Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Petraeus: Mercenaries vital part of effort

Called 'private security contractors', mercenaries such as those pictured above in Iraq are hired by the U.S. from all over the world and are not subject to the same public oversight as the military. Accusations of widespread and sometimes deadly abuses by these forces have been largely ignored.

The Defense Department plans to continue hiring private contractors to provide security at reconstruction projects in Iraq and to train U.S. and Iraqi military officers in counterinsurgency, despite problems with past contracts for such jobs that traditionally have been done by military personnel.

The contracting out of these wartime activities comes at a time when the United States is stretching its resources to provide the additional 21,500 troops in Iraq that are needed under President Bush's new strategy, which involves stepped-up counterinsurgency operations in Baghdad and the expansion of economic reconstruction activities.

During an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new top commander in Iraq, said he counts the "thousands of contract security forces" among the assets available to him to supplement the limited number of U.S. and Iraqi troops to be used for dealing with the insurgency.

A former senior Defense Intelligence Agency expert on the Middle East, retired Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, said last week that contracting out intelligence collection and security for Army units and their contractors "results from actual military forces being too small." He added: "I can't remember a subordinate commander considering mercenaries as part of his forces."

Read the rest at the Washington Post