Anjali Kamat at Dissent:
Over the past decade, contractors and subcontractors have earned billions of dollars providing half a million Asian migrant workers, primarily from India, Nepal, and the Philippines, to perform the menial tasks in American war zones that soldiers will no longer do: cooking, cleaning, laundry, construction, and base security. Employing these workers—an invisible support army with no domestic political constituency—has allowed Washington to keep troop numbers and casualty figures artificially low. Over the years, prompted by worker unrest and some media attention, conditions for workers have somewhat improved on the bases. But the very first phase of their exploitation—the manner in which they were recruited—has not changed, and they continue to be hired through the same extortionary system that supplies labor to the Gulf countries.
On a U.S. military base I visited in northern Afghanistan in December 2013, most of the workers were rural migrants from India and Nepal. The cooks spent twelve hours a day preparing and serving meals to hungry American soldiers: roast beef, turkey, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and pasta. As they put up Christmas decorations in the dining hall under the watchful gaze of a U.S. commander, they spoke in hushed tones of fees paid to agents, threats made by loan sharks, and the pressures of working in a war zone. Everyone was deep in debt.