The Department of Defense's Use of Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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The United States relies on contractors to provide a wide variety of services in Iraq and Afghanistan, including security. Private firms known as private security contractors PSCs are hired to protect individuals, transport convoys, forward operating bases, buildings, and other economic infrastructure. While DOD has previously contracted for security in Bosnia and elsewhere, it appears that in Iraq and Afghanistan DOD is for the first time relying so heavily on armed contractors to provide security during combat or stability operations. As of March 31, 2010, there were more than 27,000 armed private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent contracting trends indicate that the number of such contractors in Iraq may decline while the number in Afghanistan may continue to increase. Many analysts and government officials believe that DOD would be unable to execute its mission without PSCs. The use of armed contractors has raised a number of issues for Congress, including concerns over transparency and accountability. Much of the attention given to PSCs by Congress and the media is a result of numerous high-profile incidents in which security contractors have been accused of shooting civilians, using excessive force, being insensitive to local customs or beliefs, or otherwise behaving inappropriately. These actions may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some analysts and DOD officials believe that poor contractor oversight has significantly contributed to contractor abuses. As a result, Congress has also focused on whether DOD is effectively managing PSCs and whether improved contractor oversight could have prevented or minimized the impact of these incidents.
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