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Soldiers May Be Leaving Iraq, But Contractors Will Remain

by Ryan J. Reilly

American troops may be leaving Iraq before the end of the year, but U.S. contractors aren’t going anywhere soon.

Soldiers May Be Leaving Iraq, But Contractors Will Remain ABC News reports that the State Department “is expected to have about 5,000 security contractors in Iraq as of January 2012 (they already have about 3,000 in country).” There will also be 4,500 “general life support” contractors to provide food and medical services.

Still, there’ll be a pretty big reduction in the contracting fleet. The Defense Department currently has 9,500 security contractors in Iraq in addition to several thousand general life contractors, said ABC News. At one point, in June 2009, the DOD had 15,200 security contractors in the country.

The State Department’s track record on controlling its contractors isn’t so great, as Spencer Ackerman reports:

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.

This all comes on the heels of a report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan which found that federal contractors working in the two countries lost $60 billion.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is planning to develop “comprehensive legislation”, alongside Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), to improve oversight of wartime contracting.

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