Thousands of U.S.-employed private military personnel
have become vulnerable to unconventional warfare attacks in Iraq.
Industry sources and analysts said private military and security
contractors, particularly those employed by the Coalition Provisional
Authority, have come under attack by Saddam loyalists and Al Qaida-inspired
insurgents in the Sunni Triangle. They said that unlike the U.S. Army, these
contractors have been helpless against such insurgency weapons as
rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and roadside bombs.
Iraq has served as the first test of a U.S. Defense Department policy to
hire private military and security firms to compensate for the shortfall in
coalition troops. The analysts said that for the first time private
companies have been conducting missions that until 2003 were the
responsibility of U.S. combat troops, Middle East Newsline reported. So far, they said, more than 15,000
private security guards have been deployed in Iraq.
"The contractors that are reporting on what's going on are saying that,
'Look, this is a tough situation. It's very dangerous. There's people
sniping at us every day,'" said Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the
Washington-based Brookings Institution and author of a book on the private
military industry. "They're facing far greater threats than U.S. forces do.
And that's a major challenge here."
On Wednesday, Sunni insurgents attacked a convoy of a U.S.-based
military company in Faluja. Four U.S. nationals were killed and a mob
dragged their bodies through the streets of the city before hanging them on
a bridge over the Euphrates River.
U.S. officials have pledged that the military will return to pacify
they said such an operation would not be immediate.
"It's going to be deliberate. It will be precise. And it will be
overwhelming," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director
of coalition forces, said on Thursday. "The coalition is stepping up its
offensive tempo to kill or capture anti- coalition elements and enemies of
the Iraqi people, in response to the latest increase in violence."
Kimmit said the U.S. military has not returned to Faluja and advised
foreigners to avoid entering the city. He said this advisory would not last
About 30 private security personnel have been killed in Iraq since May
2003, industry sources said. The Defense Department does not release data on
casualties among private security personnel.
The private military personnel killed in Faluja were staffers from the
North Carolina-based Blackwater USA, with 300 employees in Iraq, most of
them ex-U.S. special operations force members. One of the company's missions
has been to guard food convoys in the Faluja area.
"The graphic images of the unprovoked attack and subsequent heinous
mistreatment of our friends exhibits the extraordinary conditions under
which we voluntarily work to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi
people," Blackwater said in a statement.
Blackwater, regarded as one of the most prominent U.S. military
contractors in Iraq, has also been protecting CPA administrator Paul Bremer
as well as U.S. government convoys and oil facilities. Over the last six
months, the company has recruited ex-commandos from South Africa and South
"We do have a contract with Blackwater relating to Ambassador Bremer's
security," CPA senior adviser Dan Senor said. "They are involved with
protecting Ambassador Bremer. They are, obviously, not the only institution
that is involved with his security."
Halliburton has been identified as the prime contractor of military and
security personnel in Iraq. The company, offering annual tax-free salaries
of up to $100,00, has also been recruiting Americans to work as construction
workers, truck drivers and cooks. Employees from non-Western countries have
been offered about half that amount.
Another major military contractor to have emerged in Baghdad was Global
Risks. The British firm, the sixth largest foreign military firm in Iraq,
was said to have employed 100 ex-British SAS commandos as well as 500 former
Nepalese and Fiji soldiers.
Industry sources said up to15 percent of the $18.1 billion in
U.S.-financed reconstruction projects in Iraq has been allocated to
security, including training, weaponry and protection for the CPA. They said
the number of security guards in Iraq has been rapidly increasing in an
attempt to facilitate reconstruction projects amid the Sunni insurgency war.
"So it's a fact of life that not only are men and women in uniform
dying, but you're having security people dying in significant numbers and
most are ex-U.S. military," Anthony Cordesman, a former senior Pentagon
official who is also with Brookings, said.