Obama Administration Keeping Blackwater Armed and Dangerous in Afghanistan

Published on
by
The Nation

Obama Administration Keeping Blackwater Armed and Dangerous in Afghanistan

by
Jeremy Scahill

Blackwater is up
for sale
and its shadowy owner, Erik Prince, is rumored to be planning
to move
to the United Arab Emirates as his top deputies face
indictment for a range of alleged crimes, yet the company remains a
central part of President Obama's Afghanistan war. Now, Blackwater's
role is expanding.

On Friday, the US State Department awarded Blackwater another
"diplomatic security" contract to protect US officials in Afghanistan.
CBS News reports
that the $120 million deal is for "protective services" at the US
consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Blackwater has another security
contract in Afghanistan worth $200 million and trains Afghan forces. The
company also works for the CIA and the US military and provides
bodyguards for US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as well as US lawmakers and
other officials who visit the country. The company has four forward
operating bases in Afghanistan and Prince has boasted
that Blackwater's counter-narcotics forces have called in NATO
airstrikes.

The new security contract was awarded to one of Blackwater's alter
egos, the United States Training Center, despite the indictments
of five senior company officials on bribery, weapons and conspiracy
charges. Its operatives in both Afghanistan
and Iraq
have been indicted
for killing innocent civilians. The Senate Armed Services Committee has
called on the Justice Department to investigate
Blackwater's use of a shell company, Paravant, to win training
contracts in Afghanistan. Despite these and numerous other scandals, the
State Department once again awarded the company a lucrative contract.

"Under federal acquisition regulations, the prosecution of the
specific Blackwater individuals does not preclude the company or its
successive companies and subsidiaries from bidding on contracts," a
State Department spokesperson told
CBS. "On the basis of full and open competition, the department
performed a full technical evaluation of all proposals and determined
the US Training Center has the best ability and qualifications to meet
the contract requirements."

Representative Jan Schakowsky,
who chairs the Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, immediately blasted the State Department's awarding of
the contract to Blackwater. "This is a company whose cowboy-like
behavior has not only resulted in civilian deaths; it has also
jeopardized our mission and the safety of U.S. troops and diplomatic
personnel worldwide.  Instead of punishing Blackwater for its extensive
history of serious abuses the State Department is rewarding the company
with up to $120 million in taxpayer funds," Schakowsky said. "I strongly
believe that the former Blackwater should not be receiving further U.S.
contracts, and I have repeatedly urged the U.S. government to no longer
do business with this company. Though the name Blackwater has become
synonymous with the worst of contractor abuses, the bigger problem is
our dangerous reliance on such companies for the business of waging
war."

Earlier this year, Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced
the Stop
Outsourcing Security Act
, which would phase out the use of private
security contractors by the government. Ironically, Hillary Clinton was a
co-sponsor
of the legislation when she was a senator and running for
president. Now, as Secretary of State, she is the US official in charge
of most Blackwater contracts. Blackwater is also bidding on a contract
potentially worth up to $1 billion to train the Afghan National Police.

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