Posts Tagged troops

Afghanistan: The Discussion On Troop Numbers Beyond 2014

A Wall Street Journal report, meanwhile, said top Obama administration officials want to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country – a midpoint in the range of options that Allen presented to Panetta, which the newspaper said varied from 6,000 to 15,000.
Many observers have said the Afghan government is unlikely to be able to take over logistical operations, air support and other facets of the current war, in addition to the training and counterterrorism missions foreign troops would provide.

As the article pointed out below, a solid number is premature. But you can definitely point to a ‘range’ of what we are looking at in the quote up top.

The other thing to think about with this stuff is the logistics requirements of Afghanistan beyond 2014. We have given the Afghans a military force that requires some serious upkeep, and especially the aviation assets. Couple that with the idea that most Afghans have a poor reading capability (hence cannot read a manual to fix or maintain whatever), that it will take someone with outside expertise to continue to assist. That is where contractors will come in.

I also look at Afghanistan’s means of financially supporting this military as the west exits. Where will the revenue come from to pay salaries and maintain this military and government?  So economics plays into this, and I think the west will continue to support Afghanistan well after we are gone. So yet again, with western dollars comes western contractors to support the Afghans.

One final point is Iraq and how that turned out, might be a scenario for Afghanistan. Meaning we purposely depended upon Iraq to use their parliament to come up with a SOFA, knowing full well that parliament would not support immunity of any sorts for US troops in their country. It is a smart political move by the US administration, who wanted fully out of Iraq, because they knew that Iraqi politicians did not want to be known as the leaders that wanted US troops to stay. Some would say we pulled out prematurely in Iraq because of those politics and not because of a logical withdrawal plan–but that is another discussion and only time will tell with that country.

So if we start doing actions that put the full decision of troops staying in Afghanistan, into the hands of Afghans and not just one main leader, then we might see an exodus of troops from Afghanistan much like how Iraq turned out. Just because Afghan politicians do not want to be viewed as the folks that supported foreign occupiers to stay. (May is when a new SOFA is to be decided upon…) Any SOFA that does not have troop immunity in it, is a sure sign that we will be exiting, and contractors will be the only ones left standing–just like in Iraq. –Matt


Pentagon: Discussion of troop numbers remaining in Afghanistan ‘premature’
November 26, 2012
The Pentagon says it plans to tell the White House within weeks how many American troops military leaders believe will be needed in Afghanistan after 2014 to train local forces and continue to target al-Qaida.
With NATO’s formal combat role set to end in just over two years, the United States — along with its NATO allies and the Afghan government — is keen to define a postwar presence well in advance, avoiding the precipitous pullout and security problems that came with the end of the Iraq War.
The troop calculations, however, have to achieve a delicate balance that weighs military capability against the U.S. public’s weariness of continuing conflict – and meets Afghan expectations of the residual force.
The troop strength recommendation will be based on options presented in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander for the war, to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The final decision has yet to be made, officials said.

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Industry Talk: Troops Are Replaced By Unity Resources Group At Australia’s Embassy In Iraq

Bravo to URG and I hope the contract goes well. I am not familiar with any past issues with the company or this contract, and if anyone has anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments. –Matt


Australian troops leave embassy in Iraq
August 10, 2011
Thirty-three Australian soldiers who were guarding the embassy in Iraq have been withdrawn, and a Dubai-based private security firm has taken over, an embassy official says.
“We now have moved to a contractor called Unity Resources Group” to provide embassy security, the official said on Wednesday, adding that the last soldiers left on Saturday.
The soldiers guarding the embassy were the last significant Australian troop presence in the country. Australia once had some 2000 soldiers in Iraq, one of the larger non-US deployments.
Two Australian officers remain as advisers to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the embassy official said.
According to its website, Unity Resources Group is based in Dubai and was founded by Gordon Conroy, “a former Commander in the Australian SAS (Special Forces) Counter Terrorist Squadron,” who is the firm’s director and CEO.
Story here.

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Afghanistan: As Troops Draw Down, Security Contractors Will Fill In The Gaps

The latest news these days is the draw down in troops. It has been expected and talked about, but now it is becoming reality. I have yet to read any analysis on how the security contracting industry itself will be impacted by this draw down, so this is my attempt at such things. I believe given all of the investment into Afghanistan’s reconstruction and security, that our industry will be in high demand as the troops pull out. It will also be a dangerous time period because of security vacuums created by a lack of troops, or a lack of Afghan police/military.

Below I have posted three stories that discuss all of the foreign investment or organizations interested in reconstruction in Afghanistan. The troops might be pulling out, but these investment projects will still be there, and they will be ongoing for awhile. With that reduction in troop related security, someone is going to have to fill that security vacuum. I believe that ‘someone’ will be a combination of local security contractors, and expats.

Not to mention that the State Department mission in Afghanistan will be ongoing for awhile. So WPS is going to be a viable source of employment for security contractors in Afghanistan and elsewhere. DoS and USAID both have reconstruction projects, government mentor-ship programs and diplomatic missions to maintain as the troops draw down.  Security contractors are going to be vital to the continuation of those missions.

The other source of work that will be ongoing in Afghanistan is training police and military.  The troop draw down strategy is highly dependent upon Afghanistan’s ability to provide it’s own security and stand on it’s own.  As US troops pull out, these training missions will probably require even more contractor trainers. And let’s not forget about NATO, and their inability to provide training assets. Contractors will be an essential part of maintaining this aspect of the strategy.

Then of course there are the foreign investments in mining in Afghanistan.  The mines and the railroads required to ship that stuff out of the country, are necessary for the reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan. It will also help to pay for this massive army we have helped Afghanistan build, and hopefully sustain. (although foreign donors will continue to be the main source of maintaining this army)  So local security contractors will be essential for those projects, and expat security contractors will be required to handle the PSD of engineers and upper management.

Probably the most important things to remember about the draw down is that troops must be approved by congress, but there is no limit as to the number of security contractors that can be hired. Matter of fact, the only limit to security contractors is financial. So if the investments and interest in Afghanistan is still there, contractors will continue to be very important. Probably more important than ever, just because the enemy will want to exploit the draw down of troops is an excellent time to attack and turn up the pressure. We will see….-Matt

The US Isn’t the Only Donor in Afghanistan

As U.S. Pulls Back, Fears Abound Over Toll on Afghan Economy

In Afghanistan, who will pick up where the U.S. leaves off?

The US Isn’t the Only Donor in Afghanistan
Jordan Dey
Fmr. US Director, UN World Food Program
As the Obama Administration announces its Afghanistan drawdown tonight, much has been said about what will change — the number of troops — but there has been virtually no discussion of what will remain largely the same — the continued assistance of more than four dozen countries, 20 UN agencies, and hundreds of NGOs in providing everything from road-building contracts to health care investments in Afghanistan.?As President Obama has shifted US foreign policy from the unilateralism of the Bush Administration to a more collaborative approach with our allies there is no country on earth where that multi-country approach is more apparent than Afghanistan. And, no country on earth where the US is better prepared to reduce its footprint, and leave some work to others.

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Afghanistan: Moving The Goal Post A Little Further For PSC Shutdown And Troop Withdrawal

     This is classic. In both of these stories below you can see a dramatic change from the original hardline stance of Obama and Karzai on this stuff.  I have mentioned in past blog posts on how both disbanding of PSC’s and troop withdrawals should not be based on some unrealistic timeline. Instead, they should be based on progress and reality on the ground. And guess what? The disbanding of PSC’s by December has changed now to ‘disbanding in stages’, and the July 2011 troop withdrawal date has switched to 2014 for a withdrawal. lol Talk about ‘moving the Goal Post’?-Matt

Afghan security companies to disband in stages

Obama officials moving away from 2011 Afghan date

Afghan security companies to disband in stages


Wed Nov 10, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan – After weeks of negotiations, Afghan officials and foreign diplomats have agreed that a shutdown of private security companies in Afghanistan will have to be carried out in several stages, two officials familiar with the talks said Wednesday.

The development indicates a possible compromise over the controversial issue, which has occupied top international diplomats and Afghan officials since President Hamid Karzai in August ordered the closure of private companies that provide security guards in the country.

At the time, Karzai said private security companies would be replaced by Afghan security forces.

But he later backed away from a Dec. 17 deadline for the shutdown, after diplomats said the move threatens billions of dollars worth of reconstruction projects. Up to 40,000 private guards work in Afghanistan, mostly guarding embassies, military convoys and development projects.

An Afghan and a foreign official familiar with the negotiations said Wednesday the two sides now agree the shutdown should be gradual. They said sticking points remain, such as who would be guarding military convoys.

The government must come up with a proposal in five days on the phased shutdown, they also said. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are still ongoing.

Many companies on contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development have said they can’t insure their staff without private guards.

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Afghanistan: 30,000 Troops Will Be Sent to Afghanistan–So How Many Contractors?

   So this is it. This is the magic number that everyone was anticipating.  I guess you could call this surge-light maybe? Anyway, my focus is on what does this mean for security contractors and contractors in general?  Well we can certainly expect to see a civilian contractor surge to accompany this troop surge, if history is any indicator.

   The difference this time around, as far as comparing the Iraq surge to the Afghanistan surge, is geography.  Everything depends upon geography.  That, and weather.  We can always count on the enemy to do what they do too. But the real deal is geography, and this is where the heart of the discussion should be.

   All of these troops will need a place to sleep, food to eat, ammo and spare parts for their guns, and transportation to get them around in a country the size of Texas.  In Iraq, the logistics were pretty smooth because we didn’t have mountains to worry about, and the roads were pretty decent.  We also had a port to ship stuff to, and Kuwait was right next door.  The geography was kind to us in Iraq.

   In Afghanistan, there are mountains galore, roads are crappy and in some places non-existent, and there are no ports to ship stuff to.  So the way this thing is going to shape up, is lots of aviation work-helicopters and transport.  And to top it off, an increase in convoy work through mountains infested with enemy.  There will also be an effort to provide stuff locally to fill the needs, but for things like fuel or ammo and all of our little goodies that the troops ‘have to have’, we will be depending largely on flying it in or convoy work through some very dangerous and rough terrain. Expect to see long serpentine style convoys, snaking through the mountain passes, and pissing off all sorts of people.  These convoys will be massive, and they will be juicy targets for the enemy.

   Of course the second story I posted is a little old, but still relevant.  Contractors currently out number the troops in Afghanistan.  In the realm of security contractor numbers, Afghan security contractors are the dominate force there.  They are also doing a lot of fighting and dying up in those hills as they transport those goods.  And in some cases, they are causing issues, and especially when they go through population centers and engaging with the enemy there. Think Nisour Square, but at a local level, and these guys are not winning many friends when it comes to fire discipline.

     As these security companies continue to get into trouble locally, and the Afghan government doesn’t do anything to shore up their PSC’s, then that will only hurt the overall war effort. The Taliban will narrate the whole thing as ‘these companies and militias are killing locals, and it is all the infidel’s fault because they want all of these supplies’. And there is even some piracy going on, with the enemy attacking these convoys and taking the loot. Pffft.  What will be interesting to see is that with this new surge of troops, will there be a new push to use expat contractors to insure the security contracting aspect of the surge does not hinder the war effort?

   The other area of concern are these damn pay offs to war lords and the Taliban.  That has to stop, and we must get a handle on this activity. These local PSC’s can be better managed by the Afghan government, and with this upturn in work, there must be an effort on our part to get this in order.  If not, PSC’s will be painted with a broad brush as corrupt and working with the enemy.  I think if contracts were properly written to reflect reality and to reflect what the desired outcome of the contract should be, then this could be fixed.  It takes leadership and a trust but verify attitude to ensure these contracts are being carried out properly.  If not, then withhold the money and claim a default on contract or do something similar.  The guy that writes the checks, should definitely demand quality of service, and should have all the power.

   Back to numbers.  Can we expect upwards of around 30,000 to 35,000 contractors (a one to one ratio maybe?)? I think that is a reasonable amount.  Could we see an increase in expat managed security contracts, as well as an increase of expat security contractors to keep local national teams in line?  I think so. Will we see an increase in helicopter contracts, along with security/support teams for helicopters and transport?  Most definitely. (I also predict a PMC search and rescue element emerging because of this increase) Will the enemy try to shoot down more of these contractor helicopters? You bet.  How about an increase in TWISS style contracts in Afghanistan, complete with local national guards and even Ugandan guards to man posts?  Yes, and I have posted several reports to indicate that.  Will more contractors die in the line of duty?  Unfortunately, yes.  Will the nation and the world recognize that sacrifice and the civilian contractor contribution to the war effort?  Probably not.

   Now onto strategy, or the lack there of, when it comes to this coming contractor surge.  Where is the talk about shoring up these local national PSC’s, so they ‘don’t’ ruin the COIN strategy we so carefully crafted?  Why is Karzai wanting to get rid of foreign PSC’s, yet has not discussed how he plans to keep his own PSC’s in line?  Or how about Karzai telling these local PSC’s to stop paying protection money to the enemy? Or what is being done to insure all expat security contractors and LN contractors that will be interacting with and around the local populations, will not negatively impact COIN strategy in Afghanistan? I have yet to hear a General or think-tanker address this specifically, yet there are more contractors than troops in Afghanistan?  Hmmmm, how frustrating.

     Finally, if logistics is key to winning wars, and it will be contractors primarily tasked with protecting those logistics in Afghanistan, then what are we doing to insure their success? Are we going to actually give these convoy teams the means to protect themselves, or give them communications gear for unity of effort in the fight, or assign aviation assets to watch over these essential war goods?  Will we actually use these convoys as a means to engage with the enemy, and draw him out for the fight?  Who knows, but these are a few things that I have yet to hear being talked about in regards to the war effort in Afghanistan.

     We need to start talking about some of this stuff, because the surge is on like Donkey Kong, and there will be a whole bunch of us security contractors and regular contractors coming in right beside these 30,000 troops. –Matt

Edit: I noticed after today’s speech, the numbers have changed from 34,000 in reports, to 30,000.  So as you can see, I have made the edits up top.


34,000 troops will be sent to Afghanistan


Other nations to be asked for more forces

By Karen DeYoung and Scott WilsonWashington Post Staff WriterTuesday, December 1, 2009

President Obama will outline Tuesday his intention to send an additional 34,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials and diplomatic sources briefed Monday as Obama began informing allies of his plan.

The new deployments, along with 22,000 troops he authorized early this year, would bring the total U.S. force in Afghanistan to more than 100,000, more than half of which will have been sent to the war zone by Obama.

The president also plans to ask NATO and other partners in an international coalition to contribute 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, officials said. The combined U.S. and NATO deployments would nearly reach the 40,000 requested last summer by U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the coalition commander in Afghanistan, as part of an intensified counterinsurgency strategy.

The new troops are to be sent in stages beginning in January, with options to delay or cancel deployments, depending on the performance of the Afghan government and other factors. Defense officials said that, beyond Marine units deploying next month, no final decisions have been made about specific units or the order in which they would be sent.

Details of Obama’s plan emerged on the eve of his prime-time address from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He will use the Tuesday speech to explain his Afghan strategy to an American public that is increasingly pessimistic about the war after eight years and rising casualties.

Even as he escalates U.S. involvement, Obama will lay out in his speech what amounts to an exit strategy, centered on measures to strengthen the Afghan government so that its security forces can begin taking control of their own country. He is expected to specify benchmarks for Afghan progress on both the military and political fronts, according to U.S. and allied officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the strategy.

White House officials remained tight-lipped, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — with whom Obama spoke Monday — offered a preview of aspects of the strategy when he addressed Parliament.

The military objective, Brown said, is “to create the space for an effective political strategy to work, weakening the Taliban by strengthening Afghanistan itself.” Over the next year, he said, the Afghan army will be expanded from 90,000 to 134,000 troops, with 10,000 of them going to Helmand province, where U.S. Marines and British forces have focused their fight against the Taliban. Further increases are envisioned for later.

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Military News: U.S. Troop Funds Diverted to Pet Projects

   Thanks to Doug for passing on this story.  If this doesn’t make your blood boil, I don’t know what would. –Matt


U.S. troop funds diverted to pet projects

October 15, 2009


Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.

Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

While earmarks are hardly new in Washington, “in 30 years on Capitol Hill, I never saw Congress mangle the defense budget as badly as this year,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who worked on defense funding and oversight for both Republicans and Democrats. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, an independent research organization.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the transfer of funds from Pentagon operations and maintenance “a disgrace.”

“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines,” he said in a statement.

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