Friday, March 03, 2006

"The Swiss Guard of Baghdad"

Strategy Pages reports that private security personnel (some of whom are indistinguishable from troops) in Iraq reportedly number at least 15,000 and possible more than 20,000, making them the second largest contingent of foreign military personnel in the country, after Americans. As the American armed forces continue to withdraw from Iraq, these foreign security specialists will grow in importance. Iraqis will prefer the foreigners for critical security tasks, as the foreigners are harder to bribe or threaten (via vulnerable family members.) Using foreigners for key security tasks is an ancient custom in this part of the world. Chechens and Baluchis were particularly favored as bodyguards, because they were Moslem, effective and loyal to their employer. Chechens and Baluchis are into Islamic terrorism these days, and no longer seen as suitable for security duties.

But the force hired for private security in Iraq is another matter. Led by former commandos and security experts from Western nations, and staffed with carefully selected former policemen, soldiers and marines, these troops have proved reliable and effective. Many of these security personnel are Iraqis, usually Kurds, but carefully screened for reliability and capability. Operating largely in the background, the private security troops have constantly demonstrated their effectiveness. Many senior Iraqi officials have their personal security provided by non-Iraqis. When the Americans are gone, many of the private security personnel will remain. Like the pope's Swiss guard, these foreign security people will protect people who can't trust their own kind."

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