January 17, 2010

Blackwater (Xe) in line to win new Billion Dollar Afghan police contract

Blackwater Worldwide's legal woes haven't dimmed the company's prospects in Afghanistan, where it's a contender for an important role in the U.S. strategy for stabilizing the country.

In 2009 alone, Xe projected total revenues at $669 million, the documents state, and three-quarters of the total stems from federal contracts to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan's troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

Yet even with a new name and focus, the expanded role would seem an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company following the Iraqi deaths.

During the White House campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now President Barack Obama's secretary of state, backed legislation to ban Blackwater and other private security contractors from Iraq.

Xe eventually lost its license to operate as guardian of U.S. diplomats in Iraq. Clinton's State Department decided not to rehire the company when the contract expired in 2009. Delays in getting a new company in place led to a temporary extension of that contract.

A federal judge on New Year's Eve dismissed criminal charges against five of the Blackwater guards, citing repeated missteps by federal prosecutors. The Iraqi government has promised to pursue the case, a new strain on relations between the U.S. and Iraq.

First it was Blackwater USA. Then it was Blackwater Worldwide. Now, it's "Xe" (pronounced "Zee"). The private military company has repeatedly tried to re-brand, after numerous controversies from the killing of civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad; to its no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans, post-Katrina; to its hiring troops with ties to repressive regimes, like that of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The company says its latest name change is meant to reflect a new focus.

Blackwater / Xe spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, "We've taken the company to a place where it is no longer accurately described as Blackwater." Its subsidiaries also have new names: Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, Blackwater Target Systems is GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center is the U.S. Training Center. The company has also shed its famous (or infamous) bear-paw and crosshairs logo. The new head of Blackwater / Xe, Gary Jackson, told employees, "Xe will be a one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics,"

Erik D. Prince is the American founder and sole owner of the private military company Xe, formerly Blackwater Worldwide. Testifying before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on October 2, 2007, he gave his title as chairman and CEO of the Prince Group and Blackwater Worldwide, then named Blackwater USA. On March 2, 2009, Prince announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Xe.

Blackwater's leadership was motivated by a right-wing Christian ideology, and that Erik Prince, its founder, is a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic military order which was founded during the Crusades.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta (known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), Order of Malta or Knights of Malta for short) is a Roman Catholic order based in Rome, Italy. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law.

It takes its origins from the Knights Hospitaller, an organization founded in Jerusalem in 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a Catholic military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310-1523), and later from Malta (1530-1798), over which it was sovereign.

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