Friday :: Aug 13, 2010

Pretty smart number crunchers


by Turkana

Agence France-Presse has the encouraging news:

Iraq's top army officer on Wednesday warned that a pullout of all US soldiers by the end of 2011 was premature, after eight of his troops were killed in a brazen attack that exposed shaky security here.

Lieutenant General Babakar Zebari's remarks, which run counter to those of his political leaders, coincide with the exit of thousands of American soldiers under a US declaration to end combat operations in Iraq at the end of August.

"At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here," Zebari told AFP on the sidelines of a defence ministry conference in Baghdad.

"But the problem will start after 2011 -- the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011.

Other ways to fill the void. What could he possibly have in mind? Perhaps this Newsweek article has the answer:

As the U.S. military continues to draw down its forces in Iraq later this month and complete a full exit by the end of next year, analysts say the withdrawal will be a boon for the private security industry, whose employees will likely undertake more quasi-military functions such as defusing explosives and providing armed response teams. “They [private security contractors] are going to have to do everything that we expect soldiers to do without going out on patrols to engage the enemy,” says one former industry insider. “There are some pretty smart number crunchers in all the major contractors who are figuring out how much of this increasing pie we’re going to be able to get.”

What exactly that pie will consist of remains to be seen. During the first four years of the war—the most recent available estimate—the U.S. spent as much as $10 billion on private security contractors, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Yet this occurred at a time when the military employed far fewer than the roughly 11,000 private security contractors that it employs today. Just how many will remain in Iraq when the U.S. leaves will depend on the conditions on the ground. Yet analysts say the number of mercenaries will likely remain stable and could even increase slightly. And, as these contractors expand into new roles, “the price of them goes up,” says Stephanie Sanok, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Outsourcing. At whose expense? And as for those conditions on the ground, let's turn to The Guardian:

Al-Qaida is attempting to make a comeback in Iraq by enticing scores of former Sunni allies to rejoin the terrorist group by paying them more than the monthly salary they currently receive from the government, two key US-backed militia leaders have told the Guardian.

They said al-Qaida leaders were exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops to ramp up a membership drive, in an attempt to show that they are still a powerful force in the country after seven years of war.

Al-Qaida is also thought to be moving to take advantage of a power vacuum created by continuing political instability in Iraq, which remains without a functional government more than five months after a general election.

Of course, Al-Qaida never had much of a presence in Iraq, so the framing by even a usually responsible newspaper is interesting. But setting aside the whole scary-names-of-scary-terrorist-organizations thing, some facts remain obvious. Such as that the end of the Iraq War will not be the end of the Iraq War. And U.S. troops will still be there for some time. And mercenaries will still be there even longer. And there will continue to be other enormous costs. And someone will be footing the bill.

(h/t The Common Ills)

Turkana :: 9:40 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!