Monday, September 15, 2008

Privatizing the war?

From the Washinton Post:

Defense Contracts Foretell Military Buildup in Afghanistan
By Walter Pincus

SEPTEMBER 14 - The Defense Department is seeking private contractors to carry out a variety of tasks -- such as clearing land mines, building detention facilities and providing fuel -- to assist U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which are set to grow following President Bush's announcement last week that he will expand military operations there.

This month, the Pentagon issued a proposal seeking civilian contractors to help clear land mines in Afghanistan, including the outer areas of Bagram air base, where new construction is underway. A $25 million contract to build about 14 miles of roads inside the Bagram complex will be awarded later this month. The roads are to "ease traffic flow" and "provide diversions for construction traffic" on the expanding base, according to the published solicitation.

Last week, the Defense Department put out a contract proposal seeking firms that could supply airborne surveillance in Afghanistan with the capability of Constant Hawk, a system now deployed in Iraq. From a single-engine aircraft, Constant Hawk's sensors record and archive data from an area over time in order to capture events such as exploding roadside bombs. Civilian analysts are also being sought to review the recorded incidents and identify perpetrators.

"The military is stretched very thin, and to keep low the deployments numbers, there is a tendency to go to contractors who have played a huge part in Iraq," said Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), who as a member of the House Appropriations Committee has sponsored legislation limiting contracts in the intelligence field.

Bush announced on Tuesday that over the new few months, he will send nearly 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, which he characterized as an increasingly important front in the battle against extremism... (link)
On the "soft surge" for Afghanistan, it looks like the 5,000 additional troops figure might be achieved by the US military after all. While initially it looked like the additional troops were in fact largely replacement troops, with the recent announcement of replacements for the 24th MEU in Helmand, the extra troops may total almost that figure by January.

The surge is, however, much less than called for in August by the US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. General David McKiernan called for 12 - 15,000 additional troops then, but General Petreus quashed recent optimism over Iraq and said they couldn't spare that many troops from the Iraq war.

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