On January 7, two U.S. nationals who worked for Paravant, an Xe subsidiary, were arrested by U.S. authorities on murder and weapons charges related to the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May.
The arrests came after a U.S. federal judge dropped manslaughter charges against four former Blackwater guards for their involvement in a 2007 shooting at a Baghdad square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. On January 6, Xe settled multiple federal lawsuits filed on behalf of some of the victims’ families.
Those cases, and others involving private security personnel, have complicated Washington’s relations with both Baghdad and Kabul, and have led to questions over whether the legal tools are in place to hold such firms accountable for their actions in the theater of war.
In the case of Xe, which as Blackwater was kicked out of Iraq after the 2007 incident and changed its name in February 2009, the company appears to be under increased scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department.
Further highlighting the close working relationship between the U.S. government and private security companies was news that two Xe employees were among eight people killed in a suicide bombing near the southeastern Afghan province of Khost on December 30. Five of the dead were U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operatives, in addition to a Jordanian intelligence operative.
…In her opening statement to the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight on December 17, Senator Claire McCaskill (Democrat, Missouri) said that the number and cost of contractors in Afghanistan is projected to rise substantially with the anticipated increase in U.S. troops in the country.
“We know that there are more than 100,000 contractors currently working in Afghanistan,” McCaskill said. “The number of Defense Department contractors alone may reach 160,000 in the next year.”
…In 2008, the U.S. nonprofit Human Rights First estimated that there were “well over 200,000 U.S. government private contractors in Iraq, far greater than the number of U.S. military personnel.”
2010-01-11 04:17:31 UTC