Robert Young Pelton: The chatter behind the scenes is that Baghdad is not the place you want to be posted to next year

Cover via AmazonVia David Isenberg at HuffPo on the DOD to State transition in Iraq:

“We may be waiting a long time before security conditions allow what Mr. Bowen recommends. At my request I asked Robert Young Pelton, author of Licensed To Kill, one of the better books on security contracting in Iraq, his thoughts. He emailed me back that:”

The chatter behind the scenes is that Baghdad is not the place you want to be posted to next year. Triple Canopy is allegedly 30 percent undermanned and DynCorp according to scuttlebutt has yet to get anything in the air. The current push to double hired guns also comes after Blackwater was dropped and others were asked to fill the gap. The turmoil in protection services began not because Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqis, but because the State Dept was frozen by the Iraqi government. Condi thought it would be cute to flush BW down the drain but was wise enough to keep them in place under different names. But Hillary nuked them ten days after the inauguration.

The irony in all this is that HIllary Clinton who once sponsored legislation to ban PMC’s and specifically Blackwater finds herself at the head of the largest mercenary army in America’s history. We have yet to actually see if the U.S. government can operate in Baghdad without Erik Prince and Blackwater. Triple Canopy tried and failed before, resulting in a massive influx of BW in April of 2005 until 2009. We know from Leon Panetta the CIA can’t operate without Blackwater, I doubt the State Department is going to magically double their protection overnight without some serious teething problems.

Now that Erik has packed up and taken his toys with him. My advice to Hillary….don’t go to Baghdad.

It’s rough out there these days.  Read the whole thing here.  (active links added above).

We have previously posted a piece by RYP on Afghanistan here.  

On RYP:  “Author and filmmaker, Robert Young Pelton has made a career of bypassing the media, border guards and the military in his goal of getting to the heart of the story.  In his travels to and through the world’s most dangerous places, Pelton has shared risks with his hosts and often has become the sole surviving witness to history-shaping events. His recent journeys have taken him inside the siege of Grozny in Chechnya, the battle of Qala-I-Jangi in Afghanistan, the rebel campaign to take Monrovia in Liberia, inside the hunt for Bin Laden in the Tribal Areas with the CIA, with insurgents during the war in Iraq and running RPG Alley every day for four weeks with Blackwater in Baghdad.”

Check out his official website ComeBackAlive.com, where he also has a Dangerpedia.

Related post:
Our Shooty-Shooty and Talky-Talky Teams in Afghanistan | Diplopundit | January 23, 2009


Concerns over the State Dept’s future in Iraq: diplomats face supply and security problems

Iraq header 1Image via WikipediaFrom WaPo last week:

Now that most U.S. military forces have left Iraq, the American diplomats left behind face serious security problems the State Department is ill-prepared to tackle.

That’s the grave message the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan presented to Congress on Thursday.

Much of the security once provided by the military will have to be done by private contractors, yet the department does not have the money to hire the number needed nor the capability to manage them.

“Even if State could obtain the funds for more than doubling its private-security force, it is not clear that it has the trained personnel to manage and oversee contract performance of a kind that has already shown the potential for creating tragic incidents and frayed relations with host countries,” Michael Thibault, commission co-chairman, said in a statement to the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
[…]
The Pentagon has worked with the State Department but could provide much more help even as the military withdraws from Iraq. The Defense Department has yet to respond to a six-month-old State Department request for assistance seeking, among other things, helicopters, trucks and mine-resistant vehicles.

Citing the lack of response, committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said the Pentagon’s “apparent lack of cooperation is unacceptable.” A Defense Department spokeswoman said the Pentagon is preparing a reply.
[…]
For example, Thibault told the committee about a “counter battery system” that allows the military to determine the location of rocket or mortar launches against U.S. positions. “As a result, enemy insurgents seldom fire more than one rocket, as they know they will be targeted,” he said.

But the State Department does not have that capability.

“Enemy insurgents will be delighted when they learn and experience that they will not be immediately targeted and brought under fire by the military. Where our enemies worked very hard to launch a single rocket, there will be little reason not to launch entire batteries of rockets,” Thibault said. “The safety of Americans, government and contractor employees will likely be jeopardized. This is simply unacceptable.”

This has upset members of the committee, including the top Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California. He complained that “the government is inadequately prepared to ensure that our diplomatic personnel are properly supplied and protected, now that our combat troops have withdrawn from Iraq.”

The report lists 14 security related jobs that are a good fit for the military but are not in a diplomat’s job description, including recovering dead and wounded personnel, recovering downed aircraft and bomb disposal.
[…]
All of this isn’t the State Department’s fault, Thibault said. The department, he said, has been dealt a bad hand that includes “unknown contract and program support from the Department of Defense; funding limitations likely to impact mission capability; and the need to contract for and perform functions that have never been done by their department.”

Read the whole thing here.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on “Transition in Iraq: Is the State Department Prepared to Take the Lead?” Below are the following testimonies from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and SIGIR.

Panel I Testimony:

Testimony of Mr. Michael J. Thibault

Co-Chairman
Commission on Wartime Contracting

Testimony of Mr. Grant S. Green

Commissioner
Commission on Wartime Contracting

Panel II Testimony:

Testimony of Mr. Stuart W. Bowen, Jr.

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction


Book burning craze goes weirder, 9,500 copies of "Operation Dark Heart" up in flames

Book burningImage via WikipediaVia CNN:

The Department of Defense recently purchased and destroyed thousands of copies of an Army Reserve officer’s memoir in an effort to safeguard state secrets, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

“DoD decided to purchase copies of the first printing because they contained information which could cause damage to national security,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham said.

In a statement to CNN, Cunningham said defense officials observed the September 20 destruction of about 9,500 copies of Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer‘s new memoir “Operation Dark Heart.”

Shaffer says he was notified Friday about the Pentagon’s purchase.

“The whole premise smacks of retaliation,” Shaffer told CNN on Saturday. “Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous.”

Read the whole thing here.

Active links added above. If a copy or two of the original edition escaped the flames, we should see it soon over at eBay in four figures. That is, unless DOD buys it first in five figures.