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Contractors Out of Iraq

Good for Gen. Ray Odierno:

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, recently issued a directive asking his subordinate commanders to reduce the use of civilian contractors on at least 50 bases and small installations across Iraq and, where possible, provide employment to Iraqis instead. …

“This initiative supports our desired end state of a stable, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq,” General Odierno wrote in a directive dated Jan. 31. “It’s the right thing to do, so let’s move out.”

Odierno’s asking his commanders to cut their reliance on contractors — there are about 150,000 of them in Iraq, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s Gordon Lubold, which include 37,000 Iraqis — by five percent each quarter. He apparently made a point in his directive of criticizing the military’s reliance on contractors, and candidly told commanders that their troops may need to take up the shortfall. Whatever will happen to KBR’s Sri Lankan ice cream scoopers at the dining facility at Baghdad’s Camp Liberty?

The directive is outside the question of what will happen to private security contractors, since that’s not under the military’s jurisdiction. And there the big thing to watch during the transition to full Iraqi control is who bids on the State Department’s Worldwide Private Personal Security contract when it comes up for renewal in September. It’s currently split between Blackwat– sorry, Xe, DynCorp and Triple Canopy, but in January the Iraqi government announced it won’t accredit the-company-formerly-known-as-Blackwater and it’s unclear if DynCorp and Triple Canopy want the contract now that the Iraqi government put a provision in the Status of Forces Agreement stipulating that all contractors fall under its legal jurisdiction.

Beyond that particular contract, I recently spoke with Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, which might jocularly-but-uncharitably be called the mercenaries’ lobby, about what he thought about the future of private security in Iraq. Thanks to the improved security picture, “more businesses are in Iraq, and they hire private security,” Brooks said. “The large scale [operations are] diminishing, and the small scale is picking up.” Bodyguard work for businesses might be the future of private security, Brooks mused, comparing the situation to Colombia, where private security firms protect big shots from the various militias and terrorist groups.

Update: As Doug suggests in comments, I phrased that last part a bit poorly, but he seems to have read it as me quoting him as saying that PSCs were protecting militiamen and terrorists. What I meant to say, in accordance with our interview, was that they protect the big shots — from commercial interests, etc. — from the dangers of Colombian militiamen and terrorists. Apologies for the confusion.

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