More civilian contractors working for American companies died in Afghanistan last year than U.S. soldiers died, The New York Times reported.
The rising number of civilian and contractor deaths could remain an invisible toll of the war since private companies are not required -- and often don't -- publicly announce the names of their war dead.
Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan, the Times reported, citing compiled data from the American Embassy in Kabul and data publicly available, in part, from the United States Department of Labor.
By comparison, 418 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan, the Times reported, citing figures compiled by an independent group called icasualties.org.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon routinely relied on civilians and contractors for jobs once performed by military personnel -- such as cooks, convoy drivers and personal bodyguards.
With the drawdown of U.S. forces, more and more jobs are likely to be filled by contractors -- and experts tell the Times that the true number of private contractor deaths might be far higher.