Today’s Must Read

Could the U.S. ultimately end up privatizing its entire mission in Iraq?

That’s what the latest round of contracts the U.S. government plans to let out in the coming months might suggest.

As Walter Pincus reports in today’s Washington Post, the new contracts underscore the non-military involvement the U.S. is undertaking as public pressure mounts to reduce troop numbers

One contract could essentially begin to privatize the process of training the Iraqi security forces by hiring “mentors” to do what the U.S. military has struggled unsuccessfully to do for the past five years.

The proposals reflect multiyear commitments. The mentor contract notes that the U.S. military “desires for both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense to become mostly self-sufficient within two years,” a time outside some proposals for U.S. combat troop withdrawal. …

The mentors will assist an U.S. military group that previously began to implement what are described as “core processes and systems,” such as procurement, contracting, force development, management and budgeting, and public affairs.

On the civilian side, the Bush administration is looking for a team of contractors to establish a system of security and protection for the Iraq judicial system:

The marshals service would be organized by the State Department’s bureau responsible for developing rule of law programs in Iraq. It “has plans to create an Iraqi service to be known as the Judicial Protection Service (JPS), modeled to some degree after the U.S. Marshals Service, that will ensure the safe conduct of judicial proceedings and protect judges, witnesses, court staff, and court facilities,” a notice published last month said.

With a circular logic, the contractors for the court police will be primarily charged with setting up a system that can be run by contractors for the long term:

In short, State wants a contractor to put together all the elements so the department can contract the project to another contractor.

Finally, the U.S. is seeking to privatize its own Iraqi prisons.

Another contract noticed last week previews the opening, apparently in September, of a U.S.-run prison, now labeled a Theater Internment Facility Reconciliation Center, which is to be located at Camp Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad. The new contract calls for providing food for “up to 5,000 detainees” and will also cover 150 Iraqi nationals, who apparently will work at the facility. The contract is to run for one year, with an option year to follow.

These latest contract announcements come in addition to the massive amount of U.S. arms that the Pentagon has encouraged the Iraq military to buy.

So far, the Iraqi government — which long relied on Russian-made military supplies — has committed to buy about $3 billion in U.S. weapons, as USA Today reported recently:

The increase in Iraqi arms and equipment purchases has helped makers of such U.S. military staples as the Humvee, the Pentagon’s workhorse vehicle, and the M-4 and M-16 rifles, military contract records show.

That puts Iraq among the top current purchasers of U.S. military equipment through the foreign military sales program, records show. Benkert said the deals are helping to cement the future relationship of Iraq to the United States.

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