There has been a lot of political discussion recently about when US troops will pull out of Iraq and under what circumstances. But at the same time, the US government is negotiating an agreement with Iraq that would spell out terms for American troops to stay past the end of this year, when United Nations authorization expires.
The US has more than eighty of these “Status of Forces” agreements with countries around the world. But negotiations with Iraq have run into trouble over disagreements around bases, control of airspace, authority to conduct operations and immunity from Iraqi law for American troops - and private contractors working with the US military or for diplomatic missions, including security contractors.
We?ll take a look at the negotiations and the issue of contractors. There?s been plenty of coverage of the problems, including the incident last fall when contractors with Blackwater Worldwide opened fire in a busy Baghdad intersection, leaving 17 people dead. A grand jury is currently investigating those deaths, which led to some tightening of contractor rules.
Nearly every soldier serving in Iraq, including from the Northwest, has experience with private contractors. Many serve meals and clean toilets on U.S. bases there. Others protect U.S. diplomats and U.S.-funded projects. Northwest veterans, as others, are also recruited to work for private security companies in Iraq and Afghanistan, often earning more than twice as much as they did in uniform.
Are you a veteran? Have you served in Afghanistan or Iraq? How did you interact with private security contractors? Were the lines of authority clear?
Have you worked as a contractor ? in private security or another detail ? in Iraq? How easy is it to work alongside soldiers making much less money than you? Should American contractors be subject to Iraqi law?
UPDATE, Tuesday, June 17, 7:07 AM: It looks like the US has decided to let contractors be subject to Iraqi law. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says Washington has dropped its demand for contractor immunity. According to Al-Jazeera, Zebari said this was because of what Iraq “has gone through with them in the past and because of the sensitivities for the Iraqi people.”
We’ll explore how this came about, what this means for the US presence in Iraq - and whether Northwest veterans who might have considered working as contractors there will now change their minds.