The number of civilian contractors supporting U.S. and coalition operations in Iraq against the Islamic State is on the rise, even as major military operations there have ceased, according to new figures released by U.S. Central Command,
From January 2017 to January 2018 the number of Defense Department contractors in Iraq rose 37 percent, from 3,592 to 4,927, according to statistics CENTCOM released last week.
The numbers are reported quarterly and have risen steadily over the last year. For example, contractors supporting base operations rose from 564 contractors in January 2017 to 827 contractors in January 2018. The number of contracted translators rose from 377 in 2017 to 805 in 2018 and the number of contractors supporting logistics and maintenance rose from 1,156 to 1,480.
Marine Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, who heads special operations in Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve, and who briefed reporters Tuesday on the state of operations in Iraq, said he was not aware of the increase in contractors.
Glynn also did not know whether the number of contractors in Iraq has increased to make up for a cut in U.S. force presence, nor did he provide how many U.S. forces are in the country now.
The Pentagon will still not say how many forces are in Iraq or whether that number has risen or fallen since ISIS was driven from all major Iraqi cities last year. The Pentagon will only provide the previous publicly released figure of a force management level of 5,262.
Glynn did say that the forces in country now have seen their mission change. After helping Iraqi forces retake major cities from ISIS over the last two and a half years, U.S. and coalition forces have shifted gears to a stabilization and training role, Glynn said.
“This does not consist of nation building or large construction projects,” Glynn said, and it does not involve operating with Iraqi forces in missions against remaining ISIS cells in the country, Glynn said.
“We don’t accompany the Iraqi security forces hardly ever at this point,” Glynn said.
Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.