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Diplomats in Iraq at risk, commission says

By Joe Davidson
Ed O'Keefe

By Joe Davidson, The Post's Federal Diary columnist:

Now that most U.S. military forces have left Iraq, the American diplomats they left behind face grave security problems that the State Department is ill-prepared to tackle.

That's one serious take-away from the testimony of members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan presented to Congress on Thursday.

Much of the security provided by the military will be done by private contractors, yet the State Department does not have the money to hire the number it needs, nor the personnel to manage them.

"These facts troubled us for several reasons," Michael Thibault, commission co-chairman said in a statement to the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. "First, even if State could obtain the funds for more than doubling its private-security force, it is not clear that it has the trained personnel to manage and oversee contract performance of a kind that has already shown the potential for creating tragic incidents and frayed relations with host countries."

The situation is exacerbated because Iraq "appears unable to provide normal host-country security and services," he said.

Also troubling is that the Defense Department has not responded to a six-month-old State Department request for assistance, including helicopters, trucks and mine-resistant vehicles, according to the commission.

"In summary," Thibault said, "State Department program leaders have been dealt a hand that includes: unknown contract and program support from the Department of Defense; funding limitations likely to impact mission capability; and the need to contract for and perform functions that have never been done by their department.

"The State Department has been placed in an unfair position as they work to deliver on critical mission requirements in the continuing effort to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq."

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By Joe Davidson  | September 23, 2010; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Contracting  
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