U.S. to boost cooperation between security contractors, military

Thursday, April 15, 2004

BAGHDAD The United States, increasingly dependent on private security, has launched an effort to coordinate military and security contractors in Iraq.

The Coalition Provisional Authority has drafted plans to create a structure that would ensure cooperation among leading military and security contractors. Officials said such a body would provide assistance to these contractors as well formalize cooperation to facilitate their missions amid the insurgency war in Iraq.

Under the plan, the CPA would first launch cooperation among the 10 largest prime contractors and their subcontractors. The authority's program management office has invited bids for security cooperation that would cover the $18.4 billion in reconstruction projects financed by the United States.

Officials said the CPA could launch the security cooperation project by the third quarter of 2004. They said the CPA was trying to coordinate with private security contractors and provide them with a daily threat assessment report as well as a schedule of operations. About 20,000 foreign security personnel were said to be working in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported.

The CPA also plans to register security firms and their weapons as well as establish rules for the possession and use of firearms. The plan would also define the type of weapons that could be employed by security contractors.

On April 8, Democratic leaders in Congress urged the Pentagon to investigate the role of U.S. security contractors in Iraq. Thirteen Democrats in the Senate relayed a letter that called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to provide what they termed "an accurate tally" of the privately-armed non-Iraqi security personnel in Iraq.

The senators also demanded that the Pentagon adopt guidelines for military and security companies in Iraq. They warned that the presence of the security firms could increase resentment against the U.S.-led military coalition.

"It would be a dangerous precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden only to those who pay them," the letter said.

Peter Kuznick, a history professor at the American University in Washington, said many of the non-U.S. employees in private military and security firms comprise former soldiers for dictatorships. Kuznick cited nationals from Chile and South Africa, some of whom have been offered up to $1,000 per day.

"The South Africans were the former military personnel under the old apartheid regime," Kuznick said. "One of the groups that's well represented in Iraq now are the Chileans. They are the former thugs for the old [Augusto] Pinochet dictatorship. So we've got some people there who I would suspect don't share America's values, and there's not a lot of restraint on what they do."

On April 12, seven U.S. contractors were reported missing following an attack on a convoy in Abu Gharib near Baghdad. The seven missing civilians worked for Kellogg Brown & Root, which suspended some of its regular convoys to supply U.S. military troops in Iraq.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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