WASHINGTON – No one knows for sure, but auditors think the U.S. has paid well over $6 billion to private security companies who've been guarding diplomats, troops, Iraqi officials and reconstruction workers in Iraq.
The money amounts to about 12 percent of the $50 billion Americans are paying for reconstruction in the country, said Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.
The figure, included in a report being released by Bowen's office Thursday, is likely to be taken as the most authoritative accounting so far of what it has cost taxpayers to provide private security since 2003 in the violence-plagued nation.
It included bodyguards for diplomats and top commanders and guards for U.S. military bases, as well as for military supply convoys, contractors, subcontractors and others supporting the U.S. mission and military.
Also included were personal security details for high-ranking Iraqi officials, as well as security advice and planning costs.
Government agencies in Iraq were not required to keep track in one place of how much money was going to security. So Bowen's office spent three months going through records from the State Department, Defense Department U.S. Agency for International Development and other government sources to try to pull together the figure.
There are likely more contractors he has yet to count and so the $6 billion is almost certainly not the full picture, he said in an interview Wednesday.
The report accompanies Bowen's quarterly reconstruction report to Congress, which included the following other findings:
—More than $125.7 billion has now been committed to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and government since U.S.-led forces toppled the government of Saddam Hussein five years ago.
Though all of that has not been spent, it includes $50.77 billion in money appropriated by the U.S., $57.96 billion in Iraqi funds and $17 billion pledged by other international donor, the bulk of it in the latter in loans and under $5.3 billion in grants.
— Iraq's rule-of-law system remains broken, most evidenced by the fact that Iraqi judges continue to be assassinated across the country. In 2008, terrorists killed seven judges, compared to 11 killed in 2007 and bringing the number to more than 40 judges and family members since 2003.
— A serious problem remains with corruption — which Bowen has long called a "second insurgency" in Iraq for the challenge it poses. For instance, auditors noted that a local contractor asked to be released from his work on three schools in Baghdad's Sadr City this quarter because he and his family were threatened when he refused repeated requests from government officials that he pay them bribes.
— The United States has allocated nearly $25 billion to support training and equipping new Iraqi security forces and the justice system and spent more than $10 billion on Iraq infrastructure.