Middle East

Blackwater redux

Remember Blackwater, the private military contractor headed by the creepy Erik Prince, which the Bush administration hired to provide security services in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported in February 2009:

Its work in those countries was plagued with problems. In 2004, four of Blackwater’s guards were ambushed by insurgents in Fallujah. The company made headlines again on Sept. 16, 2007, during a chaotic confrontation in downtown Baghdad, when Blackwater contractors allegedly shot and killed 17 Iraqis in a crowded square. That incident led to congressional inquiries and protests that it be removed from the country. Last month, the Iraqi government refused to issue a new operating license to Blackwater, and the firm is winding down its work there.

Blackwater received $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009. In 2010 Prince put the company (renamed “Xe”) up for sale.

[Prince said] that making the decision to sell the company was difficult, but that he no longer wanted to deal with the intense criticism the business has faced.

“Performance doesn’t matter in Washington, just politics,” Mr. Prince said.

Unfortunately it appears that did not put an end to Prince’s role in the international security-for-hire business, as The New York Times reports. His latest venture looks even more disturbing.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.
To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, …former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Latin American mercenaries hired by an American contractor potentially suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations and labor unrest in the Gulf?

Gee, what could go wrong with that?

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