President Barack Obama is planning a George Bush-style numbers game in the increasingly-unpopular war in Afghanistan — adding 14,000 combat troops while replacing support troops with mercenaries to make it look like the U.S. is not increasing its military presence in that war-torn country.
The plan hatched by the Pentagon and approved by the White House would put more "trigger pullers" on the ground while using private security firms to provide support and logistrics. Under the plan, the ovreall troop American troop count would not increase even though more U.S. soldiers would be put in harm’s way.
"It makes sense to get rid of the clerks and replace them with trigger-pullers," one military official told the Los Angeles Times.
The changes will not offset the potential need for additional troops in the future, but could reduce the size of any request from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and allied commander, officials said.
McChrystal submitted a broad assessment of the Afghanistan war effort this week, calling the situation there "serious."
Details of the assessment remain secret, but officials said it did not contain a request for more troops. Such a request could be submitted in coming weeks.
The planned changes in the U.S. troop mix are part of what military officials call a "force optimization" review, a critical middle step between the assessment and a request for additional troops, designed to ensure that the existing force is operating as efficiently as possible.
The plan reflects the view that much of the military bureaucracy that has built up in Afghanistan no longer serves a useful purpose. Services performed by troops that are no longer considered crucial could be outsourced to contractors or eliminated, officials said.
Defense officials said they would not know how many positions and jobs might be eliminated until the McChrystal review was completed. But two officials estimated the total could be 6,000 to 14,000 troops.
According to the Congression Research Service, private contractors already outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The CRS reported in August:
As of March 2009, there were 68,197 DoD contractors in Afghanistan, compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors made up 57% of DoD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DoD in any conflict in the history of the United States."