Today there are nearly 40,000 foreign contract workers on bases in the US military’s Central Command.
Hailing primarily from India and Nepal, these labourers serve American troops in facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere - doing jobs including cooking, housekeeping and driving.
The US military subcontracts these manual jobs to private companies, which in turn subcontract hiring to Gulf-based contractors and local recruiters.
The promise of high salaries makes these so-called 'third country nationals' believe heading to a war zone is worth the risk.
To get the jobs, many dip into their savings and take out loans to pay thousands of dollars in local agents fees. But in Afghanistan, they find wages far lower than anticipated. Locked into an indentured workforce, they nevertheless remain to earn enough funds to repay their loans.
So, has the US military come to rely on an indentured workforce?
In this investigation, Fault Lines finds that these labourers regularly end up deceived and indebted, victims of local recruiters who charge thousands of dollars for a chance to be placed in one of these jobs, and labour traffickers who profit from military contracts.
We retrace the journey these workers often make – from villages in India to labour camps in Dubai – to examine how the US staffs its bases during wartime. And we travel to the Persian Gulf and the US to find out who should be held accountable.
Fault Lines can be seen on Al Jazeera English each week at the following times GMT: Wednesday: 2230; Thursday: 0930; Friday: 0330; Saturday: 1630.
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