There are more contractors than troops in Afghanistan
Time’s Battleland October 9, 2012 by David Isenberg
U.S. military forces may be out of Iraq, but the unsung and unrecognized part of America’s modern military establishment is still serving and sacrificing — the role played by private military and security contractors.
That their work is dangerous can be seen by looking at the headlines. Just last Thursday a car bomb hit a private security convoy in Baghdad, killing four people and wounding at least nine others.
That is hardly an isolated incident. According to the most recent Department of Labor statistics there were at least 121 civilian contractor deaths filed on in the third quarter of 2012. Of course, these included countries besides Iraq.
As the Defense Base Act Compensation blog notes, “these numbers are not an accurate accounting of Contractor Casualties as many injuries and deaths are not reported as Defense Base Act Claims. Also, many of these injuries will become deaths due to the Defense Base Act Insurance Companies denial of medical benefits.” To date, a total of 90,680 claims have been filed since September 1, 2001.
How many contractors are now serving on behalf of the U.S. government?
According to the most recent quarterly contractor census report issued by the U.S. Central Command, which includes both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 18 other countries stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan, there were approximately 137,000 contractors working for the Pentagon in its region. There were 113,376 in Afghanistan and 7,336 in Iraq. Of that total, 40,110 were U.S. citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the U.S. not the country in which they were working.
Put simply, there are more contractors than U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
These numbers, however, do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the U.S. State Department. The CENTCOM report says that “of FY 2012, the USG contractor population in Iraq will be approximately 13.5K. Roughly half of these contractors are employed under Department of State contracts.”
While most of the public now understands that contractors perform a lot of missions once done by troops – peeling potatoes, pulling security — they may not realize just how dependent on them the Pentagon has become.
Private security firms won lucrative contracts to supply support staff and security guards to back up US forces in Iraq. They recruited Ugandans and pushed them to the limit, on low pay and no benefits
Like all foreign nationals working for PMCs under contract to the Pentagon, sick or wounded Ugandans repatriated from Iraq are, in principle, covered by the Defense Base Act, which guarantees that their employer’s insurer will reimburse their medical expenses. It also provides for disability pay for the most unfortunate. “But, all too often, the Ugandans do not receive the medical care and disability that they are supposed to,” American lawyer Tara K Coughlin told me.
by Alain Vicky LeMonde Diplomatique May 6, 2012
“I realised immediately that I’d just made the worst mistake in my life. But it was too late. I’d signed up for a year. I had to take it like a man,” said Bernard (1), a young Ugandan who worked for an American private military company (PMC) operating in Iraq. He was part of the “invisible army” (2) recruited by the US to support its war effort. Bernard returned to Uganda last year. He is ill, but has been denied the welfare and healthcare benefits promised in his contract.
White recruits — from the US, Israel, South Africa, the UK, France and Serbia — hired by PMCs that have won contracts with the Pentagon (worth $120bn since 2003) have received substantial pay, often more than $10,000 a month; “third country nationals” (TCNs) like Bernard have been treated badly and their rights as employees have been abused. Some, sent home after being wounded, get no help from their former employers.
In June 2008, when the US began its withdrawal from Iraq, there were 70,167 TCNs to 153,300 regular US military personnel; in late 2010 there were still 40,776 TCNs to 47,305 regulars. TCNs (men and women) were recruited in the countries of the South to work on the 25 US military bases in Iraq, including Camp Liberty, an “American small town” built near Baghdad, which at its peak had a population of over 100,000. They made up 59% of the “basic needs” workforce, handling catering, cleaning, electrical and building maintenance, fast food, and even beauty services for female military personnel.
Some, especially African recruits, were assigned to security duties, paired up with regular troops: 15% of the static security personnel (guarding base entrances and perimeters) hired by the PMCs on behalf of the Pentagon were Sub-Saharans. Among these low-cost guards, Ugandans were a majority, numbering maybe 20,000. They were sometimes used to keep their colleagues in line: in May 2010 they quelled a riot at Camp Liberty by a thousand TCNs from the Indian subcontinent.
The high ratio of Ugandans was due to the political situation in central Africa in the early 2000s. In western Uganda the war in the Great Lakes region was officially over. In northern Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels had been brought under control. In neighbouring Sudan the civil war was over, opening up the way to independence for the south (3). More than 60,000 Ugandan troops were demobilised; Iraq seemed like an opportunity. The Ugandan government, a key ally of the US in central Africa, was one of the few to support the Bush administration when the Iraq war began in 2003. US and Ugandan armed forces have collaborated since the mid-1980s. Ugandan journalist and blogger Angelo Izama (4) told me that in 2005 the US needed more paramilitary security — “They were looking for reliable labour from English-speaking countries, veteran labour” — and turned to Uganda.
David Isenberg Huffington Post April 30, 2012
Today the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) has released its latest quarterly report. Here is what happening with private contractors in Iraq.
As of April 3, 2012, the Department of State (DoS) reported that 12,755 personnel supported the U.S. Mission in Iraq, down about 8 percent from the previous quarter. Current staffing comprises 1,369 civilian government employees and 11,386 (U.S., local national, and third country national) contractors. (89 percent of the total).
Of these contractors, DoS estimated that about 2,950 provided security-related services for DoS sites, down more than 22 percent from last quarter (3,800).
In February, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides said that DoS will continue to reduce the number of contractors over the coming months in an attempt to “right size” Embassy operations.
The Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) manages U.S. security assistance to the Government of Iraq. OSC-I is staffed by 145 U.S. military personnel, nine Department of Defense (DoD) civilians, and 4,912 contractors.
But according to SIGIR, DoS tends to undercount the number of contractors working in Iraq. It found that:
In early April, DoS asserted that only 6 U.S. government employees and 48 contractors work on what it considers reconstruction programs. This total does not include any of the several hundred personnel working under the auspices of the PDP, [Police Development Program] which remains the single-most expensive ongoing initiative financed by DoS for the benefit of Iraq. Nor does it include any of the hundreds of employees and contractors supporting the missions of OSC-I and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), though both agencies oversee projects paid for with U.S. reconstruction funds.
According to the Defense Department, if you include the OSC-I contractors, the total for private security contractors rises to 3,577.
The takeaway is that after all these years the U.S. government still has problems tracking the number of contractors working in Iraq. The SIGIR report found that:
While SPOT [Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker database, administered by DoD] data provides SIGIR with a comprehensive view of contractor and grantee personnel in Iraq, significant apparent differences exist between agency-reported contractor numbers and SPOT data. For example, DoS reported to SIGIR that there were almost 11,400 contractors supporting Mission Iraq as of April 3, 2012, while SPOT data shows 5,172 working for DoS.276 In addition, USAID reported that 1,854 contractors are currently working on USAID projects in Iraq.277 However, SPOT data shows only 110 USAID contractor and grantee personnel in Iraq as of April 1, 2012. SIGIR intends to investigate these discrepancies and provide an update in the July 2012 Quarterly Report.
With regard to security contractors the Government of Iraq (GOI) announced in February that 124 private security firms were registered to work for foreign government entities and private firms engaged in activities in Iraq, but the GOI has taken steps to minimize the presence and scope of these firms. According to the GOI, the Security and Defense Committee of the Council of Representatives has drafted legislation to reduce the number of PSC firms working in Iraq from 124 to 63. Of the remaining firms, 15 to 20 would be foreign firms and the rest would be Iraqi.
On the fraud front, some of SIGIR’s noteworthy investigations were:
Three former officers of a U.S. defense contractor, the wife of one of the officers, and four foreign nationals were indicted for their alleged roles in a fraud and moneylaundering scheme involving contracts for reconstruction projects in Iraq. The defendants were also are charged with an aggregate of 74 wire-fraud offenses.A British citizen and his company were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay kickbacks in exchange for receiving more than $23 million in DoD subcontracts from April 2006 to August 2008. The British contractor allegedly paid more than $947,500 in unlawful kickbacks to two employees of a prime contractor to the U.S. government in order to obtain these subcontracts for work performed in support of the Coalition Munitions Clearance Program (CMCP).
David Welch, a former U.S. civilian contract employee, pled guilty to conspiring to steal 38 U.S. military generators and sell them on the Iraqi black market.
As of April 10, SIGIR is continuing to work on 110 open investigations.
There are a number of PSC firms working on the Police Development Program; especially in providing security at the Baghdad Police College Annex (BPAX). At BPAX, Triple Canopy, Inc., contractors provide protective details and escort PDP convoys. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, LLC, provides perimeter security, with Iraqi Security Forces guarding the outer perimeter. EOD Technology, Inc., operates the counter-mortar and counterrocket system, and three U.S. military personnel are attached to the RSO explosive ordnance disposal unit. Another U.S. contractor provides a computer technician who manages the classified email system used by PDP personnel.
Thousands of skilled workers from Africa are willingly facing danger in remote areas of Afghanistan for high-paying jobs supporting coalition troops.
Think Africa Press April 26, 2012
Beyond the primal beauty of the Southern Afghanistan desert lies the unknown for newcomers, military and civilians alike. Sand and rocks spread further across that vast sea of sparsely inhabited nothingness than the eye can see. For the troops stationed in the Helmand province, the unknown coupled with the deserted surroundings speak danger.
This infamous province – a Taliban stronghold and site of frequent fighting between insurgents and NATO troops during the now 10-year-old Afghan War – has been welcoming a new breed of visitors: former soldiers turned personnel security providers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, engineers, cashiers, information technology experts, mine specialists, or finance and administration officers. Many are Africans, who constitute the bulk of migrant workers in the area, along with civilian personnel from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia), and Asia (India, Philippines).
Outsourced wars, outsourced workers
The increased military presence of the US, EU and other countries involved in the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force after 2009 resulted in a major shift in roles. As the overextended military focused on taming a local insurgency, tasks that were once the exclusive domain of trained military personnel started to be offered to civilian skilled workers. Civilians contractors came to provide the workforces necessary to maintain and run dining facilities, Morale Welfare and Recreation centres, military berthing, and equipment repair and replenishment shops.
Ethiopian Henok Tessema, 33, now lodging in the civilian section of a Helmand Province military installation, made his way to Afghanistan following a routine online job search. Tessema had been juggling four part-time positions working as a financial administrator and accountant in Harar, and saw the vacancy at the Central Asia Development Group as an opportunity to consolidate four part-time positions into a single one.
Washington Post January 26, 2012
MEXICO CITY — With the Iraq war over and the American presence waning in Afghanistan, U.S. security contractors are looking for new prospects in Mexico, where spreading criminal violence has created a growing demand for battle-ready professionals.
After years of lucrative work in the Middle East and Central Asia, where their presence has been occasionally marred by incidents of excessive force and misconduct, contractors and private security firms of varying sizes and specialties are being drawn into a battle closer to home. But Mexico’s restrictive gun laws mean that foreign contractors must enter the bloody drug war unarmed as they take jobs ranging from consulting and technical training for the Mexican military to guarding business executives from kidnapping gangs and extortionists
Virginia-based DynCorp International has job openings in Mexico for aviation instructors and mechanics. The Manhattan consulting firm Kroll hires anti-kidnapping specialists to protect Mexican business executives. MPRI, a company based in Alexandria, is training Mexican soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques.
by Suzanne Kelly at CNN’s Security Clearance December 27, 2011
“There are a lot of assumptions about contractors, and a lot of the assumptions are wrong.” Those are the words of a private security contractor who asked to be referred to only as “Lloyd” for this story, because like most of his colleagues he is not authorized to speak to the media.
By Lloyd’s count, he has spent some 1,000 days working in Afghanistan in the past four years. He, like many other well-trained military men, decided to leave his position as a Navy SEAL and take his chances finding employment in one of the hot spots around the world where highly skilled contractors were well-paid, and in demand.
Very few people outside the contracting industry really understood just what a private security contractor did before March 31, 2004. That was the day four American security contractors accompanying a shipment of kitchen equipment through Iraq were ambushed, killed, set on fire, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge before a cheering crowd in the city of Fallujah.
As shock subsided, questions arose. Who were these American men? If they weren’t members of the military, what were they doing in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq?
All four men were private security contractors working for a company called Blackwater. At the time the company, like many others, was just getting on its feet as U.S. demand for security services skyrocketed. The government needed armed, well-trained security personnel in hostile territories. The new push started when the United States went to war in a CIA-led operation in Afghanistan in 2001. e CIA’s early advance teams were not fully prepared for the pace of their own success. They quickly needed makeshift facilities to hold hostile enemy combatants and establish secure operating bases. The military wasn’t yet in a position to help, so the CIA hired Blackwater.
It was a similar story when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. A heavy presence of diplomats and reconstruction experts working in a hostile area meant they needed to be protected. Blackwater won a part of the contract to provide security services in the country. But being a private security contractor was a shady business, if not in the “legal” sense, in the “keeping off the radar” sense. Many of the contracts that were granted to companies such as Blackwater included clauses that severely limited the companies’ ability to talk to members of the media. Contracting was, by the design of the U.S. government, secretive.
Security has become a key election issue and private contractors are multiplying in Latin America’s abduction capital
The Guardian November 18, 2011
When the Venezuelan baseball star Wilson Ramos was freed from his two-day kidnapping ordeal last week he flung his arms around his rescuers and wept in disbelief. It was a desperate embrace that Miguel Dao recognised only too well.
“Rescuing somebody who has been kidnapped is one of those strange situations where the victim is forced to have total trust in a stranger,” said Dao, a 62-year-old Caracas-based kidnap negotiator. “A very special kind of bond arises.”
Once the head of the Technical Investigative Police, Venezuela‘s answer to the FBI, Dao is now part of a growing team of negotiators and private security contractors battling to stem a tide of kidnappings in what has become Latin America’s abduction capital.
“My first advice is always to inform the police, preferably from a phone different to their own, and to delay paying a ransom as long as possible,” said the former lawyer, whose firm is based in the upmarket Chuao neighbourhood.
years ago kidnappings were a distant concern for most Venezuelans, registering only via the occasional news report of ranchers being seized along the border with Colombia.
This year more than 1,000 traditional ransom kidnappings have been reported in Venezuela. Add to that a spike in the number of so-called secuestros express, or express kidnappings – in which victims are abducted and frog-marched to cash machines – and an unknown number of unreported crimes and the true toll is likely to be far higher. Venezuela’s National Statistics Institute claims that more than 16,000 people were kidnapped in 2009
The withdrawal of the remaining troops from Iraq — 33,000 at last count — has caused U.S. officials to move quickly to fill a series of security gaps to ensure the continued protection of American diplomatic personnel as well as U.S. goods.
The latest example comes from the Army, which said in a recent notice that it has increased the number of contracted security teams hired to escort convoys of food and fuel coming in from Kuwait.
The U.S. military had previously provided security for truckers hired by the Defense Logistics Agency for such convoys, and the truckers’ contracts require that they have security escorts.
In justifying the expanded contract, the Army said that if it were forced to delay the hiring of more contractors, “the U.S. military would have to stay in theater longer than planned to provide the escorts and postpone their re-deployment operation.”
Getting food and fuel from Iraqi sources was not an option
Should Shipping Companies Lower Surcharges to Reflect Lower Threat?
We can give full credit to the maritime industry and security firms since the navy now estimates that 90% of pirate attacks are deterred by private security on board ships. Many other attacks never occurred because of the speed of the ship, weather, the implementation of best management practices, or unknown factors that encouraged pirates to look elsewhere for victims. The effect of international naval patrols, identifying pirate activity before they leave land, general attrition by more aggressive navies, legal acts, and protests by local communities have all led to the erosion of piracy off Somalia.
Erik Rabjerg Nielsen, director and head of operations and deployment for Maersk Line, announced in May 2011 that increased surcharges to cover increased security costs. Maersk Line expects its piracy-related costs to double in 2011 to $200 million to cover insurance premiums, hardship allowances and the rerouting of vessels away from high-risk zones in the region, according to Morten Engelstoft, its chief operating officer. “In 2010, one hijacking attempt was registered every six days, and in 2011 there’s been a large increase in the activity,” Nieslon said. “The problem has never been larger than right now.”
According to estimates by the London-based International Chamber of Shipping, piracy cost shipping companies as much as $12 billion in 2010.
The New York Times November 2, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai’s plan to disband private security companies that protect billions of dollars worth of aid projects and replace them with government forces is fraught with problems and unlikely to meet the president’s March deadline to complete the transition, according to a six-month assessment of the program.
The assessment, conducted by NATO and the Afghan Interior Ministry, outlines dozens of issues that have slowed the development of the new security force and raises questions about the government’s capacity to carry out and sustain the program and others as international aid and military support dwindle in coming years.
The report, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, comes as international development companies are becoming increasingly worried about the security of their workers, many of whom are Afghans.
Mr. Karzai has said that replacing the private companies with his country’s forces is an important step toward Afghan sovereignty. Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has also made it a central issue, according to a Western official.
“It’s become a top priority because if it doesn’t work, everything grinds to a halt,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with diplomatic protocol. “If it isn’t sorted out, everyone will pull out because they don’t want some fly-by-night security protecting them.”
NATO, the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development are setting up a task force that could grow to more than 170 people to advise and help train the guard force, according to a senior American official and a senior NATO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Pentagon will also be asking Congress to appropriate $35 million to $40 million in new and reallocated money to pay for the task force, a senior NATO official said
A recent report by the Foreign Relations Committee has revealed that the State Department plans to field some 5,500 private security contractors to protect up to 17,000 civilians working for the American government in Iraq.
A force of 3,650 private security guards will be stationed at the huge Baghdad embassy. The security firm SOC Inc. has a contract for protecting that embassy worth as much as $974 million.
While the State Department is spending about $2 billion annually on Iraq operations now, it plans to spend an additional $1 billion on the construction of facilities in each of the next several years.
In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war – fewer soldiers and more contractors.
Last August, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in U.S. history.
However the U.S. Central Command has put the number significantly lower.
In the 1st quarter FY 2011, the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) reported approximately 176,161 contractor personnel working for the Department of Defense.
The number of contractors outside of Iraq and Afghanistan make up less than 2% of the total contractor population.
During the first four years of the war-the most recent available estimate-the U.S. spent as much as $10 billion on private security contractors, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Yet this occurred at a time when the military employed far fewer PSCs than today.
The U.S. military is scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors.
According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress’s Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad’s International Zone, providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.
Interestingly, the oversight of contractors will rest with other contractors. As has been the case in Afghanistan, contractors will be sought to provide “operations-center monitoring of private security contractors (PSCs)” as well as “PSC inspection and accountability services.” Please read the entire story here
Press TV Thursday Jan 6 2010
Hamid Karzai issued the order one day after rejecting US calls to nearly double private security firms in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry told Karzai thousands of extra private security guards needed to be recruited to provide security escorts to foreign workers in Afghanistan
“It turned into a serious discussion, the president said we are trying to dismantle private security firms but you want to add another 25,000 to the firms,” AFP quoted an unnamed senior official at Karzai’s palace as saying.
Karzai said the plan ran counter to the goals of strengthening Afghan forces and national institution-building, the official said.
“This means you are creating parallel forces to Afghan security institutions and this means you do not want private security companies to be dismantled,” the official cited the president as saying.
In August, Karzai gave private security companies four months to end operations in the country. He later extended the deadline under pressure from the West.
Karzai had earlier accused foreign security contractors in the country of operating as militias, saying that these firms are only worsening the security situation in Afghanistan.
Some of them have been accused of killing civilians without facing punishment.
Kabul has confirmed the presence of 52 foreign private security companies, including notorious American security firm Xe Services LLC — formerly known as Blackwater — in Afghanistan.
The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.
Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the 19th and 20th centuries, reappeared in the 1960s during the decolonization period, operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations, a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additionally, Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.
These non-state entities of the 21st century operate in extremely blurred situations, where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations, recruiting former military as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.
However, these individuals cannot be considered civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive-defensive to an active-offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law, either, since they are not part of the army or in the armed forces chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.
PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries, for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs, which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.
WASHINGTON (AP) — At two in the morning on Sept. 9, 2005, five DynCorp International security guards assigned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s protective detail returned to their compound drunk, with a prostitute in tow. Less than a week later, three of these same guards got drunk again, this time in the VIP lounge of the Kabul airport while awaiting a flight to Thailand.
“They had been intoxicated, loud and obnoxious,” according to an internal company report of the incident, which noted that Afghanistan’s deputy director for elections and a foreign diplomat were also in the lounge. “Complaints were made regarding the situation.” DynCorp fired the three guards.
Such episodes represent the headaches that U.S. contractors can cause in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They are indispensable to the State Department‘s mission overseas, handling security, transportation, construction, food service and more. But when hired hands behave badly — or break the law — they cast a cloud over the American presence.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act describe previously undisclosed offenses committed by more than 200 contract employees in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries between 2004 and 2008. They were working under a broad State Department security services contract shared by DynCorp of Falls Church, Va., Triple Canopy of Reston, Va., and the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide — Xe Services of Moyock, N.C.
Most of the infractions, which include excessive drinking, drug use, sexual misconduct, and mishandling weapons, were violations of corporate and U.S. policies that probably went unnoticed by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. But other offenses played out in public, undermining U.S. efforts in both countries and raising questions about how carefully job candidates are screened.
Despite complaints from foreign capitals about reckless behavior and heavy-handed tactics, U.S. contractors are more important than ever.
In Iraq, the departure of U.S. combat forces has left a security and logistics support vacuum to be filled by the private sector. In testimony to the independent Wartime Contracting Commission in June, a State Department official said as many as 7,000 security contractors — more than double the current number — will be needed to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other offices across Iraq.
Karzai had to back away from the Friday deadline he had set to ban security contractors after Western diplomats said the move threatened the completion of billions of dollars worth of critical reconstruction projects that need to be protected from insurgent attacks.