The message, very often, is sent with bloodshed.
There was the suicide bombing last week on a fortified Kandahar guesthouse shared by Western contracting companies, killing four Afghans and injuring several Americans. There was the Afghan engineer, shot dead in March as he helped inspect a school not far from the Pakistan border. Or the Afghan woman, an employee for a U.S.-based consulting firm, shot by motorbike-riding gunmen as she returned home from work in this southern city.
As the United States presses ahead with an Afghan counterinsurgency strategy that depends on speeding up development of one of the world’s poorest countries, the U.S. contractors, construction companies and aid organizations needed to rebuild Afghanistan have faced a surge in attacks that puts the plan in jeopardy.
Overall figures for contractor attacks remain elusive, since the employees come from dozens of nations and work for hundreds of different organizations.
But the death toll has jumped precipitously in the months since President Barack Obama launched a massive troop surge last December.
Of the 289 civilians working for U.S. contractors killed between the start of the Afghanistan war in late 2001 and the end of last year, 100 died in just the last six months of 2009, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.