By Walter Pincus
Monday, June 2, 2008
The depth of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the difficulty the next president will face in pulling personnel out of the country are illustrated by a handful of new contract proposals made public in May.
The contracts call for new spending, from supplying mentors to officials with Iraq's Defense and Interior ministries to establishing a U.S.-marshal-type system to protect Iraqi courts. Contractors would provide more than 100 linguists with secret clearances and deliver food to Iraqi detainees at a new, U.S.-run prison.
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 sought would "advise, train [and] assist . . . particular Iraqi officials" who work in the Ministry of Defense, which runs the Iraqi army, or the Ministry of Interior, which runs the police and other security units.
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.
Mentors would have to make a one-year commitment, with options for two one-year contracts after that. As a reminder of what they are getting into, the mentors must supply their helmets, protective body armor and gas masks, according to the announcement.
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.
State's plan is to hire a contractor as a judicial security program manager, who would work out details of how such a service could be put together for the Iraqis. That person or group would develop not only the mission, size and structure of an Iraqi JPS service, but also the personnel, budgeting and training materials necessary, plus "all other aspects of creating the new organization so that the project can be contracted out."
In short, State wants a contractor to put together all the elements so the department can contract the project to another contractor.
State also is looking to hire a contractor to provide "100 plus linguists" who would work for a year each, with as many as four one-year options to follow.
Arabic and Kurdish translators are sought. "Native or near native capability in the foreign language and an excellent command of the English language are required," according to the notice. They will work not only at State's Baghdad embassy, but also at regional offices and with Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
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.
The U.S. holds about 20,000 Iraqis at two facilities today, mostly in Camp Bucca in southern Iraq and the rest at Camp Cropper near Baghdad. Along with the facility at Camp Taji, which is expected to hold Iraqis detained in Baghdad, another new reconciliation center, mainly for Sunnis, is being built at Ramadi in Anbar province, where many of these detainees were captured.
In March, Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, who runs the detainee program, told reporters that, on average. Iraqi detainees remain in a U.S. facility for 11 months.
But that might not be the case for the roughly 9,000 Iraqis whom he described as having "a very rigorous view of an ideology that we would broadly categorize as al-Qaeda." They are headed to the new reconciliation centers for what could be longer stays.
National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.