MERCS IN IRAQ….Phil Carter emails to direct my attention to this story in the Washington Post about private contractors in Iraq:

Under assault by insurgents and unable to rely on U.S. and coalition troops for intelligence or help under duress, private security firms in Iraq have begun to band together in the past 48 hours, organizing what may effectively be the largest private army in the world, with its own rescue teams and pooled, sensitive intelligence.

….”There is no formal arrangement for intelligence-sharing,” Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command headquarters in Baghdad, said in an e-mail in response to questions. “However, ad hoc relationships are in place so that contractors can learn of dangerous areas or situations.”

….While U.S. and coalition military forces fought rebellions in a half-dozen cities yesterday, the body of a contract worker, employed to guard the power lines of the Iraqi ministry of electricity, was extracted from a rooftop in Kut by his firm’s Iraqi interpreter after he bled to death, according to government and industry officials….”We were holding out, hoping to get direct military support that never came,” said Nick Edmunds, Iraq coordinator for Hart, whose employees were operating in an area under Ukrainian military control. Other sources said Hart employees called U.S. and Ukrainian military forces so many times during the siege that the battery on their mobile phone ran out.

As Phil points out, having the “largest private army in the world” is troubling by itself, but feeding them “ad hoc” intel on the side hardly even seems legal, regardless of whether it’s wise. We might also wonder how it is that we seem to be using these people as an extension of the military but they apparently have no backup MEDEVAC or support assets. What’s more, there seems to be virtually no formal oversight of contractors and no formal rules of engagement that they act under.

If these guys really are a “virtual army,” how is it that Rumsfeld can keep telling us the real Army has all the troops it needs in Iraq? If we have all the troops we need, why do we need such an unprecedented number of contractors?

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