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January 30, 2009

Changing of the "Guard"
Posted by Michael Cohen

Today the AP confirms the inevitable - Blackwater is out

The State Department will not renew Blackwater Worldwide's contract to protect American diplomats in Iraq when it expires in May, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

Before all the anti-Blackwater folks pop champagne corks it's important to keep in mind that the problems we've seen in Iraq with PSCs are not restricted to Blackwater. They are symptomatic of a culture, both at the Pentagon and at the State Department, that has failed to adjust to the reality of its increased reliance on private contractors. Today, there are more contractors in Iraq than uniformed US military (and the vast majority don't carry guns). Yet, this heightened dependence has not been matched by a commensurate effort to hold these actors accountable and more important, integrate contractors into discussions about force structure and the fulfillment of mission requirements.

While there have been significant improvements in oversight since Nisour Square, there is still much work to be done. We are still awaiting long overdue MEJA expansion legislation in the Congress as well as a clearer sense from the military and State Department that they understand the challenges of integrating contractors. As the most recent State IG report makes clear, the problems in overseeing PSCs in Iraq remain significant.

Kicking out Blackwater will not make these challenges go away. Indeed, Blackwater will simply be replaced by DynCorp and Triple Canopy in Iraq. The problem's with PSCs in Iraq were never about BW; they were about the US Government's abdication of responsibility in overseeing the private companies in their charge.

It's a point that I hope is understood at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon.


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We should not forget despite the torrent of public criticism against Blackwater, American officials say they are relieved that the old guards will stay on....

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