Over the year and a half, MediaMouse.org has been critical of Democratic plans to “end the war” in Iraq, arguing that the plans have–for the most part–intended to maintain the U.S. occupation of Iraq, albeit in a more subtler manner. This is true of Obama’s recent order, which will maintain a residual force in Iraq of 30,000 to 55,000 troops.
One of the areas we have repeatedly criticized is the absence of any plans to address the military’s reliance on contractors who provide both critical services to the military–feeding soldiers, cleaning barracks, and driving supply contracts–as well as security services to companies and governments with a presence in Iraq. They have been a critical component of the occupation and will likely continue to be for some time. It’s also possible that as the U.S. reduces its formal military presence, contractors could step into fill the gaps left by departing troops.
However, according to the Christian Science Monitor, the U.S. military is hoping to reduce the use of 150,000 contractors in Iraq over the next few years.
Reduction Planned over Next Several Years
The Christian Science Monitor obtained a directive from U.S. General Ray Odierno who is ordering the military to reduce the number of contractors in Iraq by 5% each quarter. Odierno ordered reductions at some 50 bases and small installations across Iraq. He further is asking that the jobs that are not eliminated (many contractors will simply be fired as U.S. troops are removed) go to Iraqis instead.
However, this presents a series of logistical problems–training Iraqis, questions about what happens if the U.S. removes critical equipment, and security concerns–that may slow the removal of contractors. Moreover, the directive does not address the private security contractors in Iraq who operate outside the General’s jurisdiction. They will likely remain in the country for some time to provide security to U.S. interests.
There are currently an estimated 150,000 contractors in Iraq, down from a high of 200,000. Of those 150,000, 39,000 are from the U.S., 70,000 are so-called “third-country nationals” (essentially imported labor that is paid far less than what U.S. workers are paid), and 37,000 are Iraqis.