More Private Forces Eyed for Iraq
Green Zone Contractor Would Free U.S. Troops for Other Duties
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 18, 2004; Page A25
The U.S.-led authority
in Iraq plans to spend as much as $100 million over 14 months to hire
private security forces to protect the Green Zone, the four-square-mile
area in Baghdad that houses most U.S. government employees and some of
the private contractors working there.
Zone is now guarded primarily by U.S. military forces, but the
Coalition Provisional Authority wants to turn much of that work over to
contractors to free more U.S. forces to confront a violent insurgency.
The companies would employ former military personnel and be responsible
for safeguarding the area for the first year after political authority
is transferred to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.
Surrounded by 15-foot concrete walls and rings of
barbed wire, the Green Zone is on the west bank of the Tigris River and
serves as a relatively secure home, office and relaxation area for more
than 3,000 people in what is otherwise an increasingly dangerous city.
The car bomb that killed at least 28 yesterday
destroyed a hotel across the river and less than a mile from the Green
Zone, in a neighborhood where some of the U.S. authority's contractors
live and where security is far less robust.
U.S. officials expect attacks by insurgents to
increase as the June 30 deadline for the political transition nears,
and are struggling to protect employees of the CPA and civilians
employed by its contractors.
The U.S. Embassy slated to open in June will be in the
Green Zone, though not in Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace that has
housed CPA Administrator L. Paul Bremer. Also within the guarded area
are the al-Rashid Hotel; the Iraqi Governing Council offices; the
Convention Center where news conferences are held, a military police
compound; a recreation facility, restaurants; two compounds for food
and service employees of contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root; a
parking area; and a heliport.
The zone has regularly come under attack in past
months. On March 7, seven rockets were fired into the zone, five
hitting the al-Rashid Hotel. Saturday night, in what officials said was
a first, someone stabbed and badly wounded a U.S. Army officer who was
walking inside the gated compound. Dan Senor, chief spokesman of the
Coalition Provisional Authority, said Monday that it was not known
whether the attacker was Iraqi, American or some other nationality.
Bremer, his staff and Iraqis working with the CPA are
now protected by the U.S. military and some private security
organizations already on contract. Expanding the commercial security
force will "augment coalition military forces and allow coalition
military forces to focus on counterterrorism and the highest priority
sites within the Green Zone," according to the March 7 solicitation for
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters yesterday that
the U.S. military is trying to reduce the number of troops inside
Baghdad and station them in six bases on the city's perimeter. "That
will reduce much but not all of the coalition presence here inside the
city of Baghdad, because we certainly will be continuing the presence
of American and coalition forces inside to provide a safe and secure
environment," said Kimmitt, who did not address plans for hiring
additional civilian forces to take over in the Green Zone.
The threats that the private security force will be
asked to meet provide a summary of the dangers facing U.S. and
coalition personnel 10 months after President Bush declared the main
fighting over. The contractor, according to the bid proposal, must be
prepared to deal with vehicles containing explosive devices, the
improvised explosives planted on roads, "direct fire and ground
assaults by upwards of 12 personnel with military rifles, machine guns
and RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], indirect fire by mortars and
rockets, individual suicide bombers, and employment of other weapons of
mass destruction . . . in an unconventional warfare setting."
To meet that challenge, the bidders' personnel must
have prior military experience, and those involved directly in force
protection must have "operated in U.S., North Atlantic Treaty
Organization or other military organizations compatible with NATO
If Iraqis are hired by either the prime contractor or
subcontractors, they cannot be former senior members of Saddam
Hussein's Baath Party or affiliated with any organization the Iraqi
Governing Council labeled as prohibited. No contractor or subcontractor
can "display the image or likeness of Saddam Hussein or other readily
identifiable members of the former regime or symbols of the Baath Party
or the former regime in government buildings or public spaces," the
Contractors will also be expected to provide dogs and
handlers experienced in detecting explosives to provide 24-hour per
day, seven-day-a-week coverage for all entry control points and all
other locations, the proposal states.
The bids are due Sunday, and selection will apparently
be quick. The winner is expected to begin work on April 1. For its
part, the U.S. government will supply housing, meals and minor medical
care to the contractor employees along with vaccinations against
anthrax and smallpox.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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