[/caption] Ok, so that’s a bit of a scare headline, but I was struck by this story in the New York Times for two reasons. First, it does report that the last US combat troops have left Iraq, but second, it mentions that the US State Department is going to be doubling their security contractors (upto nearly 7,000) and these civilians will be providing security, escort duty, quick reactions forces, even flying drones over Iraq. Huh? Just yesterday I wrote about the possible inefficiency in using US Navy ships in humanitarian efforts, and today I’ve got a bit of the opposite–using civilian military forces in place of the Army.
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. The department’s plans to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 security contractors, who are also expected to form “quick reaction forces” to rescue civilians in trouble, is a sensitive issue, given Iraqi fury about shootings of civilians by American private guards in recent years. Administration officials said that security contractors would have no special immunity and would be required to register with the Iraqi government. In addition, one of the State Department’s regional security officers, agents who oversee security at diplomatic outposts, will be required to approve and accompany every civilian convoy, providing additional oversight.Wow, really sounds like the kind of job the military might excel at don’t you think? There is a reason–plenty of reasons. Obama’s team can say “we’re out of Iraq” with shades of the “Mission Accomplished” banner far from their memories (deja vu?) and the Iraqi ‘government’ for lack of a better word can says ‘the US is out of Iraq’. Of course the reality on the ground is probably a shade different than those two stories that both governments want to start spinning. There are still 50,000 advisors in country, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more than a few special operations teams looking for this guy or that (and not afraid to fire a weapon if it comes to that). Something tells me there are a few asterisks to the story of “the last combat troops leaving” that we haven’t heard just yet.]]>