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More US contractors have died in Afghanistan than US troops, but the Pentagon doesn't keep track
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
The Washington Post reported this week that a cache of materials about the war in Afghanistan revealed that the U.S. mission there was failing spectacularly, leading to increasing service member and contractor deaths — not to mention tens of thousands of civilian casualties over the past two decades.
The internal documents obtained by the Washington Post have increased scrutiny of one of the most solemn ways the war is felt — the body count. Over 2,300 U.S. troops have died during the course of the war, along with 1,145 NATO and coalition troops. Presently, there are about 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Those tolls are likely exceeded, however, by that of the U.S. contractors who quietly performed some of the war's most dangerous functions — and whose deaths the Pentagon has never felt obligated to report to Americans.
Brown University's Costs of War project estimates that the real number is about 3,814 deaths. The Department of Labor's report indicates that 1,774 civilian contractors have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war, but acknowledges its tally is not "the complete or official casualty statistics of civilian contractor injuries and deaths."
While the highest death rate is of Afghan security forces, at about 64,124, thousands of U.S. civilian contractors have been killed over the course of the war.
A total of 24,202 contractors are presently in Afghanistan, according to the latest report from U.S. Central Command, but only 4,951 are security personnel. The additional 20,000 contractors are employed in areas like translation, transportation, and IT.
"This is an estimate of all U.S contractors killed in the various war zones based, yes, on DOL reporting of deaths," Neta Crawford, the chair of Boston University's political science department and one of the directors of the Costs of War program, told Insider. "I am not aware of this being discussed DoD or SIGAR reports. Like the number of Afghan military and police killed, there is a dearth of information."
Jessica Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told Insider, "If the death of a contractor occurs, the release of names and other information are handle[d] by the next of kin or the organization by which the individual was employed."
Maxwell told Insider, "We hear about the casualties on a case-by-case basis but do not keep track of the total number." The Department of Labor did not respond to Insider's request for comment by Monday afternoon.
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Against a blistering 56 mph wind, an F/A-18F Super Hornet laden with fuel roared off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford and into the brilliant January sky.
Chalk up another step forward for America's newest and most expensive warship.
The Ford has been at sea since Jan. 16, accompanied by Navy test pilots flying a variety of aircraft. They're taking off and landing on the ship's 5 acre flight deck, taking notes and gathering data that will prove valuable for generations of pilots to come.
The Navy calls it aircraft compatibility testing, and the process marks an important new chapter for a first-in-class ship that has seen its share of challenges.
"We're establishing the launch and recovery capabilities for the history of this class, which is pretty amazing," said Capt. J.J. "Yank" Cummings, the Ford's commanding officer. "The crew is extremely proud, and they recognize the historic context of this."
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.