Contactor Exodus A Canary In Iraqi Mine?
Reporting from Kuwait enroute to embedding with US forces in Iraq, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross' first report from theater notes that American contractors are already leaving Iraq in anticipation of the passing of a US withdrawal timetable.
They reported that a number of contractors are already leaving Iraq in anticipation of a timetable for withdrawal being set. The prevalent thinking among those who have chosen to leave is that there will be a mass exodus when a timetable is announced, and it’s better to return to the U.S. now. That way, those who leave can get good jobs back home before 20,000 or more contractors who were previously in Iraq return to the States looking for work.
The prevailing attitude among the contractors I spoke with was that there will indeed be a large exodus of workers if a timetable is set (they thought the number leaving could be as high as 50,000), but that the numbers leaving Iraq will level off over time because some people will want to stay to make money. Also, as contractors leave, the salary that can be earned in Iraq will correspondingly rise. But this isn't a simple case of diminishing supply and steady demand: there will still be a demand for contractors in Iraq as U.S. troops draw down, but demand won't stay even because a deteriorating security situation may cause some projects that otherwise may have been completed to shut down. Overall, the contractors' view was that the timetable would strike a major blow to reconstruction efforts.
It would also strike a major blow to the already struggling Iraqi economy. With thanks to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, ThreatsWatch had the opportunity to take part in a discussion with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation Paul Brinkley. Mr. Brinkley has been working in Iraq attempting to restore functionality to Iraq's industrial base, some factories previously state-owned and some private sector, in order to make a dent in Iraq's unemployment and under-employment levels. (See: Task Force to Improve Business and Stability Operations – Iraq.) At well above 50%, this economic blight feeds the insurgency with frustrated people who sense little economic hope.
This week, we will have a more in-depth report on the Iraqi economic situation and DoD efforts spearheaded by Paul Brinkley to address it.