On 13 April 2021 President Biden announced the plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021 and is expected to formally announce the decision on 14 April. This decision was long awaited after the previous deadline President Trump set of having all troops withdrawn by 1 May 2021. However, officials remain worried even with this delayed deadline whether the U.S.-backed government in Kabul can prevent the Taliban from undoing advances in its governance. This decision comes after recent reports of the Taliban launching rockets late last month at Forward Operating Base Chapman in eastern Afghanistan, and a second attack in which a water tower was hit, and a few rounds landed on the base. Finally, the Taliban have threatened to attack U.S. troops if they stay past the 1 May deadline.
In recent years, Erik Prince, former Special Forces and founder of the private military firm Blackwater, has argued for the complete privatization of the war in Afghanistan. He believes a small footprint of private military contractors and an even smaller footprint of U.S. special operators may be able to accomplish what hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and NATO forces over the last twenty years could not. Furthermore, while this would likely not save money, it could have more lethal benefits. A Brookings Institution report found that contractor deaths are not listed on public rolls, and they’re rarely mentioned by the media. Additionally, these firms aren’t subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, so hiding information from journalists is also much easier.
The number of contractors vs. troops in Afghanistan has always been close to equal. In the past decade, the United States has signed more than 3,000 contracts with private military firms, employing tens of thousands of people. Now the question remains whether private military companies will remain past the 11 September deadline, or if they should and what the results will be.