The massive expansion of privatised military forces since 9/11 is largely unreported. Death squads paid for by tax dollars. American journalist Tim Shorrock examines this huge expansion in the age of Obama. It’s a world that is so bloated and so reliant on endless American wars that it’s no wonder the arms and defence industries are constantly looking for new places to sell their wares:
Top U.S. commanders are meeting this week to plan for the next phase of the Afghanistan war. In Iraq, meanwhile, gains are tentative and in danger of unraveling.
Both wars have been fought with the help of private military and intelligence contractors. But despite the troubles of Blackwater in particular – charges of corruption and killing of civilians—and continuing controversy over military outsourcing in general, private sector armies are as involved as ever.
Without much notice or debate, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key parts of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa, and as a result, for its secretive air war and special operations missions around the world, the U.S. has become increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized companies that are virtually unknown to the American public, yet carry out vital U.S. missions abroad.
Companies such as Blackbird Technologies, Glevum Associates, K2 Solutions, and others have won hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military and intelligence contracts in recent years to provide technology, information on insurgents, Special Forces training, and personnel rescue. They win their work through the large, established prime contractors, but are tasked with missions only companies with specific skills and background in covert and counterinsurgency can accomplish.
Some observers fear that the widespread use of contractors for U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Horn of Africa could deepen the secrecy surrounding the American presence in those regions, making it harder for Congress to provide proper oversight.
Blackbird is a case in point. Based in Herndon, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the CIA, Blackbird deploys dozens of former CIA operatives and provides “technology solutions” to military and intelligence agencies. Much of the company’s revenue—including a $450 million contract awarded last year by the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command—comes from the deployment of special teams and equipment into enemy territory to rescue American soldiers who have been captured by Taliban or al Qaeda units or have stranded after losing their helicopters in battle.