Currently there are around 1,800 such contractors working for the State Department, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has ordered another 1,300 sent. This will likely be just a fraction of the overall deployment.
At the peak of the US occupation of Iraq, there were over 163,000 contractors involved in the war. The use of contractors allowed the US to mask the size of the overall deployment, but was controversial because of both cost and oversight problems.
The Pentagon made it clear, before they even started going into Iraq this next time, that they were looking for contractors for long-term deployments. Officials say the exact size will depend on how spread out the actual ground troops are, but signs are it will be considerable.
The road where crony capitalism meets war is a dangerous one indeed, as it allows for two dastardly acts: 1.) Allows the United States to go to war without appearing to do so: i.e., not using the U.S. military, but “contractors,” thus avoiding any notion of “boots on the ground.” 2.) Allows people to profit from war. Again, that means no incentive to stop doing it.
Or if you don’t think Antiwar.com is a reliable source, check Foreign Policy, but first their historical context:
Within four years of the start of the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, private contractors outnumbered troops in the field. In addition to Blackwater, contractors from companies like DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and their cohorts became integral to the conflicts in a wide range of capacities. Thousands of their employees carried guns and guarded U.S. facilities, trained Iraqi police and security forces, and occasionally even engaged in direct combat. But most of the contract employees were doing more mundane tasks like serving meals, building military facilities, or digging latrines. As David Isenberg writes in Shadow Force: Private Military Contractors in Iraq, private contractors are the “American Express card of the American military. The military doesn’t leave home without them, because it can’t.”
And now what that means for today’s Iraq War 3.0:
Still, there is money to be made, both directly and indirectly, from Operation Inherent Resolve. Triple Canopy recently received a no-bid contract to beef up its forces protecting the U.S. Consulate in Erbil when it appeared that IS forces might overrun the city over the summer. In August, Kenneth Asbury, the president and chief executive officer of the military and intelligence contractor CACI, told a group of investors that they have begun to see increases in some of their contracts due to turmoil in the Middle East.