Afghanistan is one example of how PMCs are becoming more important in international conflicts. PMSCs saw a revival in the post-Cold War era due to a drastic increase of unexploited soldier capabilities. PMCs are active in many aspects of 21st-century conflicts from logistical support to high-intensity operations.
Key Judgement 1
PMSCs almost certainly were a large part of the Afghan Campaign efforts
- The Pentagon has spent $107.9 billion on contractual services in Afghanistan since 2002. Nearly $1 billion in contracts for the next couple of years were given by the US Department of Defense to 17 PMCs in Afghanistan in 2021. [source]
- Afghans had an advantage over Taliban fighters since PMCs operated the Afghan Air Force’s Black Hawk helicopters and C-130 cargo planes for the past 20 years. The military progressively disintegrated without ground maintenance contractors. The departure of PMCs is often blamed for the Afghan military’s quick collapse.
Key Judgement 2
The presence of PMSCs is highly likely to remain in the next 12 months.
- In April 2021, the US Defense Department had 16,832 contractors in Afghanistan, of whom 6,147 were U.S. citizens vs. 2,500 American troops. [source]
- However, the September 11th 2021 retreat didn’t addressed the future of contractors in the country. The length of their contract is longer than the previous deadline for withdrawal. Some contractors will almost certainly join ongoing programs outside Kabul, as in Bagram airbase. [source]
- The Pentagon has implemented remote aid to Afghan forces in recent months. Nevertheless it is unlikely to prove effective given the complexity of usage and administration of military equipment still in the field.
- Contracts with PMC connected to the Pentagon’s “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism activities will almost certainly continue.
- It’s likely that CIA operatives and contractors will continue to headquarter inside the US Embassy as the United States does not have any basing arrangements with countries in the region of Afghanistan.
Key Judgement 3
Deployment of Russian and Chinese PMSCs in Afghanistan will high likely grow in the next 12 months to advance economic and regional security goals.
- US military equipment billion dollars’ worth is still on the battlefield now in the hands of the Taliban. Some observers fear the group may seek help from Russia and China to maintain and operate it. [source]
- In terms of political influence and prospective power, Russia and China are the primary benefactors of the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, they recognize the risk of a “spill-over” impact.
- Both kept their embassies open and already negotiating for economic and security matters with the Taliban.
- Future threats in the regions are: radical Islamic terrorism, drug influxes, and the security situation in Central Asia.
- It is very likely that the presence of both PMSCs already deployed by Moscow and Beijing (see Wagner Group operations and the use of PMSCs in Belt and Road Initiative projects in high-risk environments) will increase in the near future to gain control over this grey geopolitical area.