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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 11/08/2011

In Iraq, U.S. turns to more private contractors


A U.S. soldier walks past armored vehicles in Baghdad. (Saad Shalash — Reuters)
As American troops head out of Iraq, U.S. officials are being forced to bring in more private security contractors.

The withdrawal of the remaining troops from Iraq — 33,000 at last count — has caused U.S. officials to move quickly to fill a series of security gaps to ensure the continued protection of American diplomatic personnel as well as U.S. goods.

The latest example comes from the Army, which said in a recent notice that it has increased the number of contracted security teams hired to escort convoys of food and fuel coming in from Kuwait.

The U.S. military had previously provided security for truckers hired by the Defense Logistics Agency for such convoys, and the truckers’ contracts require that they have security escorts.

In justifying the expanded contract, the Army said that if it were forced to delay the hiring of more contractors, “the U.S. military would have to stay in theater longer than planned to provide the escorts and postpone their re-deployment operation.”

Getting food and fuel from Iraqi sources was not an option.

Purchasing those items “off the local economy is unacceptable,” the Army said, given that there “isn’t enough time for an assessment team to travel through Iraq and identify approved sources to purchase food.”

As a result, the Army said it was turning to a private security contractor that already had been supplying security for food and fuel convoys in Iraq. The firm, Olive Group North America, has had a contract to supply 10 convoy escort teams since July 2011, according to the Army notice. It will now take over security for shipments coming from Kuwait while gradually building up to 45 convoy escort teams.

The cost of the contract, as well as the number of armored vehicles and armed security personnel that make up a convoy escort team, has been redacted from the notice. However, an earlier version of the contract indicated that each team should consist of three to five lightly armored vehicles and be accompanied by an 11-person armed security team.

The Army’s notice does note one other side effect of the departure of U.S. troops.

Without American military convoys, fuel trucks from the local economy will no longer be permitted onto U.S. sites because of the “catastrophic risk” they could be carrying explosives.

By  |  11:51 AM ET, 11/08/2011

 
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