The Departments of State and Defense have agreed on a formula granting the military oversight of all private military company (PMC) operations in Iraq: the military will have oversight of the convoys are taking place, their routes, timings, etc. All of this is very good news, as it gives commanders access to oversee the PMCs, and the effect that those PMCs will have.

What remains unclear given the agreement’s lack of specificity is whether the Department of State has also agreed to the oversight of its contractors. Yet again, no mention has been made of the contractors who do not contract to the government. Increasingly, these will pose the greatest risk to the U.S. Government abroad yet they remain outside the scope of all discussion to all except the Iraqis. The irony is that the Iraqis want to control an organ of U.S. foreign policy (a truism whether the potentates at State, the politicians and other influential parties have realized it or not) more than the US itself does is not lost on me.

Part of the rationale for this agreement is that the DoD can oversee the activities of all PMCs and make accurate value judgments on transgressions. However, the DoD uses PMCs in exactly the same manner as the State Department does. Can we be positive that a DoD official won’t try to put pressure on an Army inquiry out of a wider interest in a contractual arrangement within the Department?