Reuters / Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters
Sean McFate, Defense One: The Hidden Costs of America’s Addiction to Mercenaries
Washington’s reliance on unheralded private military contractors to fight its wars has mutated into a strategic vulnerability.
A decade ago, I found myself in a precarious position. I was in Burundi, sipping a Coke with Domitien Ndayizeye, the country’s then-president, U.S. Ambassador Jim Yellin, and several others. We had an emerging catastrophe on our hands.
Ten years earlier, the Rwandan genocide left a trail of ash and tears in its wake, claiming 800,000 lives in 90 days—nearly a soul a minute. Since then, Rwanda had recovered, but neighboring Burundi remained at war with itself, ravaged by infighting with Hutus massacring Tutsis and vice versa. In 2004, the United States had intelligence that Hutu extremists wanted to trigger a new genocide that would end Tutsis once and for all. My job, in collaboration with everyone sipping Cokes in the president’s living room, was to prevent this, without anyone outside the room knowing it was a U.S.-led effort. And succeed we did. The Hutu rebels attacked the capital in November 2004, in an attempt to assassinate the president and spark mass killing. A fierce night battle erupted in the streets of Bujumbura, and the extremists were killed or beaten back into the jungles of the Congo.
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WNU Editor: The growth of military contractors in war zones is one of the most under-reported stories on how the Pentagon now wages its wars. Sean McFate in the above post sheds light on how big and important this has become in just the past 15 years, and how it is now influencing U.S. war policy and operations.