My answer to How does a private security firm/defense firm/private military corporation become international and wh…
Answer by Ken Larson:
Private security companies find it extraordinarily lucrative as do the civilians that work for them.
The U.S. government can keep them low profile as the deaths of their employees are not military deaths and the company, not the government, must deal with the widows, the orphans and the financial impact. A wounded civilian contractor is not eligible for medial care.
The use of private security firms is growing worldwide.
“Washington’s reliance on unheralded private military contractors to fight its wars has mutated into a strategic vulnerability.
Since 2009, the ratio of contractors to troops in war zones has increased fromto about .
Private military contractors perform tasks once thought to be inherently governmental, such as raising foreign armies, conducting intelligence analysis and trigger-pulling. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they constituted aboutof all contractors. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Their failures have an outsized impact on U.S. strategy. When a squad of Blackwater contractors at a Bagdad traffic circle in 2007, it provoked a firestorm in and at , marking one of the nadirs of that war.
Contractors also encourage mission creep, because contractors don’t count as “boots on the ground.” Congress does not consider them to be troops, and therefore contractors do not count again troop-level caps in places like Iraq. The U.S. government does not track contractor numbers in war zones. As a result, the government can put more people on the ground than it reports to the American people, encouraging mission creep and rendering contractors virtually invisible.
For decades now, the centrality of contracting in American warfare—both on the battlefield and in support of those on the battlefield—has been growing. During World War II, aboutof America’s armed forces were contracted. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that proportion leapt to . This big number signals a disturbing trend: the United States has developed a dependency on the private sector to wage war, a strategic vulnerability. Today, America can no longer go to war without the private sector.
Why did this happen? During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, policymakers assumed a quick and easy victory. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeldin 2002, the Iraq War would take “five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When these wars did not end in mere months, the all-volunteer force found it could not recruit enough volunteers to sustain two long wars. That left policymakers with three terrible options. First, withdraw and concede the fight to the terrorists (unthinkable). Second, institute a Vietnam-like draft to fill the ranks (political suicide). Third, bring in contractors to fill the ranks. Not surprisingly, both the Bush and Obama administrations opted for contractors.
Today,of U.S. forces in Afghanistan are contracted. Only about 10 percent of these contractors are armed, but this matters not. The greater point is that America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars.
Contracting is big business, too. In the 2014 fiscal year, the Pentagon obligatedto federal contracts—more money than all other government agencies received, combined. That’s equal to 8 percent of federal spending, and three and a half Britain’s entire defense budget. About of those contracts were for services, including private military contractors.
This means that contractors are making the ultimate sacrifice. Today, moreare killed in combat than —a stunning turnaround from the start of the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, when fewer than 10 percent of casualties were contractors. By , more contractors were dying than troops. However, the real number of contractor deaths —versus the “official” tally—remains unknown.
Even more troubling: Most of those fighting for the United States abroad aren’t even Americans. Private military companies are multinational corporations that recruit globally. When I worked in the industry, my colleagues came from almost every continent. According to a recent Pentagon report, just overof private military contractors in Afghanistan are U.S. citizens.
Many of the larger private military companies also hire local “subs” or sub-contractors, often invisible to U.S. government officials and reporters. In 2010, during the height of the wars, afound evidence that these “subs” were linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-Coalition activities. Similarly, in a 2010 report titled “ .,” the House of Representatives found that the Department of Defense had hired warlords for security services. What happens to these subs when the big contractor goes home? In some notable, alarming cases, they go into business for themselves, breeding s in the wake of a U.S. intervention.
For example, ain 2010 found that the British private military company ArmorGroup sub-contracted two Afghan military companies that it called “Mr. White” and “Mr. Pink” to provide a guard force. The investigation found evidence that they were linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-coalition activities.
Giving birth to such markets is just one of the many ways that contractors encourage dangerous policymaking. Unlike the Pentagon or CIA, private military companies do not report to Congress, circumventing democratic accountability of the armed forces. Worse, they shield themselves from inquiry by invoking the need to protect proprietary information and are not subject to Freedom of Information Act, unlike the military or intelligence community. This makes them ideal for dangerous missions requiring plausible deniability. Sometimes, even Congress can’t what these firms do.
This effectively lowers the barriers of entry into conflict, inviting moral hazard. Take, for example, Obama’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State, essentially a “light footprint” campaign that (theoretically) involves few ground troops. Itthe Bush administration’s big and costly military presence overseas, and shuns the quagmire of “nation-building.” Instead, in theaters ranging from the Middle East to South Asia, it relies on precision strikes from U.S. aircraft, clandestine ground units, and local allies. However, you cannot hold ground with airplanes, special-forces raids, and . Terrorists will return onceU.S. forces leave. This means you can never achieve victory, when your victory conditions are “deter” and “defeat” ISIS.
In response, the Obama administration has quietly accelerated deployments. From an initial 274 troops sent to Iraq in 2014, the White House has crept up to, the maximum allowed under the current troop cap. But these troops are only half the story. The U.S. government has surged another onto the ground. And a footprint of nearly 10,000 doesn’t look so light.
Contractors, then, allow policymakers to wage war outside of the public eye. Their deaths rarely attract headlines the way those of fallen American soldiers do. And yet the consequences are no less far-reaching for being hidden. America’s reliance on contractors to fight its wars has launched a new breed of mercenary around the world. 2015 saw major mercenary activity in, , , , and possibly Mercenaries in these places are not new; what is new is the increased size and expanded scope of their work. For example, in Nigeria, they pushed out Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, in a few months. The Nigerian military could not achieve this in six years.
No international laws exist to regulate the mercenary industry. What we’re left with: If anyone with enough money can wage war for any reason they want to, then new superpowers will emerge: the ultra-rich and multinational corporations. Oil companies and oligarchs should not have armies.”