Gen. Stanley McChrystal (OMAR SOBHANI / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)
PARIS — An excessive use of military contractors in the Afghan theater has created a reliance on the private sector that should be corrected, in part by employing local workers when possible, said Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Asked about the use of contractors in Afghanistan, McChrystal said, "I think we've gone too far."
The NATO commander made his remarks during a lecture at the Institute for Higher Defense Studies at the Ecole Militaire staff college here.
"I think that the use of contractors was done with good intentions, so we could live with a limited number of military [personnel]; in some cases, we thought we could save money," he said.
"I think it doesn't save money. I actually think it would be better to reduce the number of contractors involved, increase the number of military if necessary, and where we have contractors, in many cases, I believe we could stop using foreign contractors and use a greater number of Afghan contractors," he said.
"We have created in ourselves a dependency on contractors that is greater than it ought to be."
Asked if the target of zero civilian casualties is realistic, McChrystal said, "The day a force says it's OK to kill a certain number of civilians, I think we've lost our moral compass.
"It is very difficult in any war to think you won't harm civilians or do unintended damage, but if you don't try to do that, you run the risk of being not seriously enough focused on it," he said.
Studies have shown that where civilian casualties occurred, an upsurge of violence followed that lasted for five months, he said. Force protection is important, but soldiers are being asked to exercise "courageous restraint," even if that means accepting additional risk for troops, to avoid firing on civilians, he said.