Thursday, August 19, 2010

Open Season for a New Civilian Surge in Iraq

This one from the NYT:

As the United States military prepares to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Obama administration is planning a remarkable civilian effort, buttressed by a small army of contractors, to fill the void.

By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.

“I don’t think State has ever operated on its own, independent of the U.S. military, in an environment that is quite as threatening on such a large scale,” said James Dobbins, a former ambassador who has seen his share of trouble spots as a special envoy for Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo and Somalia. “It is unprecedented in scale.”

White House officials expressed confidence that the transfer to civilians — about 2,400 people who would work at the Baghdad embassy and other diplomatic sites — would be carried out on schedule, and that they could fulfill their mission of helping bring stability to Iraq.

Continue reading Civilians to Take U.S. Lead After Military Leaves Iraq

About 2,400 people to work at the US Embassy in Baghdad -- not quite the 3,000 personnel that former US Embassy Baghdad Deputy Ambassador, Robert Ford (current nominee for Syria) talked about in early January this year, but close enough.

Now, you probably have the same next questions I have --

Between the hard civilian surge in Afghanistan, and the soft civilian surge in Pakistan, then this Part II civilian surge in Iraq, how many Foeign Service people will be left to tackle work in over 260 diplomatic missions around the globe? 

Are you suggesting that we temporarily shutter those posts while I'Af/Pak is taken cared of?

Or hire more 3161 employees?

More contractors?

Oh, how about When Actually Employed employees?

The Congress is already unhappy with requests for more money for the State Department. We did not hear similar unhappiness with requests for the people's money when we invaded Iraq and in the many years that the war was fought there, did we? Yup, life is definitely unfair.

But no one wants to stand out in an election year accused of defunding the war, or not supporting the troops by withholding money from DOD.

And no one wants to stand out in an election year accused of "splurging" the people's money, or funding those diplomats who speak strange languages and get too cozy with foreigners.

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