Currently in Afghanistan, there are 121,000 U.S. contractors and 68,000 U.S. troops. As a result of the coming surge, another 30,000 troops and 56,000 contractors are expected. But U.S. lawmakers are afraid that the mistakes that plagued military contracting in Iraq will be repeated in Afghanistan. Will the shadow armies be required to protect the Afghan civilian population? What are the chances that military contractors could cause major damage to Americas mission in Afghanistan? Will the Obama administration be able to prevent the waste, fraud and abuse seen in Iraq?
In a globalised world, perhaps it was inevitable that private companies would become major players in diplomacy. But the fact is that contractors are doing the job that the State Department, Pentagon and C.I.A. once did on their own. Recently the CIA announced that it had stopped using Blackwater (now known as Xe Services) to conduct raids and other special operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but some press reports say Xe Services are still at the center of a secret program in Karachi, Pakistan, where they plan assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda members, among other operations.
In this episode, we examine the role of U.S. military contractors in Afghanistan as the U.S. widens its footprint there. Joining Riz is Dov Zakheim, who was the Comptroller of the U.S. Department of Defense from 2001-2004. He was also the coordinator of civilian programs in Afghanistan for the Pentagon from 2002-2004. He currently is a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, a private American consulting firm. Also on the show is Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the Worlds Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine and a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!