Guns for hire are increasingly being used in US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, their numbers rising to shocking levels. These mercenaries are mainly paid for by the US, and their numbers often match or exceed those of foreign and local troops. 217,892 private security operate in Afghanistan and Iraq versus 192,000 US troops.

– 104,101 mercenaries (1)
– 68,000 US troops (2), plus 30,000 (3) more announced for a new total of 98,000
– 32,000 non-US foreign troops, plus 5,000 more announced for a new total of about 37,000 (3)
– 90,000 Afghan National Army (4), with a planned expansion to 134,000 troops by 2011 (5)
– 80,000 Afghan National Police (4), with a planned expansion to 82,000 by 2011 (5)
– 28.396 million estimated total population (6)

– 113,731 mercenaries (1)
– 124,000 US troops (1)
– 28,945,657 total population (7)

– 400, rough estimation of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan (1)

(1) Phyllis Bennis, ‘President Obama’s Afghanistan Escalation Speech’, Foreign Policy in Focus:
(2) Ann Scott Tyson, ‘Support Troops Swelling U.S. Force in Afghanistan’, Washington Post:
(3) BBC, ‘Obama orders 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan’:
(4) Thom Shanker & Eric Schmitt, ‘U.S. Plans Vastly Expanded Afghan Security Force’, The New York Times:
(5) Mark Thompson, ‘Left Out: How to Grow the Afghan Army’, Time:,8599,1944556,00.html?xid=rss-topstories
(6) CIA World Factbook:
(7) CIA World Factbook:


(First published at

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Nima Maleki

Nima Maleki is a policy analyst and consultant, currently the Director of Research and Community Engagement for the not-for-profit Maple Key. His writings focus on international relations and the impact...