While the last of the combat troops withdraw from Iraq there is plenty of coverage. However there seems little news about the army of civilians and contractors that will move into Iraq in the near future. Of course over 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq until October 2011. The State Dept. will then assume responsibility for training Iraqi police. This task will largely be carried out by contractors.
Even though Gates claims he will cut private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan by ten per cent the State Dept. is planning to more than double the number of security guards it hires to about 7,000.
Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, officials said.
Some analysts think that complete withdrawal of troops in 2011 is not realistic and that there must be negotiations with the Iraqis to keep more troops in the country. However the same analysts claim that right now is not a good time to discuss such matters!
Preparations for the civilian takeover have been going on for months with numerous tasks now performed by the military being phased out or assigned to contractors or others. As one would expect there will be a big increase in equipment.
To move around Iraq without United States troops, the State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, called MRAPs, from the Pentagon; expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320; and create a mini-air fleet by buying three planes to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow to 29 choppers from 17.
There are to be 6 to 7 thousand private security contractors. This is bound to cause conflict with the Iraqi government which has been very critical of private security firms. However, the contractors would not have special immunity as previously and would have to be licensed by the government.
The costs of all these new services will be significant. The cost of building and sustaining two embassy branch offices - one in Kirkuk and the other in Mosul - and of hiring security contractors, buying new equipment and setting up two consulates in Basra and Erbil is about $1 billion. It will cost another $500 million or so to make the two consulates permanent. And getting the police training program under way will cost about $800 million.
The U.S. taxpayer will obviously be investing money in Iraq for some time to come if not indefinitely. But then there will be new jobs for private contractors! Just think of it as a stimulus program.