Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Military Wants $3 Billion for a War It Isn’t Fighting


Thought the Iraq war was over? The Obama administration certainly wants you to think so, the better for its re-election campaign. Inconvenient fact, though: The Pentagon is asking for nearly $3 billion for a war it isn’t actually fighting.

To be specific, the Pentagon’s brand-new budget request asks for $2.9 billion for what it calls “Post-Operation NEW DAWN (OND)/Iraq Activities.” That’s almost as much money as the Pentagon spends on Darpa, its mad-science arm. And there are practically no U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Pentagon’s briefing materials provide little explanation for the expense. “Finalizing transition” is the ostensible mission the Pentagon wants funded. Its remaining office in Baghdad, the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, will get cash to “continue security assistance and security cooperation” with the Iraqi military “and amounts for the reset of equipment redeploying from Iraq and the theater of operations.”

And that won’t be all the cash going to Iraq. Contained within the classified “black” budget is sure to be money for special operations forces to hunt Iraq’s remaining terrorists on a case-by-case basis. And chances are, the CIA is spending money in Iraq, too.

Aside from that, the U.S. military has turned over operations in Iraq to the State Department, which in turn has hired an army of private security contractors the size of a heavy combat brigade. State has blocked congressional oversight into how its contractors will operate in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. But it’s clear that the diplomats are also buying themselves an air force — since Dec. 17, 2011 marked the first day in 20 years that the U.S. Air Force received no orders for operations in or over Iraq.

The New York Times noted over the weekend that in Afghanistan, “even dying is being outsourced” to civilian contractors. During the coming years in Iraq, that trend is likely to accelerate.

By and large, though, the point of the military’s residual operations in Iraq will be to sell the Iraqis weapons. It’s already brokered a sale of 18 F-16s to Iraq’s fledgling Air Force, worth $835 million. The Iraqis are already talking about doubling that purchase in the future. They can discuss future weapons sales with a U.S. military office that’s flush with cash.

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