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U.S. cuts security contracts for Iraq as 2nd phase of withdrawal proceeds

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military is under orders to rapidly reduce security contractors in Iraq.   

Officials said the order was meant to take place over the next year as the U.S. military moves into second phase of withdrawal from Iraq. They said the number of security and other contractors for the U.S. military in Iraq would be reduced to 75,000.

"None of this is negotiable," Lt. Col. Tammie Pettit, the logistics planning chief for the U.S.-led coalition, said.

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Officials did not provide a precise number of contractors for the U.S. military. But industry sources said the U.S. military and government employed more than 150,000 private civilian personnel, with less than a third assigned to civilian tasks.

Under the U.S. plan, security and other contracts would be terminated as the American military advances toward full withdrawal from Iraq. The Defense Department has ordered a pullout of 80,000 troops by August 2010. Currently, the U.S. military maintains a force of around 122,000, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We're really starting to prime the pump to get stuff moving out of here," Ms. Pettit told a conference at Iraq's Camp Victory on Aug. 15.

Security contractors have been assigned such tasks as protecting U.S. bases, training facilities and reconstruction projects. Under the U.S. plan, the military would withdraw from nearly 200 bases, leaving six multi-class supply facilities and 20 smaller bases by September 2010. The deadline for full withdrawal was set for December 2011.

Under the second phase of the withdrawal plan, the U.S. military would transfer, overhaul or donate non-essential equipment. Officials said much of the equipment was expected to be transferred to U.S. forces in Afghanistan while others would be donated or sold to the Iraqi military.

The U.S. military has been transferring thousands of combat vehicles to the Iraq Army and security forces. Under the plan, about 8,500 Humvee vehicles would be acquired by Iraq in 2010.

Officials said major decisions on the withdrawal of troops and equipment would be made following Iraqi national elections, scheduled for January 2010. They said the U.S. military regards the success of the elections as a key to stabilization and a rapid withdrawal.

"Protection of the force will still be paramount during this drawdown," Ms. Pettit said.

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