THE FOG OF WITHDRAWAL
Left Behind / The Price of Peace / Defining "Win"
November 15, 2011 | by Lou Dubose
President Barack Obama has ordered most U.S troops in Iraq to return home by the end of the year — though some will remain in place as advisors. At the same time, what few have noticed is the surge of diplomats and contractors heading to Iraq. The diplomatic occupation promises to be unlike anything the State Department has ever undertaken.
Details can be found in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report released on January 31 of this year. Although the report is written in standard-issue government prose, the reader can almost hear the report's writers gasp as they describe the magnitude of the project. Almost 700 foreign service officers.
The largest embassy ever built, and four satellite locations.
A State Department Air Force consisting of a fixed-wing fleet of four turboprops and enough helicopters to reinvade Grenada (should Rick Perry be elected president): 14 UH-1N Twin Huey helicopters to be augmented by 20 Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, and 24 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
The helicopters will be flown by pilots of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), as part of a program that started with drug interdiction in Latin America. The INL also plans to operate a smaller number of helicopters in Baghdad for "surveillance and ground movement air support."
Also in the pipeline is an army of private contractors that will provide Iraq a larger economic stimulus package than Senate Republicans will ever allow within U.S. borders.
The numbers are scattered throughout the 29-page report: 3,650 security contractors in Baghdad, 600 in Irbil, 335 in Kirkuk and 355 in Mosul. All hired through Worldwide Protective Services.
The military and civilian staff of 200 at the Baghdad Embassy will be increased to 800, supported by "3,000 or more life-support and security contractors," who might contract their own helicopter fleet.
What's the grand total? From the Senate report:
Already the largest in the world, the American diplomatic mission in Iraq will expand further as the State Department takes on full responsibility for its own security.
The embassy compound will continue to be the center of American diplomatic gravity. But it will be supported by a planned 15 satellite sites across the country: three air hubs, three police training centers, two consulates, two embassy branch offices, and five Office of Security Cooperation sites.
Roughly 17,000 individuals are expected to be under ''chief of mission authority,'' mostly third-country nationals working as life-support and security contractors. The number of American diplomats in Iraq is projected to remain at roughly 650, with an additional several hundred functional staff posted at the embassy from a variety of other government agencies, including USAID and the Departments of Treasury, Justice, and Agriculture.
Saddam Hussein promised the "Mother of all Battles" when George H.W. Bush was preparing for the first Gulf War. The Bush II invasion of Iraq, aided and abetted by Barack Obama, appears to have delivered the Mother of All Diplomatic Missions.
The Price of Peace
After the transition is completed, the cost of State Department operations in Iraq is expected to reach $6 billion a year, of which $3 billion will go to actual diplomatic operations. The $6 billion figure is twice the previous year's Iraq budget and more than 25 percent of the State Department's entire operational budget.
In August 2010, the U.S. military was tracking 170 defense contractor sales in Iraq valued at almost $6 billion. By November of 2010, the number had risen to approximately 400 contracts valued at $13 billion. Arms sales professionals were all over Iraq, selling more weapons systems than Iraqi armed forces could absorb without additional technical support from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. The big winners in Iraq are defense contractors, who sold the weapons systems and then used State Department and Defense Department officials as uncompensated consultants to assist the Iraqi army with the complex systems they bought. All on the tab of the American taxpayer.