicts after 9/11, and nearly 8,000 contractors, according to another Cost of War study.
The Board of Professional Services, an organization representing businesses that contract with the government, cited a lower figure from the U.S. Department of Labor and said nearly 4,000 federal contractors have died since 2001.
A spokesman for the organization’s president, David J Berteau, said in a statement last month: ‘Government contractors have been providing wide and essential support to US and allied forces, for the Afghan army and other elements of the Afghan government, for nearly two decades. and for humanitarian and economic development assistance. ”
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. officials embraced private contractors as an essential part of the U.S. military response.
It started with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton. According to the study, Halliburton received more than $ 30 billion to help build and manage bases, feed troops and perform other work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cheney and defense contractors argued that an accelerator of the U.S. military would provide for the accelerator of the U.S. military, but also more efficient and more cost-effective when working on private contractors for work that service members had done in previous wars.
By 2010, Pentagon spending had risen by more than a third as the U.S. waged double wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a post-9/11 American, politicians fought to show support for the military in a country that is much more security-conscious.
“Any congressman who does not vote for the money we need to defend this country will look for a new job after next November,” the study noted, Harry Stonecipher, then Boeing’s vice president, told The Wall Street Journal month after the attacks.
And up to a third of Pentagon contracts went to only five arms suppliers. In the past fiscal year, for example, the money Lockheed Martin received from Pentagon contracts alone was one and a half times the entire budget of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to the study.
The Pentagon has pumped out more contracts than it could oversee, lawmakers and government special investigators said.
For example, a Republican Party official in Florida earned millions for violating legislation because the U.S. granted a one-time contract for fuel convoys from Jordan to Iraq, the study noted.
The electricity of at least 18 servants through bad wiring in bases in Iraq, some of which blamed contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root, was another case where government investigations point to sloppy logistics and reconstruction.
The astonishing Taliban victory in Afghanistan last month now draws attention to even worse consequences: the extent to which US confidence in contractors may have increased the problems of the Afghan security forces.
Jodi Vittori, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel and scholar of corruption and fragile states at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was not involved in the study, points to American insistence that the Afghan air force use American helicopters as an example.
Afghans prefer Russian helicopters, which were easier to fly, can be maintained by Afghans and are suitable for robust Afghanistan. So when U.S. contractors pulled out with U.S. troops this year because they took note of how to maintain US-supplied aircraft with them, top Afghan leaders bitterly complained to the U.S. that it was a significant advantage to them above the Taliban.
Hartung, like others, also pointed to the corruption caused by the billions of loose dollars that the US threw into Afghanistan as a central reason why the US-backed US government lost support and that Afghan fighters lost morale.
Hillary Clinton, while his Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, has accused endangered defense contractors in accused areas of paying out armed groups, making protection money one of the Taliban’s biggest sources of funding.
The US has also relied in part on defense contractors to carry out one of the most important tasks in its hopes of success in Afghanistan – to set up and train an Afghan army and other security forces that can fight armed groups. standing, including the Taliban.
Vittori said it was Afghan commandos who were continuously trained by US special forces and others who carried out most of the fighting against the Taliban last month.
By relying less on private contractors, and more on the U.S. military than in previous wars, the U.S. may have been given a better chance of victory in Afghanistan, Vittori noted.
She said this would have meant that US presidents would accept the political risks of sending more US troops to Afghanistan and getting more body bags of US troops back.
“By using contractors, America was able to wage a war that many Americans forgot we were fighting,” Vittori said.