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The 9 Surges of Obama's War

The troop surge is only one part of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. Here are 8 more signs of how fully the President has committed us.

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Now, add in the 7,500 troops and trainers that administration officials reportedly strong-armed various European countries into offering.  More than  1,500 of these are already in Afghanistan and simply not being withdrawn as previously announced.  The cost of sending some of the others, like the  900-plus troops Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has promised, will undoubtedly be absorbed by Washington.  Nonetheless, add most of them in and, miraculously, you’ve surged up to, or beyond, Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal’s basic request for at least 40,000 troops to pursue a counterinsurgency war in that country. 

2.  The Contractor Surge:  Given our heavily corporatized and  privatized military, it makes no sense simply to talk about troop numbers in Afghanistan as if they were increasing in a void.  You also need to know about the private contractors who have taken over so many former military duties, from KP and driving supply convoys to providing security on large bases.  There’s no way of even knowing who is responsible for the surge of (largely Pentagon-funded) private contractors in Afghanistan.  Did their numbers play any part in the president’s three months of deliberations?  Does he have any control over how many contractors are put on the U.S. government payroll there?  We don’t know. 

Private contractors certainly went unmentioned in his speech and, amid the flurry of headlines about troops going to Afghanistan, they remain almost unmentioned in the mainstream media.  In major pieces on the president’s tortuous “deliberations” with his key military and civilian advisors at the  New York Times, the  Washington Post, and the  Los Angeles Times, all produced from copious  officially inspired leaks, there wasn't a single mention of private contractors, and yet their numbers have been surging for months. 

modest-sized article by August Cole in the  Wall Street Journal the day after the president’s speech gave us the basics, but you had to be looking.  Headlined “U.S. Adding Contractors at Fast Pace,” the piece barely peeked above the fold on page 7 of the paper.  According to Cole:  “The Defense Department's latest census shows that the number of contractors increased about 40% between the end of June and the end of September, for a total of 104,101. That compares with 113,731 in Iraq, down 5% in the same period... Most of the contractors in Afghanistan are locals, accounting for 78,430 of the total...”  In other words, there are already more private contractors on the payroll in Afghanistan than there will be U.S. troops when the latest surge is complete. 

Though many of these contractors are local Afghans hired by outfits like DynCorp International and Fluor Corp., TPM Muckracker  managed to get a further breakdown of these figures from the Pentagon and found that there were 16,400 “third country nationals” among the contractors, and 9,300 Americans.  This is a formidable crew, and its numbers are evidently still surging, as are the Pentagon contracts doled out to private outfits that go with them.  Cole, for instance, writes of the contract that Dyncorp and Fluor share to support U.S. forces in Afghanistan “which could be worth as much as $7.5 billion to each company in the coming years.”

3.  The Militia Surge:  U.S. Special Forces are now carrying out  pilot programs for a mini-surge in support of local Afghan militias that are, at least theoretically, anti-Taliban.  The idea is evidently to create a movement along the lines of Iraq's Sunni Awakening Movement that, many believe, ensured the "success" of George W. Bush's 2007 surge in that country.  For now,  as far as we know, U.S. support takes the form of offers of ammunition, food, and possibly some Kalashnikov rifles, but in the future we'll be ponying up more arms and, undoubtedly, significant amounts of money.

 
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