Study says nearly half of defense spending for 9/11 wars went to private contractors

www.pbs.org
6 min read
fairly difficult
In the post-9/11 wars, U.S. corporations contracted by the Defense Department not only handled logistics like running fuel convoys and staffing chow lines but performed mission-crucial work like training and equipping Afghan security forces.
Up to half of the $14 trillion spent by the Pentagon since 9/11 went to for-profit defense contractors, a study released Monday found. While much of this money went to weapons suppliers, the research is the latest to point to the dependence on contractors for war-zone duties as contributing to mission failures in Afghanistan in particular.

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 chow lines 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, and others say it's essential that Americans examine what role the reliance on private contractors played in the post-9/11 wars. 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.

"If it were only the money, that would be outrageous enough," Hartung, the director of the arms and security program at the Center for International Policy, said of instances where the Pentagon's reliance on contractors backfired. "But the fact it undermined the mission and put troops at risk is even more outrageous."

At the start of this year, before Biden began…
Read full article