Iraq, Afghanistan still Blackwater playground…

The notorious US-based ‘Blackwater’ guards continue armed operations in Iraq, under a different name, delivering security for US subjects and facilities.

A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater, renamed ‘Xe Services,’ is currently operating in Iraq under the name of “US Training Center” and will continue its armed presence there “at least until September.”

Blackwater was ordered out of Iraq shortly after its heavily armed operatives killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad nearly two years ago.

“Authorized personnel under that task order are permitted to continue carrying weapons until that time,” said a State Department diplomatic security official who spoke on the condition anonymity, according to the leftist weekly magazine published in the US.

“The purpose and mission of the Department of State’s private security contractors is limited to protection of US diplomats and diplomatic facilities only and is defensive in nature,” he added.     

Referring to the latter point of the US official, The Nation notes that such a claim comes as little comfort to Iraqis since Blackwater guards who murdered Iraqi civilians on September 16, 2007, were operating under the same description of “defensive in nature”.

The State Department’s confirmation of Blackwater’s continued armed presence in Iraq, according to the prominent magazine, comes one week after a former Blackwater employee alleged in a sworn statement that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, views his company’s role as fighting a Christian crusade to “eliminate” Muslims and Islam globally, alleging that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Additionally, Blackwater maintains a “substantial presence” in Afghanistan as well. There, it also operates under the banner of US Training Center on a diplomatic security contract for the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protection Program.

It also works for the Department of Defense under the banner of Paravant LLC, another Prince-owned company, the report adds. Four Paravant operatives are under investigation by the US military over the shooting, which led to the deaths of two Afghan civilians in May.

Blackwater is bidding on more contracts in Afghanistan, which, according to The Nation, “is increasingly becoming the new gold mine for the war industry.”

The report also adds that nearly 70,000 contractors are now deployed in Afghanistan on the US government payroll, meaning there are now more contractors than US soldiers (48,000) in Afghanistan.

In addition to those hired by the State Department, the US Department of Defense has about 4,300 security contractors in Afghanistan, and these numbers are steadily increasing.

“In the second quarter of 2009,” the report notes, “the Obama administration increased the number of armed private contractors in Afghanistan by 29 percent.”

The magazine also reveals that on August 6, the US House Representative Jan Schakowsky wrote letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates citing Blackwater’s “history of abuse” and called on Clinton and Gates “not to award further contracts to Xe and its affiliates and to review all existing contracts with this company.”

Neither department has responded to Schakowsky.

Source: press tv

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