US actually increasing personnel in Iraq: More contractors, fewer troops
US forces are not withdrawing from Iraq.
Well, its soldiers are. But not civilian contractors. Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw US troops from the war-torn country, the US is planning to award contracts to protect US installations at a cost to taxpayers that could near $1 billion.
In fact, the Multi-National Force-Iraq just awarded $485 million in contracts just last week, while Congress enjoyed its summer recess. Five firms will handle private security deals to provide security for US bases. It's a neat rhetorical loophole that will allow US officials to say that the country has withdrawn from Iraq, while its contractors remain.
"Under a similar contract with five security contractors that began in September 2007, the MNF-I spent $253 million through March 2009, with needs growing over that 18-month period," the Washington Post's Walter Pincus wrote in Wednesday editions. "That contract, which was to run three years, had a spending limit of $450 million.
Pincus cites an Inspector General's report, whose fine print notes that these contracts could swell to a whopping $935 million. An earlier IG report documented manifold allegations of fraud and government waste (PDF here).
Victory Base Camp, one of the US' largest installations, will likely require "approximately 2,600 security personnel," the report said -- just by itself.
The Pentagon's "quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department. The Central Command attributed the increase, from 10,743 at the end of March to 13,232 at the end of June, mainly to "an increased need for PSCs [private security companies] to provide security as the military begins to draw down forces."
Private guards replaced soldiers at 19 locations. Are taxpayers getting their money's worth by awarding contracts to more efficient private firms?
Nope: security companies are billing the US for more people to do what the military is able to do with less.
"Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for '417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations,'" Pincus notes. "At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for 124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities."
At another installation, Camp Taji, about 900 private contractors replaced 400 soldiers.
Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.
Laurens Van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958)