U.S. must examine how reliance on outsourcing military duties affected outcomes in Iraq, Afghanistan

As much as $7 trillion, almost half the $14 trillion spent by the Pentagon since 9/11, went to for-profit defense contractors, a study released Monday found, the latest research to point to the U.S. dependence on contractors for war-zone duties as contributing to mission failures in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

In the post-9/11 wars, U.S. corporations contracted by the Defense Department not only handled war-zone logistics like running fuel convoys and staffing dining halls,  but performed mission-crucial work like training and equipping Afghan security forces — security forces that collapsed last month as the Taliban swept the country.

Within weeks, and before the U.S. military had even completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban easily routed an Afghan government and military that Americans had spent 20 years and billions of dollars to stand up. President Joe Biden placed blame squarely on the Afghans themselves. “We gave them every chance,” he said last month. “What we could not provide them was the will to fight.”

But William Hartung, the author of Monday’s study by Brown University’s Costs of War project and the Center for International Policy, says it’s essential that the U.S. examine the end result of relying on private contractors. In Afghanistan, that included contractors allegedly paying protection money to warlords and the Taliban themselves, and the Defense Department insisting on equipping the Afghan air force with complex Blackhawk helicopters and other aircraft that few but U.S. contractors knew how to maintain.

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