Theres an army in Iraq that you dont hear much about. Its the 20,000 or so armed men who provide security for diplomats, government (both Iraqi and foreign) officials and NGOs (non-government organizations). This is probably the most highly trained fighting force in Iraq, as nearly all of the private security people are former military. Many are from elite units (commandoes, Special Forces), but what makes them so effective is years of military experience (many are recently retired) and a screening process that keeps out most of the cowboys and adventurers. This security force has seen a lot of action, some 240 of them have been killed so far. Thats about the same casualty rate as the military forces, despite the fact that the security people dont engage in offensive type operations. But the security personnel do guard people who are prime targets for the anti-government forces. Few of the people they guard have been killed, although there have been many attempts. Thats why the security firms screen applicants so carefully. Lose a few high profile clients, and the rest of your business evaporates. Many of these security people are making over $100,000 a year. Getting killed isnt the biggest danger. Getting dismissed for being lax on the job, too aggressive, or misbehaving off duty, is.
The job has also changed over the last three years. As the Iraqi police have become more abundant, and effective, the private security guards have had to change their behavior. No longer are they a law unto themselves. They have to be more careful when they use their weapons, and depend more on technology to detect potential attackers. Video cameras are a favorite tool. When moving a VIP in a convoy of armored vehicles, vidcams record much of the activity, so that the video can later be reviewed to see if there were any unsuccessful attackers they did not notice. The security firms more frequently share such information with the Iraqi police and American troops. The security forces also have to coordinate more often with the police and troops.
As things continue to quiet down in Iraq, some of these security experts expect to move on to similar work in other parts of the world. But many will rejoin the military, where their experience will be welcomed, if somewhat resentfully because of the higher pay received while getting it. But the resentment is somewhat diminished by the fact that many of the security operators did at least one combat tour in Iraq before they took the higher paying job.