Blackwater USA runs a 6,000-acre operation in Moyock, N.C. Its Web site states: We are not simply a 'private security company. We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions. STEVE EARLEY/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT FILE PHOTO
Stepping into a potential political minefield, Blackwater USA is offering
itself up as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots.
Cofer Black, vice chairman of the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company,
told an international conference in Amman, Jordan, this week that Blackwater
stands ready to help keep or restore the peace anywhere it is needed.
Such a role would be a quantum leap for Blackwater and raises a host of policy
Until now, the eight-year-old company has confined itself to training
military and police personnel and providing security guards for government and
private clients. Under Black's proposal, it would take on an overt combat role.
"We're low-cost and fast," Black was quoted as saying. "The
issue is, who's going to let us play on their team?"
Unlike national and multinational armies, which tend to get bogged down by political
and logistical limitations, Black said, Blackwater could have a small, nimble,
brigade-size force ready to move into a troubled region on short notice.
Black's remarks were reported by Defense News, a military publisher that sponsored
the conference where he spoke, the Special Operations Forces Exhibition.
Chris Taylor, a vice president at Blackwater's Moyock headquarters, confirmed
"A year ago or so, we realized that we could have a significant positive
impact with a small, professional force in stability operations and peacekeeping
operations," Taylor said.
Blackwater is no stranger to volatile situations. As a security subcontractor
escorting a convoy in Iraq in 2004, the company attracted worldwide attention
when four of its workers were killed, mutilated and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
Blackwater, most of whose workers are former members of elite military units
such as the Navy SEALs, now provides security for the U.S. ambassador to Iraq
under a contract with the State Department.
The reconstruction of Iraq has been hampered by insurgent activity, Taylor
said, and Blackwater has the expertise to quell insurgent attacks if invited
by the Iraqi government.
"We clearly couldn't go into the whole country of Iraq," Taylor said.
"But we might be able to go into a region or a city."
Another place where Blackwater could help restore order, Taylor said, is the
Darfur region of Sudan, where millions have been killed or displaced by civil
strife. The company could send troops under the control of the United Nations,
NATO or the African Union, he said.
Taylor and Black said the company would undertake such a mission only with
the approval of the U.S. government.
Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written a book
on private military companies, said the concept of private armies engaging in
counter-insurgency missions raises myriad questions about staffing standards,
rules of engagement and accountability.
"No matter how you slice it, it's a private entity making decisions of
a political nature," he said.
"It gets dicey."
Reach Bill Sizemore at (757) 446-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org