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The United States is spending more money than ever on private security contractors in Iraq as thousands of troops return home amid steady declines in insurgent attacks, USA Today reported Thursday.

This year, spending on contractors, who protect diplomats, civilian facilities and supply convoys, is projected to exceed $1.2 billion, according to federal contract and budget data obtained by USA Today. Most of that bill — about $1 billion — is State Department spending, which is up 13 percent over 2007. The remaining $200 million covers Pentagon contracts.

Rising private security costs come as the Pentagon removes the last of the 30,000 extra troops sent to Iraq last year, the paper noted.

Contractors take on roles once handled by U.S. troops, such as securing Iraq’s infrastructure and guarding reconstruction supplies.


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