NEWS

Bush Administration Tries to Wrangle Security Contractors in Iraq

By Matthew Harwood

According to the Associated Press, the Bush Administration yesterday outlined stricter rules governing private security companies in Iraq. However, the article makes no mention of what the new rules consist of.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The meeting comes while the U.S. is seeking to negotiate a legal accord with the Iraqi government for the continued presence of U.S. forces and military contractors there. Preserving contractors' current legal immunity from local laws is important to the companies. But it will be difficult in the wake a Sept. 16 shooting incident involving Blackwater that left 17 Iraqi citizens dead and created a diplomatic crisis for the White House.

Since the shooting, the U.S. has sought to gain tighter control over security contractors working for different branches of the government. In December, Mr. England and Mr. Negroponte signed an agreement that effectively gave the Defense Department a greater role supervising armed contractors in Iraq.

Whatever was disclosed during the closed door meeting, Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution says the administration needs to get tough on Iraqi contractors.

"These 'summits' are great for talking," Singer said, "but it can't just be, 'Hey, CEOs, this is what we would like you to do.' It's got to be, 'Here are the policies. Here are the laws that we've developed.'"

According to WSJ and AP, 20 private security companies attended the meeting, including Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy, DynCorp, and Aegis Defence.

Private security contractors in Iraq routinely guard diplomatic staff, a job the U.S. government sees as a distraction for the military. For more on private security companies in Iraq and their responsibilities, see this report from the Congressional Research Service.

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