NEWS | Oct. 1, 2010

Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact

By T.X. Hammes Strategic Forum 260

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Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact
Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact
Strategic Forum 260
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 180314-D-BD104-019

Key Points

  • The United States has hired record numbers of contractors to serve in the conflict zones of Iraq and Afghanistan but has not seriously examined their strategic impact. 
  • There are clearly advantages to using contractors in conflict zones, but they have three inherent characteristics that have serious negative effects during counterinsurgency operations. We cannot effectively control the quality of the contractors or control their actions, but the population holds us responsible for everything the contractors do, or fail to do. 
  • Contractors compete with the host government for a limited pool of qualified personnel and dramatically change local power structures. 
  • Contractors reduce the political capital necessary to commit U.S. forces to war, impact the legitimacy of a counterinsurgency effort, and reduce its the perceived morality. These factors attack our nation’s critical vulnerability in an irregular war—the political will of the American people.

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