Monday, December 29, 2014

More troops in Iraq means more private contractors

As more and more US troops are sent to Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve private contractors follow to provide various services for the troops and the Iraq government. At present, there are already around 1,800 private contractors in Iraq who work for the US State Department. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently ordered another 1300 but this is likely only a fraction of the ultimate total.

 During the peak of the earlier US deployment to Iraq there were more than 163,000 private contractors in the country. The use of many private contractors often masks the total US involvement. In the earlier deployment there were frequent criticisms of the costs involved and lack of proper oversight of spending. As pointed out in an earlier article, the Pentagon has already been asking for contractors to sign up for long-term deployment to Iraq. A senior US official said that the number of contractors sent will depend on the number of US troops present and their dispersion within Iraq. Sending more contractors shows that Obama is planning on an extended war and a lengthy deployment of troops to Iraq not that long after withdrawing all US troops.

 Contractors can be responsible for a large range of services from guarding facilities and diplomats, to servicing vehicles and providing food for staff. While Obama has promised that there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq, there are already 3,100 all of whom he claims are in non-combat roles.

When Hagel recently visited Iraq, he flew over Baghdad in helicopters that were operated by private contractors paid for by the State Department. Private contractor numbers have been declining in iraq ever since 2011 but lately are rising again but by less than 5 percent according to the US State Department. After the offensive of the Islamic State into Iraq, the State Department upped the number of guards protecting the US consul in Erbil from 39 to 57 as the threat of being attacked increased. The guards are provided by a company called Triple Canopy part of the Constellis Group. Constellis did not respond to inquiries.

After US troops left Iraq in 2011, many private contractors were left to provide protection for diplomats and other services to the diplomatic community. Almost all the private contractors work for the US State Department. Even in late 2013 there were still 6,000 private contractors in Iraq working for the Pentagon, most of them supporting arms sales and delivery to the the Iraqi government, according to Pentagon spokesperson Mark Wright. However, in August the Pentagon asked for contractors to help provide advice to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Counter Terrorism. Service.

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