A detailed 12-page report called “Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Iraq and Afghanistan: 2007-2016” can be found at the Congressional Research Service website.
During the 2007-2016 period, the U.S. Defense Department spent more than $220 billion on contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan for a large variety of services and support. Digital Journal writes.
Even as early as the middle of 2011, when there were still many U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they were outnumbered by private contractors. The number of private contractors peaked in 2012 at more than 117,000 while there were around 88,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Almost 23 percent of contractors worked as supplementary security personnel. A whopping 70 percent were actually foreign nationals that received money from U.S. companies and agencies.
The latest numbers covering just the first few months of this year show that there are still around 29,000 contractors in Afghanistan — well over three times the 9.000 troops. A smaller percentage, just about 10 percent, provide supplementary security. More than 12,000 provide logistics and maintenance services not just for U.S. but also Afghan troops. Another 1,800 work as translators. 1,700 work on construction and another 2,200 as base support professionals. Some legislators have voiced concerns about the degree of oversight these private contracts receive as there have been reports of waste and fraud connected with some contracts. Early this summer about 2,500 contractors were hired solely for the purpose of fighting Islamic State militants in Afghanistan along with 4,000 U.S. troops.
The Obama Administration has long claimed to have “ended’ the war in Afghanistan and promised to reduce troops, but the drawdown has been less than planned. While there is much less of a combat role for the remaining 9,000 troops, the additional 29,000 contractors are rarely discussed even though they are paid for ultimately by the U.S. tax-payer. The extensive use of contractors is a way of being able to have more boots on the ground than suggested by troop figures. The drawdown in Afghanistan, even when reduced, appears much greater than it is and there is little press coverage of the role or number of private contractors remaining.
In July, Obama announced that he would leave 8,400 troops in Afghanistan until the end of his term. Obama had pledged to end the 14-year war while he was president but it is still ongoing although with a lesser combat role for the U.S.. Obama had originally planned to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 5,500 by early 2017.