The precarious role of US military contractors in Afghanistan

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The two decades of military operations in Afghanistan have left many non-US nationals working for the United States in some way or other in the lurch. These people were recruited from third countries and generally sourced from poorer nations in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and others. They were used militarily and deployed for security purposes in the war zone.

These nationals, known as Third Country Nationals (TCNs), are contracted by private contractors working for the US Defence Department. These nationals are employed for cooking the meal, securing military installations, defusing mines and other risky tasks.

There are numerous reasons for deploying TCNs in war zones by military contractors. The prime being lesser pay in comparison to the US counterparts besides non-accountability of their actions. TCNs can shoulder the responsibility of addressing ambiguous conflict where casualties are higher.

The US Defence Department handling of records of its contractors is obscure. Official data reveals that at the peak of US troop deployment in 2012, there were 36,826 TCN contractors against the 86,100 US forces. Around 6,399 TCNs are still employed in Afghanistan when only a handful of troops left after the withdrawal plan. ‘The Diplomat’ has revealed in its detailed article.

The Diplomat‘s article also shed light on the queer circumstance these TCNs coerced to work in without a safety net as sanctioned in the US. They are also devoid of anti-discriminatory laws and are subject to bondage. The only protection they have is the Defence Base Act, US Act that stipulated compensation for casualties, injuries and debilities while working on US government contracts. But, that too is hardly availed by the TCNs. The exact number of casualties incurred by the TCNs are still unknown.

At one point of there were more contractors than the soldiers in Afghanistan, a trend that has accelerated since the first Gulf War. Under Trumps’ administration, employment of private military contractors in Afghanistan had, too, grown exponentially.

Contractors for Russia are gaining ground in strife-torn nations while more and more Gulf countries are actively relying on them to substitute their militaries.

With the military operation coming to a near end in Afghanistan, TCNs are outspreading across the globe for an appropriate role. TCNs as ‘The Diplomat’ mentions are seeking assignments with private militaries in Gulf countries, oil refineries in West Africa, Casinos in China or with indeterminate firms operating in Syria.

These practices have also raised suspicion on the role of private contractors who inadvertently could end up doing dodgy activities. If reports are to be believed, Latin American private security contractors had aided in the elimination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise.

The sordid human labour syndicates operating in countries like India and Jordan hoodwink migrant workers from poor countries such as Nepal into serving US’ conflicts. Traffickers masquerading as facilitators are also largely responsible for it.

Apart from these, there are hundreds of thousands of contractors in non-combative roles like interpreters and guides in Afghanistan, who are now seeking refuge in the United States, amidst the Taliban’s reprisal, post the hasty withdrawal of foreign troops.

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