Despite the Iraqi government’s announcement earlier this year that it had canceled Blackwater’s operating license, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater operatives in Iraq to remain armed. A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater (which recently renamed itself Xe Services) is now operating in Iraq under the name “US Training Center” and will continue its armed presence in the country until at least September 3. That means Blackwater will have been in Iraq nearly two years after its operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
“Authorized personnel under that task order are permitted to continue carrying weapons until that time,” said a State Department diplomatic security official who spoke on condition that his name not be used. He added: “The purpose and mission of the Department of State’s private security contractors is limited to protection of US diplomats and diplomatic facilities only and is defensive in nature.”
That last point will come as little comfort to Iraqis. The Blackwater operatives involved with the Nisour Square killings on September 16, 2007, were operating under that very description. “The public perception in Iraq is that Blackwater is no longer operating in the country; that they were kicked out and their license revoked,” says Raed Jarrar, the Iraq consultant at the American Friends Service Committee. “The public perception is that they are gone already. This is very disturbing.”