Higher Hired Guns

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Soldiers aren’t the only thing surging in Afghanistan. There are now 18,919 hired guns — aka “private security contractor personnel” — working for the U.S. military in that country, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. “The number of PSC personnel in Afghanistan has more than tripled since June 2009,” says the report, released by the Federation of American Scientists (the CRS works for Congress, and its reports aren’t officially released, leaving it up to groups like FAS to make sure the folks paying for them get to read them). A contractor working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan, the study notes, is nearly three times more likely to be killed than a soldier.

Analysts calling for restrictions on the use of PSCs generally believe that contractors are more likely to commit abuses or other atrocities than military personnel. Some analysts believe that the culture of the military, which is focused on mission success and not on profit or contractual considerations, makes it less likely that uniformed personnel will behave inappropriately. Some analysts and DOD officials believe that lax contractor oversight has significantly contributed to contractor abuses.

…notes the report. “We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors,” Sen. Barack Obama said in 2007, a year before he was elected commander-in-chief, from where he has overseen a tripling in their ranks in Afghanistan.