US Wants Contractors, Not Troops, to Fight ISIS
With President Barack Obama reluctant to put boots on the ground in Iraq to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), the United States is seeking contractors to help build up and strengthen the military in the war-torn country.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command is looking for advisers to aid the Iraqi Defense Ministry and Counter Terrorism Service in several areas, including troop development, logistics planning, and operations, according to Stars and Stripes.
The command issued a notice last month requesting applications for personnel who are "cognizant of the goals of reducing tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and Sunni and Shias."
The notice stated that during the initial 12-month contract, they would focus on training management, public affairs, logistics, personnel management, communications, planning and operations, infrastructure management, intelligence, and executive development.
Defense Department spokesman Commander Bill Speaks told Stars and Stripes that the services "fall within the existing mission" of the Office of Security Assistance-Iraq, "which is to help build institutional capacity of Iraq's security ministries."
Obama has ordered airstrikes against the Islamic State after it threatened the safety of U.S. personnel in Baghdad and Irbil. But three years after the United States pulled troops out of Iraq, the president has refused to send in a combat force to face the terror group that has captured vast areas of Iraq and Syria.
David Johnson, a former Army lieutenant colonel who is now executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, said contractors are not the same as "boots on the ground" in combat areas, Stars and Stripes reported.
"The government always seeks to minimize boots on the ground to reduce domestic political risk," Johnson told the military newspaper. "The American people and media do not consider a paid contractor to represent them in the same way that they do a soldier."
Johnson added that contractors, believed to be less costly than deploying U.S. troops, achieve the same goals and security objectives as a ground force.
Michael O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institute said that in the past, the government has deployed as many contractors as troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"As the political premium seems always to be placed on how many troops we have abroad, the pressure to have contractors do as much as possible only grows," he told Stars and Stripes.