The State Department announced Sunday that it would begin evacuating some of its personnel from the sprawling 103-acre U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as violence continues to spiral across Iraq. The U.S. military has not been called upon to facilitate their removal, however, which could put the department’s private air force firmly in the spotlight.
The State Department has long retained the ability to get around Iraq using a private fleet of aircraft that includes UH-1 utility helicopters and DHC-8 planes, both of which have seen military use. In 2009, DynCorp International of Falls Church, Va., signed a five-year deal – worth up to $915 million — to operate and maintain the aircraft.
The DynCorp air force in Iraq falls under the control of the chief of mission at the embassy in Baghdad, according to this State Department document. The aircraft aren’t strictly for diplomatic missions, either. They also are used to deploy armed quick-reaction forces overseen by the State Department, perform search-and-rescue operations, conduct route reconnaissance and support vehicle convoys.
Contractors flying the aircraft work primarily from Baghdad International Airport, which was struck by insurgent mortar rounds and rockets on Sunday. They also fly to the consulates in Basra and Irbil, where many of the State Department personnel relocated in the last few days will be moved.