Can diplomats field their own army? The State Department is laying plans to do precisely that in Iraq, in an unprecedented experiment that U.S. officials and some nervous lawmakers say could be risky.
In little more than a year, State Department contractors in Iraq could be driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft, operating surveillance systems, even retrieving casualties if there are violent incidents and disposing of unexploded ordnance....The Obama administration has promised Iraqis that the United States won't abandon their country when American troops leave. If it can't keep that promise, U.S. influence in the unstable region could dissipate, despite a seven-year war that's cost more than $700 billion and the lives of at least 4,400 U.S. troops.
Already, however, the State Department's requests to the Pentagon for Black Hawk helicopters; 50 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles; fuel trucks; high-tech surveillance systems; and other military gear has encountered flak on Capitol Hill.