At least, that’s what the contractors are hoping.
At the height of the Iraq war, these firms hired hundreds of thousands of people: guns-for-hire, IT geeks, logistics specialists, interrogators, and short order cooks to ladle out the slop at the military cafeteria. Over time, some of those contractors became the symbol for everything that was wrong with the Iraq war: hugely expensive, ineffective, and indifferent to Iraqi life. Contractors were at the middle of the war’s biggest scandals, from Abu Ghraib to Nissour Square. And it was the abductions and murder of Blackwater contractors that sparked one of Iraq’s biggest battles.
None of the five current and former contractors who spoke with The Daily Beast expected a replay of last decade’s Iraq war. But they all said a major opportunity was coming–both for them, and for Obama, who could use the private armies as a way to conceal just how many people will be fighting in this new conflict.
“Iraq this time around is not going to be as big as it was before,” said Roger Carstens, a former special operations officer who has served as a contracted military adviser in Somalia and Afghanistan. “That said, this new war will present an opportunity for the companies that have a resident train and advising capability to contribute to this new effort.”
President Obama has asked Congress to authorize $500 million to train a new Syrian opposition out of Saudi Arabia. That money would be part of a $5 billion fund Obama requested this spring from Congress to help train and equip U.S. allies to fight terrorists.
One U.S. military contractor working in Iraq who asked not to be named said, “I can tell you the contractor-expat community is abuzz thinking this will lead to more work. We expect a much larger footprint than he is showing right now.”