While contractors allow the U.S. to fight wars with fewer American troops -- which may be good or bad, depending on who you ask -- they also present serious transparency and security concerns. That includes goodwill-draining episodes like the May shooting of two Afghan civilians in Kabul by contractors working for Xe, formerly Blackwater. Experts are also concerned about an attack by enemies who might slip through security as a contractor at an American facility.
It's impossible to say how much taxpayer money is going to private contracts because various government entities either don't know, or don't agree on, just how many contractors are currently in Afghanistan.
That fact "permits and invites waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and undermines the achievement of US mission objectives," Michael Thibault, co-chair of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, complained at a hearing last month. At that hearing, military witnesses couldn't come up with a precise count of contractors, prompting former GOP congressman Chris Shays to remark, "I kind of want to scream."
Regular readers will remember the story of Jamie Leigh Jones who was raped by military contractors. I'm with Chris Shays. This whole thing makes me want to scream.