Did Pentagon plan to leave Afghanistan after the year 2023? Is thrilling reaction coming from US media against President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan link with multibillion defence contracts?
There are many questions needing their answers because available data and information indicate that huge defence contracts had been awarded by Pentagon to several companies with continuing dates till the year 2023.
Oren Liebermann of CNN reported on March 29, 2021, that on March 12, 2021, the Defense Department signed a contract with Textron Systems Corp. for $9.7 million for “force-protection efforts” at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, including unmanned aerial systems, intelligence, reconnaissance, and more. The work was expected to be completed by March 2022, long after the stated deadline.
One day earlier, (March 11, 2021) the department signed a contract with Salient Federal Services for $24.9 million for information technology infrastructure in Afghanistan. The contract has the same completion date of March 2022. Interestingly, two fixed-firm-price security contracts totaling $68.2 million with Aegis Defense Services, a private security service, have completion dates in late-2023 and early-2026.
In total, there were at least 18 contracts totaling $931 million issued since the Doha agreement was signed on February 29, 2020, related to Afghanistan. Some contracts, such as the deals for Textron Systems Corp. and Salient Federal Services, deal exclusively with Afghanistan. Others, such as a $383.3 million contract from April 2020, deal with the production of M16A4 military rifles for multiple countries, including Afghanistan.
The vast majority of the contracts – $821.2 million – were signed under the Trump administration, which began drawing down the number of troops very quickly following the signing of the Doha agreement between the administration and the Taliban. Within one year, the former administration drew down the level of troops from approximately 13,000 to the current level of 2,500, making clear the intent to leave Afghanistan fully by the May 1st deadline.
Anna Massoglia and Julia Forrest of OenSecret Organisation raised several questions in their article “Defense contractors spent big in Afghanistan before the U.S. left and the Taliban took control” published on August 20, 2021.
According to the people with ties to the defense industry have also been in positions to influence decision-making about the withdrawal from Afghanistan from May to September 2021. They said that the majority of plenary members on the Afghanistan Study Group, which advised President Joe Biden to extend the originally negotiated May 1 deadline for withdrawing from Afghanistan, also have ties to the defense industry.
The latest Defense Department quarterly report indicated the total number of contractors in Afghanistan dropped significantly over the last three months from nearly 17,000 in April to 7,800 in July. When Trump entered the White House in 2017, the total number of contractors in Afghanistan was around 3,400.
A report of Congressional Research Service titled “Defense Primer: Department of Defense Contractors” updated on February 3, 2021, shared interesting figures. The Report said that in Afghanistan as of the fourth quarter of FY2020, about 35% of Department of Defense (DOD) 22,562 reported individual contractors were U.S. citizens. Approximately 43% were third-country nationals and roughly 22% were local/host-country nationals. In Iraq and Syria, about 53% of the reported 4,826 DOD contractors were U.S. citizens, with 34% third-country nationals and 13% local/host-country nationals.
These figures indicate that only 13 percent of contractors were local so DOD contracts were actually benefiting the US and third countries (Mostly from NATO allied countries) for the Afghan War.
This is established fact that the war economy is huge and Afghanistan had been the most prime target country for war economies of many countries during the last 40 years. The withdrawal of Biden from the Afghan War is of course not good news for all those who had been linked with the Afghan War economy.
Over the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. spent $89 billion in taxpayer dollars to fund the building and training of the Afghan National Army with an estimated $2.26 trillion in total operating costs funded by U.S. taxpayers.