Any serious draw-down of US troops from Afghanistan will affect the massive industry that’s expanded post 9/11; private military contractors. Joshua Frost on PBS contemplates the future and the likely push by major interests to maintain the occupation in the war-ravaged land; business will be negatively affected if things change too radically:
Very few who are pushing for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan contemplate the economic consequences of ending the war. The economy can probably handle 100,000 underemployed war contractors, but it will take some adjustment. It’s not just the psychological cost of seeing the Taliban use equipment we leave behind to crack jokes about us. The war in Afghanistan is more than just the troops and contractors who are deployed: there is a vast ecosystem of small, medium and large companies back here that support those deployed workers. Without a hundred billion dollars in war costs every year, those companies will struggle to stay in business.
An executive at a small defense contractor recently joked to me, “Afghanistan is our business plan.” I asked him what he would do if the war ended. He stared at me for a moment and said, “Well, then I hope we invade Libya.”
This executive wasn’t actually hoping to occupy Tripoli. But he was expressing a worry many in the defense industry have about how they will run their companies and employ their workers once the wars are over. Ten years of war have established a discrete class of entrepreneurs, mid-level workers and administrators who are completely reliant upon the U.S. being at war to stay employed.