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Thread: PMC / Mercenaries in Iraq (catch all)

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default PMC / Mercenaries in Iraq (catch all)

    ... is a consideraton in all future Small Wars. For good or bad, this is an issue we must address in planning for and executing operations. I'll start this discussion by linking to a 4 Dec. Los Angeles Times article - Private Security Guards in Iraq Operate With Little Supervision.

    Private security contractors have been involved in scores of shootings in Iraq, but none have been prosecuted despite findings in at least one fatal case that the men had not followed proper procedures, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Times.

    Instead, security contractors suspected of reckless behavior are sent home, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. officials, raising questions about accountability and stirring fierce resentment among Iraqis.

    Thousands of the heavily armed private guards are in Iraq, under contract with the U.S. government and private companies. The conduct of such security personnel has been one of the most controversial issues in the reconstruction of Iraq...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED
    ... is a consideraton in all future Small Wars. For good or bad, this is an issue we must address in planning for and executing operations.
    The Army did publish a Field Manual, FM 3-100.21 Contractors on the Battlefield, back in Jan 03 that gives a bit of guidance. However, the use of contractors in a wide variety of critical roles has expanded so much since that time that it really does need a serious re-look.

    Edit to add: This RAND study, published earlier this year, also takes a pretty good look at the issue:

    How Should the Army Use Contractors on the Battlefield? Assessing Comparative Risk in Sourcing Decisions
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 12-04-2005 at 06:47 PM.

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    Default Our Mercenaries in Iraq

    25 January LA Times commentary - Our Mercenaries in Iraq by Jeremy Scahill.

    ... Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll...

    From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater now envisions itself as the FedEx of defense and homeland security operations. Such power in the hands of one company, run by a neo-crusader bankroller of the president, embodies the "military-industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.

    Further privatizing the country's war machine — or inventing new back doors for military expansion with fancy names like the Civilian Reserve Corps — will represent a devastating blow to the future of American democracy.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    "Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush declared. This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.
    I think the President had a very different idea from the one Scahill puts forward. A couple of places on this site we've discussed the need for OGA and other types of capabilities that were needed here (and in other GWOT scenarios) as well as non-OGA specialties (like some of the members of the SWC have.) With less then 1% wearing the uniform, a civilian corps like the one the President described could bring additional options and functions. One thing is for sure, anyone on Uncle Sam's payroll will not make the kind of money many of the war contractors do. However if we don't do it, then somebody like Blackwater will offer to do it for us, and of course it will cost us.

    What I think the President was prevailing upon the American people for was to volunteer their services (out of a military uniform) and sacrifice some of their time for modest compensation. I've heard others express sentiment for Heinlen - I agree with in-alienable rights to a degree, but the vast majority of Americans have no understanding the gifts that have been secured them through the sacrifices of others. There is some attraction to this in that a parent who serves a significant portion of their life might feel as though they've earned it for their children, so that they in turn might not have to sacrifice. That may be a good thing, but it may not if conditions have changed to a point that in order to secure our freedoms we must have a greater degree of generational sacrifice.

    Heinlen explored the question of sacrifice and rewards in a republic. I think we need to consider the same question as it applies to our own future. I've seen many here who would be willing to sacrifice a great deal to enjoy the fruits of U.S. citizenship. Many would make exceptional Americans, that is they would understand the full value of being an American and enjoying its freedoms.

    As for MR. Scahill's comments - its supply and demand. If more were willing to sacrifice, then its unlikely Balckwater would enjoy the success that it does and thus be able to charge the prices that allow it to expand it capabilities and enter other markets. I'd recommend that if MR Scahill is concerned he pick up a rucksack, if we could fill out the Army and Marines, and perhaps create a volunteer Corps with unique capabilities that was willing to do it for reasonable money, then he would not have needed to write his OP/ED.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    I am not necessarily the biggest fan of PMCs for reasons that have been been laid out by several members of this board, though I am not against them either, per se. But this kind of alarmist crap serves no purpose other than creating paranoia. Reading this article you would think that Blackwater is only a phone call away from overthrowing the government. Scahill obviously knows that most Americans have no idea what contractors are doing in Iraq and he uses that to build the picture of tens of thousands of "mercenaries" running loose in Iraq doing whatever they want while Blackwater builds its huge "secret" army in order to further the evil goals of the neo-cons. Scary stuff if you don't know any better.

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    Default Security Contracts to Continue in Iraq

    4 February Washington Post - Security Contracts to Continue in Iraq by Walter Pincus.

    The Defense Department plans to continue hiring private contractors to provide security at reconstruction projects in Iraq and to train U.S. and Iraqi military officers in counterinsurgency, despite problems with past contracts for such jobs that traditionally have been done by military personnel.

    The contracting out of these wartime activities comes at a time when the United States is stretching its resources to provide the additional 21,500 troops in Iraq that are needed under President Bush's new strategy, which involves stepped-up counterinsurgency operations in Baghdad and the expansion of economic reconstruction activities

    During an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new top commander in Iraq, said he counts the "thousands of contract security forces" among the assets available to him to supplement the limited number of U.S. and Iraqi troops to be used for dealing with the insurgency.

    A former senior Defense Intelligence Agency expert on the Middle East, retired Army Col. W. Patrick Lang, said last week that contracting out intelligence collection and security for Army units and their contractors "results from actual military forces being too small." He added: "I can't remember a subordinate commander considering mercenaries as part of his forces."

    Retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who once headed the U.S. Central Command and today serves on an advisory board of a defense contractor, said there is a role for private firms taking on security missions. But he warned that problems can arise "when they take on quasi-military roles."...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Check out Falcon, they seem to be looking to expand their services to fill a niche. I concur with the statement about our underfunded and under-resourced organic capabilities. PMCs seem to be poised to take advantage of a "need". I would call this in large part a self inflicted gunshot wound on our part. We may never be able to rectify this.

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    I'm curious about your comment. Falcon is a Kurdish owned outfit which supports both coalition and Kurdish specific interests.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Falcon is a Kurdish owned outfit which supports both coalition and Kurdish specific interests
    I'd say that pretty much covers it.

    PMCs are expanding to fill other roles - its getting more grey not less. Where there is a need and some initiative, there is a way to make some money. However as far as any PMCs go, I'm not sure I agree with the word "support" in the way I would normally apply it to military relationships.

    There are some good people working for Falcon and the other PMCs - but I think the word "contract" is a better description. It provides a pretty set left and right limit for a "service" vs. a supporting relationship such as say a support BN to a line unit. The motivation is different (even if the individual working that PMC would like to do more) as well.

    They are useful, but that doesn't mean there are not disadvantages to using them, even if you don't see them up front.

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    Council Member bismark17's Avatar
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    Default Vanity Fair article on PMCs

    Interesting article on Tim Spicer in Vanity Fair written by Robert Baer. I couldn't find it on this site. If its already posted, please delete.


    As a former C.I.A. agent, the author knows how mercenaries work: in the shadows. But how did a notorious former British officer, Tim Spicer, come to coordinate the second-largest army in Iraq—the tens of thousands of private security contractors?
    by Robert Baer April 2007



    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/f...urrentPage=all

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    Quote Originally Posted by bismark17 View Post
    But how did a notorious former British officer, Tim Spicer, come to coordinate the second-largest army in Iraq—the tens of thousands of private security contractors?
    Not what you know, but who you know?

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    In the footsteps of Rolf Steiner?

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    Default All Hands On Deck

    All Hands On Deck – Radically Reorienting Private Security in Iraq by Malcolm Nance at Small Wars Journal Blog.

    Authors Note: This article was written in late August 2007, well before the present controversy over the Mansour neighborhood shootings by Blackwater Security. It is not a response or intended to address that incident.

    The role of Private Security Companies (PSCs) operating in Iraq has always been controversial. It is said Iraq is a ‘different kind of war’. That is true in the sense that all Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, no matter what their regular duties, suddenly became light infantry in a vicious counterinsurgency. It is a battle without a rear area and an extremely small military presence in proportion to the local population.

    Rear area security, perimeter security and highway escort of supplies were once the domain of the Military Police and light infantry units. They virtually belong to PSCs now. Originally, a temporary measure for reconstruction, PSCs are deeply enmeshed in the fabric of Iraqi security.

    It is far too late to argue whether more combat forces should have been brought to Iraq in the first place. Reconstruction priorities proved to be a significant drain on the U.S.'s already-overstretched force. The massive plan to completely redevelop Iraq’s war damaged infrastructure and get oil and energy back on line became a high priority for the Bush administration. Other projects included refurbishing the national electrical grid, rebuilding destroyed bridges, revitalizing the southern Iraq marshes, demining the battlefields, investigating Saddam’s crimes against humanity and a wide-spread democracy building program. For a society of 25 million people, this effort was massive. These projects employ tens of thousands of American, British and Iraqi partners who had one thing in common at the start. They had no security. The US Army could not provide it and the need for follow on security forces was clear. There was a pressing need for PSCs in Iraq and with it came unforeseeable troubles such a group could bring...
    Much more at the link...

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    Default More PMC than U.S. military trigger pullers in Iraq?

    Just saw this on John Robb's blog:

    There are currently 20,000 PMC trigger pullers in Iraq. These men are guarding facilities and key people across the country. This is likely more trigger pullers (as opposed to support personnel) than the entire US military currently has in the country.
    This isn't actually true is it?

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    No, he's wrong ... there are over 130,000 CONTRACTORS of all types in Iraq including 75,000 Iraqis. US combat forces stands at 160,000, unless I am mistaken.
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Robb is wrong on many levels...

    I have no clue if he's correct on the number of shooter PMC bods -- nor do I care. However, with 160K total troops plus or minus in country, nominal shooters or 'combat troops' will run about 33% -- or about 52K. Done another way there are about 30 Bn Cbt Tms plus other elements including some CS units serving as Inf so that puts the trigger pullers over 40K in all probability -- thus if Robb is right, he's wrong. Again.

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    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    there are closer to 180,000 contractors there and upwards of 50k are security contractors. When Gen Shinseki suggested a few hundred thousand troops, we was surely assuming the force would be somewhat unified. He surely didn't imagine that over half of the force would be outside the command structure, virtual black boxes to ground commanders, and operating tactically willfully in many cases ignoring strategic consequences of their actions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I have no clue if he's correct on the number of shooter PMC bods -- nor do I care. However, with 160K total troops plus or minus in country, nominal shooters or 'combat troops' will run about 33% -- or about 52K. Done another way there are about 30 Bn Cbt Tms plus other elements including some CS units serving as Inf so that puts the trigger pullers over 40K in all probability -- thus if Robb is right, he's wrong. Again.
    Thanks, I figured the number (total military combat troops) couldn't be as low as 20,000.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Looks like SecDef Gates has been reading Abu Buckwheat ...

    Pentagon sees one authority over contractors - NYTIMES - 16 Oct.

    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is pressing for the nearly 10,000 armed security contractors now working for the United States government in Iraq to fall under a single authority, most likely the American military, in an effort to bring Blackwater USA under tighter control, senior administration officials and Pentagon advisers say.

    That idea is facing resistance from the State Department, which relies heavily for protection in Iraq on some 2,500 private guards, including more than 800 Blackwater contractors, to provide security for American diplomats in Baghdad. The State Department has said it should retain control over those guards, despite Blackwater’s role in a September shooting in Baghdad that exposed problems in the current oversight arrangements.

    In practical terms, placing the private security guards who now work for the military, the State Department and other government agencies under a single authority would mean that those armed civilians would no longer have different bosses and different rules. Pentagon advisers say it would also allow better coordination between the security contractors and American military commanders, who have long complained that the contractors often operate independently ...

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    Default Abu Buckwheat's right on the money

    in terms of resoving the immediate and near term problem. His proposal also goes a long way toward defining what should be the proper command relationship between PSCs and the USG in future operations. What he doesn't address - and this is not a criticism - is the proper role of PSCs (and other contractors.

    The expanded role of contractors including PSCs was a long time in the making. I watched contracting expand during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations long before the current war. I have seen contractors, including PSCs, performing appropriate roles extremely well. But I have also seen abuse and, more importantly, role expansion into areas that I believe properly belong to the government and the government alone.

    One issue in contracting - especially for PSCs - is the terms of the contract. I am quite sure that the terms of Blackwater's contract with DOS are reasonably interpreted to protect their FSO charges against any and all threats by whatever means are necessary. Such a contract - one that is open to this type of interpretation - is certainly a part of the problem. The culprit here is not the PSC but its client (in this case DOS which seems to have forgotten that its FSOs are commissioned officers of the USG and, therefore, can be required to take risks that other civilian employees do not have to take). At the same time, the PSC should not be off the hook for overzealous (at best) behavior in what appears at first glance to be a "shoot first and ask questions later" approach to personnel security. Mr, Nance's proposal would go a long way toward resolving this problem as well as providing time to develop appropriate policies and roles for government contractors and, especially, PSCs.

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