Contemporary Issues and Research
In Afghanistan, security contractors play a vital role after the bulk of the U.S. troops stationed there officially departed at the end of 2014. The Department of Defense (DOD) has increasingly relied on contractors to support its operations in Afghanistan, which has resulted in numerous foreign contractors working in the country. The foreign contractors in the country number 110,000 individuals. The critical role played by the foreign contractors is in supporting various military operations. Lack of adequate contract management can prevent troops from receiving support and can also lead to wasteful spending (Schwartz 2009, p. 3).
The key to rebuilding Afghanistan is to set up a continuous political process through which different Afghan tribes, factions, and their leaders develop a common national agenda. This political constituting process has to provide opportunities for comprehensive and widespread participation of different Afghan groups at every level.
Both the foreign contractors and local Afghans have to work together to ensure successful rebuilding of the country. The locals possess numerous that are of great importance to the foreign contractors. These include the ability to translate the local language for the foreign contractors, helping the foreign contractors know the best and strategic routes around various places. The locals can also help in the identification and hunting down of any known and wanted fugitives who are viewed as being against the efforts to rebuild the country. The foreign contractors, on the other hand, also have a lot to offer in the rebuilding phase. Their biggest contribution is to provide security and logistical support to many of the international organizations that have been tasked with the obligation of rebuilding the country. Such organizations include the Catholic Relief Services, Direct Relief International, Operation USA, Oxfam America, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and so many more (Schwartz 2009, p. 5).
After the end of the twenty-three-year long war in Afghanistan, nearly every element of the country’s economy had been significantly crushed. The war left all of the country’s assets under the control of the Taliban. The Taliban, with their ruthlessness, introduced strict Islamic rules that forbade girls from attending school, and boys could only attend “madrasas” where they could only learn about Islam. The country’s military was destroyed in the war, as was the education system. Corruption is rampant in the country to the point whereby in 2012 it was ranked 174 out of 176 by Transparency International on the Corruption Perceptions Index (Business Traveller 2012, p. 1). It was ranked as being corrupt as North Korea, Myanmar and Somalia (Business Traveller 2012, p. 1).
Because the entire economy, education, agricultural, health and military sectors need rebuilding it will take a considerable input from the international community, together with the local Afghans themselves to ensure that the country does not fall back into a state of warfare.
The United States, because of its role in the military campaign that began in 2001 should not maintain a huge, high-profile military presence in Afghanistan. This was one of the reasons that led it to set the end of 2014 as the time its last military troops left the country. There are several ways in which the U.S. government can use to assist Afghanistan in its rebuilding efforts so as to safeguard its interests. These ways include providing significant financial and diplomatic help. The U.S. government has been providing huge amounts of financial help to Afghanistan to help in rebuilding. In 2007, for instance, the Department of Defense (DOD) spent around $5 billion on foreign contractors working in Afghanistan (Schwartz 2009, p. 5).
Over the course of the war from 2001 when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan the U.S. has spent over £61 billion from 2002 for hundreds of development projects in the country (Kittfield 2012, p. 4). The same also applies to Britain (£890 million) (Kittfield 2012, p. 4). The European Union, through the European Commission, oversees an annual budget of around €200 million in development aid to Afghanistan (Kittfield 2012, p. 4).
Rebuilding Afghanistan starts with putting in place transitional security systems. The dangerous security dilemma in Afghanistan is that even though there are huge numbers of men with weapons, there exist no centralized national security bodies that can be depended upon to implement any agreement made between the different factions and tribes. Many of these factions and tribes are linked financially and politically to external governments and organizations. For this reason, some form of intra-Afghan security plan has to be implemented without providing excessive influence to different faction warlords. To counter this, two courses must also be followed to ensure successful restoration and rebuilding of security apparatus in the country. The two courses are setting up a national army and disbanding any fighting factions. These two courses complement each other.
Given the importance of ensuring the quick restoration of the security apparatus within the country, the U.S., the European Union, Australia and many other countries spend huge amounts of money towards sending foreign contractors to Afghanistan. The foreign contractors help in training the local Afghan army. A news report from February 2015 indicated that private contractors from the U.S. helped train over 300 officers and soldiers in a following a three-month long training program (McMaster 2015, p. 6). Over the next few months the same contractors are expected to train two more classes with over 300 cadets each. The newly trained officers will help in providing a stabilizing force in the country that will subsequently help in the rebuilding other sectors of the country.
For the education sector, the foreign contractors are helping to provide the logistics needed to build new classrooms, together with rehabilitating those that were damaged in the war. They are also helping to train local Afghans to be teachers. The contractors are also responsible for installing computers in the schools, as well as setting internet infrastructures within the country. The country has very few people that are qualified to lecture at higher education centers. A 2009 report found that only 20% of all the Afghan academics possess doctorate degrees. Out of this, 2% are women (Kittfield 2012, p. 4).
The pace of rebuilding schools and building new ones was started at a rapid pace. The plan to reform the education sector estimated that by the end of 2010, student enrollment was projected to have reached 100,000 students, 35% being female students. Universities on the other hand also had to be prepared to admit one million high school graduates by the year 2014 (McMaster 2015, p. 6).
The health sector is one of the most important sectors in a country, yet in Afghanistan one of the least developed and serviced by adequate personnel. A 2009 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that in the whole country there were six thousand physicians and fourteen thousand nurses serving a population of twenty-eight million people (Acerra et al. 2009, p. 79). This severe shortage of qualified medical personnel led the Afghan government to contract several external NGOs to provide health care services to 70% of the country’s population (Acerra et al. 2009, p. 79). These NGOs are in essence foreign contractors helping rebuild the country.
The research methodology entails the research philosophy approach and strategies made use of to conduct the research. The study will make use of a research onion put forward by Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2007) to guide and help in the development of knowledge that will answer the research questions presented in the study. The figure below is an illustration of the Saunders et al. (2007) research onion.
Figure 1: Research Onion
Source: (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007)
3.1 Research Philosophy
In the research onion put forward by Saunders et al. (2007) the first layer of the research onion is philosophy. The study will therefore employ positivism and interpretivism realms of philosophies. Because the study mainly deals with observing the relationships between the local Afghans and the foreign contractors and predicting outcomes is, makes the study touch on law-like suppositions like cause and eﬀect; thereby reﬂecting the philosophy of positivism. The study will adopt a ‘scientiﬁc method’ to suggest and test theories with information which is structured and assessable and in which the research is not affected by the study researcher’s values. Such a method normally involves large samples of quantitative information and testing of statistical hypothesis.
Because the study is also concerned with collecting information regarding subjective meanings on top of providing law-like suppositions brought about by positivism, the study will also make use of the philosophy of interpretivism. The philosophy of interpretivism deals with the study of social phenomena in their normal environment. Its focus is on carrying out research amongst people instead of upon objects, implementing an empathetic position with the view to better understand their social environment, together with the meaning they give to it from their own point of view.
3.2 Research Approach
The second layer in the research onion put forward by Saunders et al. (2007) comprises of the research approach used by a study. In this section, this study will implement two research approaches: the inductive and deductive approaches. In the deductive approach, the study will make observations, provide descriptions and carry out analysis of study variables to obtain empirical results and improve the supposition of findings to the study population made up of Afghan locals and foreign contractors (Creswell, 2009). The inductive approach, on the other hand, will search for incipient trends in the relationship between local Afghans and foreign contractors and how the relationships between the two groups will affect rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan (Creswell, 2009). The incorporation of the inductive and deductive approaches will be significant because it will help in the identification of the existing relationships between the local Afghans and the foreign contractors. Such relationships can include those by foreign contractors in the security, health-care and education sectors of the Afghan economy and the local Afghans that help them execute their tasks or are the subject of the actual activity of the foreign contractors (for instance being given training) (Acerra et al. 2009, p. 81)
3.3 Research Strategy
The third layer of the research onion is the research strategy. The study will employ a systematic research and use interviews as a means to collect data about the relationship between the Afghan locals and foreign contractors. The deductive approach will employ secondary data from a systematic literature review because carrying out a survey is going to be prohibitively expensive in terms of the time and required resources to gather data in either replication studies. Studies such as these will sufficiently explain the kinds (and magnitude) of the relationships between the local Afghans and the foreign contractors over a specific period of time, for instance in 2-3 years, instead of using data collected in one survey that will be inadequate.
Alternatively, the inductive approach will obtain primary data from a group of people consisting of local Afghans and foreign contractors drawn from the diverse sectors in which they work. This group will be sampled using quota sampling to find those locals and foreign contractors who have interacted with the other, and are therefore able to provide information regarding their relationships and are available for participation in the study. The quota sampling made use of in the study will be particularly useful as it does not necessitate obtaining a probability sample. It will allow the researchers to create a sample that is as representative as possible of the population being studied. Another benefit of the quota sampling is that, unlike probability sampling techniques, such as stratified random sampling, it will be quicker and easier to implement because it does not require a sampling frame and the strict use of random sampling techniques. Interviews will be used in the collection of data because of the ease associated with them in the collection of comprehensive information through the possibility it allows for the clarification and elucidation of unclear responses (Creswell, 2009).
3.4 Data Analysis
As it has been indicated above, the study will implement a mixed research approach. In the same manner, the data analysis approach will also be mixed. A mixed method approach combines both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods and analysis measures. This means the study’s researchers will begin with a qualitative data collection and analysis (for instance, a series of local Afghan groups to help define the extensiveness of possible relationship factors they have with the foreign contractors) and then follow this with quantitative data collection and then analysis (for instance, using a questionnaire to determine the relative occurrences of these diﬀerent relationship factors). On the other hand, the study will also choose to use quantitative analysis methods to analyse qualitative data in a manner that is quantitative (for instance making statistical comparisons regarding the frequency of occurrences of diﬀerent relationship concepts in detailed interview transcripts between the interviewers and the local Afghans and foreign contractors. The findings of the study will be given in tables and graphs to make interpretation and understanding easier.
3.5 Reliability and Validity
Reliability and validity of a study are essential for a study to achieve accurate results. Valid methods and data are viewed as being reasonable, correct and as having contextual significance, while reliability means that the study should have consistent findings, similar to those of related studies. In the same manner, the use of several secondary studies to gather quantitative data will make it possible to compare and contrast findings, data and methods, so as to identify and describe the differences to boost validity. Furthermore, the use of the mixed research approach will provide two groups of data whose incorporation during interpretation can uncover any inconsistencies and offer an explanation to improve and boost data validity. Additionally, a mixed research approach will ensure that the quantitative and qualitative methods supplement each other with weaknesses that do not overlap.
3.6 Research Limitations
Because the study will involve evaluating a systematic review of prior studies (through literature reviews) to gather information for the quantitative approach might potentially lead to a number of issues. First of all, any errors and suppositions not discussed in the earlier studies are at risk of being reintroduced into the current research. Secondly, because the studies examined diverse research objectives and were carried out in the past, therefore their findings can be of less relevance to this study.
3.7 Ethical Concerns
Because the quantitative stage of the study will make use of secondary data entirely, devoid of the involvement of human participants, the necessity for ethical concerns was needless. However, in the qualitative phase, the participation of the Afghan locals and the foreign contractors introduces the possibility of ethical issues coming up. First, the consensual and voluntary participation of Afghan locals and foreign contractors will be required to show that no participant was coerced into participating in the study. Secondly, the participants will be allowed the freedom to leave the study before and throughout the interview sittings without facing any repercussions. Finally, the study will ensure that the anonymity of the participants is protected and that it is assured over the course of the study, in such a manner that their input will only be numbered to confirm that their identities have not been revealed.
The topic of how the relationship between Afghan locals and foreign contractors affects the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan has been the subject of comprehensive research, but the effects on increased cooperation between the two locals and the foreign contractors has not been found to be comparative to the decrease in violence in Afghanistan over time. Therefore, to study such a social and security phenomenon, two or more sets of data need to be compared to determine the effect of the relationship between Afghan locals and foreign contractors. As such, the study adopted an approach combining positivism and interpretivism aimed at incorporating both inductive and deductive strategies. The deductive approach will implement a quantitative method to gather data from past studies within the previous ten years, and in the U.S. and European regions. On the other hand, the inductive approach will implement a qualitative approach to gather opinions from the Afghan locals and foreign contractors. The integration of inductive and deductive approaches will be vital in the identification of the difference effects of relationships on the relationships of the local Afghan population subgroups such as age, gender, income levels.
Acerra, J., Iskyan, K., Qureshi, Z. & Sharma, R., 2009. Rebuilding the health care system in Afghanistan: an overview of primary care and emergency services. International Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2(2), pp.77-82.
Business Traveller, 2012. Corruption perceptions index. Business Traveller, April. p.2.
Creswell, J.W., 2009. Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers.
Kittfield, J., 2012. Hard Truths About Afghanistan. National Journal, 1(1), p.4.
McMaster, H.R., 2015. Continuity and change: the army operating concept and clear thinking about future war. Military Review, 95(2), p.6.
Saunders, M.l.L.P. & Thornhill, A., 2007. Research Methods for Business Students. 4th ed. London: Prentice Hall.
Schwartz, M., 2009. Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis. CRS Report for Congress. Congressional Research Service.