Thursday, October 30, 2003


Scary stuff:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, important buildings in the capitals bristle with gun-toting Americans in sunglasses. They favor khaki photographers' vests and a few military accoutrements, but lack the name tags and identifying patches of a soldier.

Ask who they work for and one often hears "no comment" or "I can't tell you that."

Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops.

Global Risks Strategies, a security firm with about 1,100 workers on the ground - mainly armed former Nepalese and Fijian soldiers - is among security companies that have more personnel in Iraq than some other countries taking part in the occupation, Singer said.

To the consternation of U.S. lawmakers, there is little or no Congressional oversight of contractors hired by the executive branch of government - whether through the State Department, Pentagon or the CIA.