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Report: Contractor deaths up in Afghanistan

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 16, 2010

Of the 289 civilians killed since the Afghanistan war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months, according to a report by investigative journalism Web site ProPublica.

That’s a reflection, ProPublica noted, of both increasing violence and the growing number of civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Barack Obama’s decision to boost the American presence.

A recent Congressional Research Service analysis obtained by the site looked at the number of civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan in recent months.

The latest Department of Defense numbers show there are more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February. At the time, there were about 78,000 soldiers.

Using civilian contractors to haul food, prepare meals and act as bodyguards has kept the Pentagon’s official casualty figures lower than they would have been in past conflicts, where contractors were not as heavily used, according to ProPublica.

Contractor casualties are not reported in the totals given by the government, the Web site noted. The number of contractor dead are released only through the Labor Department, which keeps part count as of an insurance program for contractors known as the Defense Base Act.