This Week in War


This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.

If you would like to receive this round-up as a weekly email, you can sign up through this form, or email me directly at

Photo: Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier stands guard at the presidential palace on June 25th following a Taliban attack. Shah Merai/AFP/Getty


US Drug War Overflows Latin America

The war on drugs is expanding: in Latin America, the US military is kicking up combat in the most expensive initiative in the region since the Cold War. Victor Silverman of Pomona College joins us to break it down.

Blackwater Becomes New Landlord in Afghanistan for US Special Forces

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a new compound will house hundreds of US Special Operations forces. The facility known as Camp Integrity is run by the company Academi which was formerly known as Blackwater. The company which received heavy criticism for its role in an Iraqi massacre continues to get millions in no bid contracts. Michael O’Brien, author of “America’s Failure in Iraq,” gives us his take on the role of military contractors.

Mercenary Drug War

Waiting For a RideWhen former Vice President Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush he commissioned a study by Brown and Root Services, now known as KBR which is the subsidiary of the defense giant Halliburton. The study recommended that the Department of Defense should contract out logistical and other support services to defense contractors like Halliburton. This was the beginning of a long-term vision of privatizing many functions of the DOD.

When Cheney took office as Vice President his longtime ally Donald Rumsfeld set in motion Cheney’s vision for privatizing the Department of Defense. During the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars there were more defense contractors in those countries than there were US soldiers. The privatization strategy included the employment of private security firms; the US government was now paying mercenaries billions of dollars to provide security for diplomats, military bases, and supply routes.

With the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, mercenary firms are now finding a new role: fighting the war on drugs. It all began with Camp Integrity. The Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan was looking for a headquarters in Afghanistan, and as Danger Room reports, the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater provided the new home through a no-bid contract worth $22 million.

More than just a hosting Special Forces in Afghanistan, the company now known as Academi is apparently going to be playing a major role in the drug war in Afghanistan. The Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO) has also taken up residence at Camp Integrity. And the $22 million contract Aacdemi received is nothing compared to the money that the CNTPO is going to shell out fighting the drug war.

According to reporting by Danger Room, last year the CNTPO awarded $3 billion in contrasts and now the CNTPO is looking for a private security firm to “maintain a basic, operational support cell,” and this firm must be able to “provide a secure armory and weapons maintenance service, including the ability to check-in and check-out weapons and ammunition.”

The Department of Defense isn’t the only agency looking to privatize the drug war. The State Department, which has a long history of using firms like Aacdemi to provide security for diplomats, is also looking to outsource. According to reporting by Danger Room, the State Department will be soon soliciting bids for a private company to maintain its fleet of aircraft used in the drug war. The contract worth as much as $10 billion will be to provide “pilots and operational support for drug interdiction missions such as crop spraying, and the transport of personnel and cargo.”

The outsourcing of the drug war isn’t just relegated to Afghanistan. The State Department’s outsourcing includes operations in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Pakistan, and Guatemala. Before the CNTPO was looking to outsource the drug war in Afghanistan it was outsourcing the drug war in closer to home. As the BBC reported, the CNTPO has also been outsourcing the drug war in Latin America.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the so-called Global War on Terror created a huge market for mercenary firms to make billions over the last decade. However, with the wars coming to a close and the cuts to the defense budget effecting private security firms like other defense contractors, they will be looking for a way to replace that revenue. The war on drugs seems to have provided a very profitable opportunity. If America is willing to spend trillions of dollars on a war in which thousands of US servemembers died, imagine what we will spend when the casualty counts don’t include Americans.

Photo: Waiting for a ride in Afghanistan.