Wednesday, December 17, 2008

U.S. prepares for life in Iraq without Blackwater

The only conclusion to be drawn from a still-secret U.S. government draft report on the Blackwater situation in Iraq is that Washington finally is taking seriously threats from Baghdad to bar the private security firm. According to the Reuters international news service, the report by the State Department Office of Inspector General recommends that the United States find new contractors to take over the job of guarding diplomats in Iraq. "The department faces the real possibility that one of its primary worldwide personal protective services contractors in Iraq -- Blackwater USA -- will not receive a license to continue operating in Iraq," unnamed sources told Reuters. The Blackwater contract has been under attack since September 2007, when Blackwater guards shot 14 unarmed civilians and wounded 20 others in a Baghdad intersection. Five guards were charged Dec. 8 with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter following an investigation. The guards alleged that they had been fired upon. The incident outraged the Iraqi public and damaged relations between Washington and the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad. The FBI is still investigating the incident. Sources also told Reuters that the report did not recommend terminating the contract with Blackwater, the largest of several security contractors operating in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

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