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Security in Iraq shifts to private companies

March 19, 2004

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The US-led authority in Iraq plans to spend up to $US100 million ($135 million) over 14 months to hire private security to protect the green zone, the 10 square kilometre area in Baghdad that houses most US Government employees and some of the private contractors working there.

The US military guards the green zone now. But the Coalition Provisional Authority wants to give much of the work to contractors to free US forces to confront a violent insurgency.

The companies would employ former military personnel and guard the area for a year after political authority is transferred to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

The green zone, surrounded by five-metre walls and barbed wire, is on the west bank of the Tigris River. It is a relatively secure home, office and relaxation area for more than 3000 people in what is an increasingly dangerous city.

The car bomb that killed at least 17 on Wednesday destroyed a hotel across the river less than 1600 metres from the green zone, in a neighbourhood where some of the US authority's contractors live and where security is far less robust.

US officials expect insurgents' attacks to increase as the transition deadline nears. They are struggling to protect provisional authority employees and civilians employed by contractors.

The US embassy, which is due to open in June, will be in the green zone. Also within the guarded area are the Al Rasheed Hotel, the Iraqi Governing Council offices, the convention centre where news conferences are held, a military police compound, a recreation facility, restaurants, two compounds for food and service employees of the contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root, a car park and a heliport.

The zone has been attacked regularly in past months. Twelve days ago seven rockets were fired into the zone, five hitting the Al Rasheed. On Saturday a US officer was stabbed inside the gated compound.

The military and some security companies now protect the authority's administrator, Paul Bremer, his staff and Iraqis working with them. Tender documents say that expanding commercial security will "augment coalition military forces and allow coalition military forces to focus on counterterrorism and the highest priority sites within the green zone".

Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt said the US military was 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."

World Peace (WorldPeace)

 The Iraqi Governing Council has agreed to ask the United Nations for help in forming a caretaker government to rule the country after the US-led civil occupation ends on June 30.


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