US private security contractors 'return to Iraq'

US private security contractors 'return to Iraq'
An Iraqi military source says that private security contractors are once again operating in Iraq, performing a variety of functions from providing security at key locations to training Iraqi forces.
3 min read
18 April, 2015
Will US private security companies prove less controversial this time? [Al-Araby]

Two US security firms have reportedly started deploying personnel in Iraq, based on a prior agreements with the governments of Baghdad and Kurdistan. Their stated mission is to protect vital and sensitive locations and train Iraqis in guerrilla warfare.

The private security contractors have come to Iraq as "volunteers" who travelled to Iraq to fight terrorism. Their arrival has been announced in a low-profile and individual manner, but all indications suggest the reality of their deployment is different from what the governments in Baghdad and Kurdistan have officially stated.

Speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed, an Iraqi army staff brigadier general who declined to be named, claimed that "around 400 individuals from US security firms specialised in guerrilla warfare have entered Iraq. Most of them are former US army soldiers who arrived recently, including 140 who are currently in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq."

The private security contractors have come to Iraq as "volunteers" who travelled to Iraq to fight terrorism.

He added "These operatives are handling special missions inside and outside the KRG, including protecting vital sites and training special forces from the Peshmerga."

He said "They were also tasked with protecting various locations in Baghdad, including the airport and Western embassies alongside existing protection details."

He told al-Araby that they were getting paid large sums to train forces from the counter-terrorism agency, through allocations taken from the annual $23 billion security and defence budget.

The brigadier general said the US operatives came to Iraq under an agreement signed at the end of last year. Currently, he added, they are working with US advisers in Baghdad, western Anbar, and southern Erbil near Kirkuk province.

According to the Iraqi military officer, the US operatives in those companies are paid about $16,500 a month, 15 times the average monthly wage of an Iraqi officer, which is around $1,100.

He added "The purpose of these companies is to create a special Iraqi unit similar to US units tasked with difficult combat missions."

He said "The unit is expected to have 3,000 fighters reporting to a special operations war room, chosen for their physical and mental abilities, with ethnic and sectarian diversity being factored in."

Al-Araby obtained photos of a number of US military operatives in the front lines with the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Kirkuk province. They wore uniforms similar to those of the Kurdish forces. The KRG authorities claim they are unpaid volunteers who came to stand with the people of Kurdistan against terrorism.

US security firms that operated previously in Iraq in the wake of the US-led invasion in 2003 were implicated in various violations, prompting an overwhelming popular backlash against private security companies.

The most notorious of these was US security contractor Blackwater, which was implicated in killings against civilians and other abuses targeting Iraqis.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.