Raising an Army for the Department of State

The U.S. State Department reportedly is fielding its own army. It sounds so “Vatican City,” or part of some Will Smith shoot ‘em up movie about survival in the aftermath of the destruction of the world.

According to the 2008 status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, all U.S. military are to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, is making the (hasty?) transition. The departure of Odierno could leave the diplomats in a highly volatile and unsafe nation without protection.

This contracted force will safeguard State’s presence in Iraq after U.S. forces pull out. Efforts to arrange this defense force are ongoing. They have five months until the U.S. military leaves Dodge for good. (Regardless of SOFA, will they pull out completely?)

It has been reported State has ordered gear to equip its army including Black Hawk helicopters, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) fuel trucks, high-tech surveillance systems and other equipment to be operated by contractors the likes of, yes, you guessed it, Blackwater/Xe.

Blackwater/Xe, the brainchild of visionary Erik Prince has had is troubles. Founded in 1997 in rural Moyock, NC, the former SEAL trained a security force ahead of its time ready for the security needs unleashed by Sept 11. Unfortunately, Blackwater’s name became synonymous with “rogue cowboy,” and given the mission of the security contractors in a war zone, it is debatable if the harsh criticism was deserved.

Prince lost his prized State contract over allegations his people gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians while protecting State personnel. The New York Times has reported Blackwater personnel have worked with the CIA in its clandestine raids.

It is reported Blackwater/Xe has thousands of trained security personnel and our guess is that training goes well past private security. There was talk earlier in the decade that Prince Erik wanted to raise a combat battalion. Those rumors were squashed, but our guess is something was afoot.

Fast forward to 2010. Despite Blackwater/Xe’s troubles, that trained battalion may be exactly what State needs. Gather the lawyers, but if State needs to contract a small army, appease international law and full speed ahead.

Some lawmakers are less than thrilled and see what they say as one bad contract being replaced by another. We say what a great opportunity to determine if we can contract out combat functions. (We contract just about everything else.) If the U.S. continues to fight unnecessary wars, it cannot afford to place most of its manpower eggs in one basket. Aside from hiring the French Foreign Legion, members of the defunct Soviet Army or a battalion of Chechen rebels, we don’t see another choice. This will cost some bucks, but if it works, well, options are priceless.

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