Here’s A Boom: Private Military Contracting Surges In Iraq 2016

Baghdad, Iraq (TFC) – Iraq’s third American-involved war has seen an uncanny explosion in private military contractor (PMC) operations. As the war against ISIS razes the countryside, companies like DynCorp and KBR flock to increase their profit margins. Their presence and role in this new conflict, however, reminds us all that this is certainly not 2003.

The prior year has seen private military contractors hit Iraqi dirt harder than coalition bombs. In January 2015, Daily Caller reports that 250 contractors operated in Iraq while the Pentagon counted 2,028 in 2016. A seven page report facilitated the revelation, updating public-access data on contractor numbers and operations. The report also contained contractor information dedicated to Afghanistan, which vastly outnumber those in Iraq.

Those 2,028 personnel, however, are simply just those employed under the DoD (Department of Defense). In all actuality, according to the report, 7,838 contractors support US operations in Iraq as of 2016. Additionally, Government Executive reports that incarnations of the former Blackwater still serve paramilitary functions under CIA contracts. Those numbers are classified, meaning we actually have no idea what the real number of operators is. The Pentagon’s report silently neglects to mention contractor casualties in any sense.

If you use the number Daily Caller reported–2,028–then “exactly” 70% of contractors are American nationals, 20% are from other countries, and just 10% are Iraqi. Due to this breakup, exactly how much of the money that is being generated goes to the Iraqis for the war on their homeland is unspecified, though likely miniscule.

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This is the business, and 2015 saw the Pentagon issue numerous offers to attract more contractors to the ravaged country. One Army contract requested advisors for “designing, implementing, and sustaining systems that increase” institutional capabilities. The report also outlines several “improvements to management and oversight of DoD contractors”. Such improvements include a declaration for “quality management”, specifically for DoD security contractors. Whether these measures lead to real changes in contractor conduct remains unclear, and the White House has lost control of mercenaries before. DynCop, KBR, and Fluor Corporation all jumped at the opportunity Pentagon presented.

Only 5.8% of DoD’s contractors, Daily Caller reports, focus on security and only 24 individuals work with “training”. This may surprise some, given the reputation certain contractors earned during the 2003 invasion. At least officially, most combat training and advisement is left to the military, the bulk of which are equally shadowy special forces.

Both contractors and military personnel numbers grew over the same twelve month period, with troops going from 2,300 to 3,700. According to Daily Caller, this represents comprehensive measures to avoid contractors ever matching, or out numbering, military personnel.

As stated before, these comparisons are made based on DoD’s 2,028 contractors whereas the actual total is 7,838. Contractors employed under covert paramilitary mandate are not listed at all, blowing huge holes in data coherency. As of yet, no limit on contractor growth has been set by the American government, Daily Caller reports.

Iraq’s contractor figures pale in comparison to Afghanistan’s, where Pentagon’s report lists over 30,000 active profiteers. War generates fortunes, if only for the few–and at the expense of the many–and America’s two most publicized conflicts make great business. It’s important to remain as informed as possible in the coming days, and read in between the lines. Is the Pentagon’s report a show of transparency, or are readers being played to their faces?