September 02, 2009
State Dept. Extended Blackwater's Air Arm in Iraq
The simple fact of the matter is that they're the best organization for the job.
State Department officials said Wednesday they have extended a contract with a subsidiary of the security firm once known as Blackwater USA despite the fact the North Carolina company is not allowed to work in the country.
Three officials said the contract with Presidential Airways to provide air support for U.S. diplomats was temporarily extended because the firm chosen to replace it is not yet ready to take over. The contract was due to expire on Sept. 3 and be taken over a day later by Dyncorp International.
Presidential is the air wing of Xe Services, of Moyock, N.C., which used to be known as Blackwater. The Iraqi government refused to grant the company an operating license earlier this year amid continued outrage over a 2007 lethal firefight involving some of its employees in Baghdad.
One official said that providing helicopter air support for American diplomats in Iraq - transporting them and overflying their convoys - is a "complex challenge" and that "a slower transition to DynCorp taking over the task order is in the best interest of the government."
"We unilaterally extended the current task order ... to ensure the continued security and safety of U.S. personnel in Iraq," the official said.
Numerous allegations have been made against Blackwater (now Xe) and founder Eric Prince, ranging from excessive use of force, to smuggling weapons to attempting a crusade, with allegation more hysteric than the last.
The simple fact of the matter, however, is that Xe is an entire range of companies, and does far more than just provide security contractors. Presidential performs a role that other contractors have not been able to perform to the same standards, freeing up military aviators to support the mission instead of ferrying VIPs.
I can only imagine that this news is going to cause a knee-jerk response among the less-informed, but the simple fact of the matter is that the decision is a pragmatic one, to ensure that our diplomats are in the best of care.