Keeping the size of the official military deployment into Iraq to a relative minimum appears to be a goal that the Pentagon has in mind, with the Obama Administration adding troops in small numbers but continuing to insist there isn’t going to be a ground war, or that at the very least US troops won’t be fighting in it.
Still, that doesn’t mean the war itself is going to be heavily impacted, but rather means the Pentagon will be focusing on mustering an army of contractors for the ISIS conflict.
During the last Iraq War, the US at times had over 100,000 military contractors on the ground there. The exact figures haven’t always been easy to come by, but the message that contractors don’t count as real troops on the ground in omnipresent.
The Pentagon is already sending out feelers for assembling this new unofficial army, posting a notice seeking contractors who are willing to work long-term in Iraq, with a minimum 12-month “initial” contract to be followed by extensions.
The US continues to have over 100,000 contractors in Afghanistan, a number that officials say is likely to remain high even as the military presence there continues to draw down.
Exactly how many contractors were already in Iraq at the start of this latest war is unclear, but some estimates have put the figure above 10,000. That’s likely a drop in the bucket, as America moves headlong into a new Iraq War in everything but name.
Though over 1,000 ground troops have already been sent to Iraq, the administration maintains they aren’t to be engaged in “combat,” and the primary focus of the US military operation in Iraq will be airstrikes, at least for now.
Those contractors, whose numbers and movements are rarely all that well reported on, could escalate the war in all sorts of ways without the administration having to worry about a public backlash in the lead-up to mid-term elections.