blogenlust
12.22.2004

Contractors Start Pulling Out


It just occurred to me that the biggest problem facing our occupation in Iraq is not necessarily the fact that our troops are spread too thin, but that we're relying so heavily on private military contractors to provide essential services for us and Iraq. As a result, it is distressing that a major U.S. contractor had decided to call it quits.
WASHINGTON — For the first time, a major U.S. contractor has dropped out of the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild Iraq, raising new worries about the country's growing violence and its effect on reconstruction. Contrack International Inc., the leader of a partnership that won one of 12 major reconstruction contracts awarded this year, cited skyrocketing security costs in reaching a decision with the U.S. government last month to terminate work in Iraq. "We reached a point where our costs were getting to be prohibitive," said Karim Camel-Toueg, president of Arlington, Va.-based Contrack, which had won a $325-million award to rebuild Iraq's shattered transportation system. "We felt we were not serving the government, and that the dollars were not being spent smartly." [...] "It's not a terrible loss," said Amy Burns, spokeswoman for the Pentagon's Iraq Project and Contracting Office, which oversees the bulk of the reconstruction work in the country. "It actually may be good that we're both moving on." But reconstruction experts say Contrack's withdrawal might foretell trouble with other contractors. ""It's a very bad sign," said Michael O'Hanlon, a scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington who has closely followed the reconstruction process. "If this is how other private companies are thinking, it's a very bad potential warning." Coming as U.S. reconstruction officials have been touting signs of progress, Contrack's withdrawal underscores the challenges in the $18.4-billion effort to rebuild Iraq. The effort to revamp the country is considered vital to providing Iraqis with jobs and services and to weakening the insurgency. So far, however, it has been beset with delays, violence, allegations of graft and waste, and frustration among ordinary Iraqis and top U.S. military commanders at the lack of progress.
It's not a good sign when costly no-bid contracts (i.e. bribery) won't keep companies from sticking it out. The big problem with all of this is that we're contracting the job of reconstructing Iraq to private military contractors who can pick up and leave whenever they want. Frankly, I think this is a big mistake, because reconstruction is so crucial to our efforts. If we can quickly and sufficiently reconstruct the infrastructure of Iraq, we can undermine the rhetoric and motivations of the insurgency. As it stands now, the US military doesn't have control of reconstruction because we don't have enough troops. And if more contractors start pulling out, we won't even have enough of them to finish the job. If that happens, shit we didn't even know existed will start hitting the fan. Reconstruction should be the absolute top priority because it is the answer to basically all of our problems. It provides an answer to the insurgency, it provides a ticket home for all of our troops, and it provides the quickest route to political and economic reforms. I wonder how many Americans realize that the US military is not in control of reconstructing Iraq? I wonder if they'd care?