Category Archives: Mercenaries

As troops leave, U.S. to double contractors in Iraq

The employment of contractors has caused anger in Iraq, particularly after a U.S. court dismissed charges against Blackwater Worldwide guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Reuters | Aug 19, 2010

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – With the United States drawing down troops in Iraq, the State Department plans to double the number of private security contractors it uses to ensure the safety of the huge civilian development effort, officials said on Thursday.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the plan would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the government in Iraq, where since the 2003 U.S. invasion private security firms have often been accused of acting above the law.

Crowley said the U.S. military’s plan to cut troop numbers to 50,000 by the end of August — down from 176,000 at the peak of the deployment — left a security gap contractors would have to fill.

“We will still have our own security needs to make sure that our diplomats and development experts are well protected,” Crowley told a news briefing.

“We have very specific plans to increase our security … as the military is leaving. This will be expensive. this is not a cheap proposition,” he said, although he added the costs to the U.S. taxpayer would still be far less than those incurred by the military deployment.

The employment of contractors has caused anger in Iraq, particularly after a U.S. court dismissed charges against Blackwater Worldwide guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Contractors’ immunity from prosecution was lifted last year under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that gave Iraq back its sovereignty.

Security contractors have also spurred outrage in Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai issued a decree this week ordering private security firms to disband within four months as part of his ambitious plan for the government to take responsibility for all security in the country from 2014.

A senior U.S. official conceded contractors had caused problems in Iraq in the past, but said the administration was confident these could be avoided for what he described as a “short duration security requirement.”

“We’ve had tragic issues involving contractors in the past. We have worked this issue very closely with the Iraqi government. There have been changes over the past couple of years to improve oversight and accountability for contractors in Iraq,” the official said.

“We believe we can have the kind of accountability and oversight that is necessary,” he said.

The United States is turning over much of future development work in Iraq to the State Department, which has asked for between $2-3 billion annually to help fund everything from new consulates to training Iraqi police.

The rise in contractor numbers in Iraq comes despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s own hopes to reduce U.S. government dependence on outside companies for a big chunk of its overseas security and development work.

Crowley said the decision to employ more contractors was seen as the most practical in Iraq, giving the government flexibility to increase security for now and then pull back if, as officials hope, the overall security situation improves. (Editing by Jerry Norton)

U.S. ponders gun charges against military contractor Blackwater

Washington investigating former top officials of the Blackwater Worldwide private security company over allegations they illegally stockpiled automatic rifles at the company’s North Carolina headquarters

Associated Press | Mar 23, 2010

Devlin Barrett and Mike Baker

Federal prosecutors are considering filing weapons charges against former top officials of the Blackwater Worldwide private security company over allegations they illegally stockpiled automatic rifles at the company’s North Carolina headquarters, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior Justice Department officials are reviewing a draft indictment against former president Gary Jackson, former Blackwater lawyer Andrew Howell, and a third man who used to work at the firm’s armoury, people close to the case told the AP. A decision is not expected until at least next month.

Any indictment, even of former executives, would be unwelcome news at a company beleaguered since a 2007 shooting involving Blackwater guards in Baghdad left 17 people dead. Under a new name, Xe, the firm is trying to win Defense Department approval to train police in Afghanistan. The contract could be worth up to $1-billion (U.S.) but has drawn the ire of some in Congress.

The potential charges stem from a raid conducted by federal agents in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, among them 17 AK-47s.

Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the case said investigators are trying to determine if Blackwater obtained the official letterhead of a local sheriff to create a false justification for buying the guns. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Federal law prohibits private parties from buying fully automatic weapons registered after 1986, but does let law enforcement agencies have them.

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo said the company has “fully co-operated with this investigation and we will have no further comment.”

Mr. Jackson said during a brief phone conversation Monday that he wouldn’t be able to talk about federal charges and didn’t know anything about any that might be looming.

“I haven’t heard a single, solitary word,” Mr. Jackson said before ending the phone call. Attempts to reach Howell for comment Monday were not successful.

In a 2008 interview with the AP, Mr. Jackson and other Blackwater executives said the company provided the local Camden County sheriff’s office a place to store weapons, calling the gesture a “professional courtesy.”

“We gave them a big safe so that they can store their own guns,” Mr. Jackson said at the time.

Company officials, including both Mr. Jackson and Mr. Howell, downplayed the raid during the interview. Mr. Jackson said some of the 16 uniformed officers who came to serve the warrant were embarrassed by the event and said agents had to stop at Blackwater’s front gate to get passes to come onto the company’s sprawling campus in northeastern North Carolina.

“As a hypothetical, one would think that, if you were going on a raid, you’d take your Kevlar and your weapon,” Mr. Howell said to laughter from other executives.

Blackwater, headquartered in Moyock, N.C., changed its name to Xe Services after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago. Those charges were later thrown out of court after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence.

In the 2008 North Carolina raid, agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the armoury and seized 22 guns from a vault dedicated to county authorities.

The company signed agreements in 2005 in which Blackwater financed the purchase of 34 automatic weapons for the Camden County sheriff’s office. Sheriff Tony Perry became the official owner of the weapons, but Blackwater was allowed to keep most of the guns at its armoury.

One of the 2005 agreements viewed later by the AP says the weapons will be kept under “lock and key” and doesn’t describe whether Blackwater would use the guns.

At the time of the raid, Blackwater said federal authorities knew about the weapons for years and said investigators got a complete look at the company’s cache in 2005 after two employees were fired.

The company also said it was not unusual to store automatic weapons because the company is licensed to sell, provide training on or even manufacture firearms.

The 2005 agreements give the sheriff’s office unlimited access to the weapons, including 17 Romanian AK-47s. Perry said at the time that his department only used the AK-47s in shooting practice at Blackwater and that none of his 19 deputies were qualified to use them.

When things go boom in the night, Pakistanis blame Blackwater

Members of the US private security company Blackwater patrol over Baghdad in January 2007. Many Pakistanis believe that the company is operating inside Pakistan, a rumor that the US government denies. Patrick Baz/AFP/Newscom/File

The US says it doesn’t work with the security firm Blackwater in Pakistan, and the Pakistani government insists no Blackwater employees are working in the country. But many Pakistanis doubt those assertions.

CS Monitor | Feb 19, 2010

By Carol Huang

Armed Americans are driving around in unmarked cars, getting caught, and mysteriously released. Who are they? Blackwater, running covert ops for the United States in Pakistan.

Or at least that’s what large numbers of Pakistanis appear to believe.

It sounds like textbook conspiracy theory. But in a country that’s already highly suspicious of the US and the notorious security firm, rumors that germinated in small circles have spread nationwide and taken root among mainstream journalists and intellectuals.

For many Pakistanis, the tales confirm that America at best cannot be trusted. For the US, they create another wall of resistance to convincing Pakistanis the US is an ally, one that desperately needs their help fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

These days “any embassy vehicle that’s got men who are in good shape seem to be Blackwater,” says US Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire. “It certainly makes getting our message across more challenging.”

Related

Building a High-Tech ‘Crusader Castle’ in Pakistan

Mr. Snelshire says he fields as many as 20 calls a day when especially scandalous reports about Blackwater (which has rebranded itself as Xe) hit newsstands. He says the embassy only employs security contractors from a different firm, DynCorp, and only to train Pakistanis as security guards.

When asked if Blackwater or Xe worked for any other branch of the US or Pakistani government, he writes in an e-mail, “I would refer you to Ambassador [Anne] Patterson’s statement that ‘we do not use Blackwater or Xe in Pakistan.’ On the question of whether or not Blackwater or Xe have any private contracts or contracts with the Government of Pakistan I would refer you to Blackwater/XE.”

Three calls to the company were not returned.

History of distrust

Many of the stories circulating about Blackwater are far from substantiated. Even Awab Alvi, an early adopter of the rumors who tracks the topic on his blog, says that “there’s no concrete evidence” and that “of the 50 reports that come through, maybe one or two are right.” Many accounts come from the Pakistani paper The Nation, which last year drew criticism for calling an American journalist a spy, forcing him to leave the country.

But like many Pakistanis, Dr. Alvi can tick off decades’ worth of reasons not to give the US the benefit of the doubt – and why rumors of secret US-backed operations might find a receptive audience.

In the 1980s, the narrative goes, the US propped up dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq as an ally against the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the war ended, the US withdrew, leaving Pakistanis to cope with the guns, drugs, and refugees that spilled into their territory.

In recent years, Blackwater gained notoriety over allegations of recklessness and excessive, often lethal, force in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Feb. 11, the Iraq government expelled more than 200 current and former foreign security contractors in connection with a 2007 shooting by Blackwater guards in Baghdad that left 17 civilians dead. In December, a US court dismissed charges of manslaughter against five Blackwater employees, a decision Vice President Joe Biden said the US would appeal. Two former Blackwater contractors based in Kabul are facing charges of second-degree murder over the deaths of two Afghans who were allegedly shot in a traffic accident last May.

The buildup of distrust and swirl of rumors have left Pakistanis to imagine the worst about US intentions, fueling already intense anti-Americanism: Blackwater is here to kill and “disappear” people, or seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons if the country falls apart. The US is arming and funding not only the Pakistani Army but also the Taliban, to kill off both sides and take over the country. Most Taliban must be foreigners, because Pakistanis would never kill civilians, as the suicide bombers here do, the theory goes.

The Taliban have exploited these beliefs, warning of Blackwater attacks in the northwest. Last November, the Taliban accused the firm of carrying out a suicide bombing to “malign” the insurgency, which “does not believe in the killing of innocent civilians.”

Blow to national pride

The idea of American security contractors let loose in the country reflects Pakistani frustrations with the US but also with their own government. Already many see their leaders as kowtowing to the US by fighting militants at its behest and allowing drone attacks on Pakistani territory. Protesters have demonstrated against Blackwater in Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi.

“If there’s a good reason” for the firm to operate here, “on occasion they should explain it,” says Cyril Almeida, assistant editor of the Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily.

“You don’t have to tell me so-and-so Blackwater official is in so-and-so compound doing whatever covert operation,” he says. “But give a clear understanding. What kind of personnel have you got inside the country, and on the military side, what are they doing?… Is it legal?… Is it desirable?”

But even on military cooperation, the US and Pakistan tend to downplay their partnership to avoid inflaming anti-Americanism. A counterinsurgency training program run by US forces in northwestern Pakistan – spotlighted this month when three American soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb – had been acknowledged but not advertised.

Even as US drone attacks on Pakistani soil have become an open secret, US officials continue to refer to them indirectly. When the airstrikes first ramped up a few years ago, both governments denied knowledge of them.

“I have a problem with the government constantly lying about these things,” says Asif Akhtar, a blogger based in Lahore, adding that it has undermined its credibility.

When US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Islamabad in January, Pakistani media seized on what appeared to be an admission that Blackwater was indeed operating here. In response the Defense Department issued a statement saying it “does not use Blackwater in Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s government denies any Blackwater presence, as Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani reiterated last week. Interior Minister Rehman Malik famously vowed last November to resign if proved wrong. The speculation has spiraled to the point that “anybody traveling with white skin is considered to be Blackwater,” he told Dawn last week.
‘A lot of evidence’

Repeated denials, however, have not stemmed rumors of policemen pulling over carloads of Americans with weapons, nor quashed speculation that these people are Blackwater. Instead, the belief has gained currency as Western media have reported that Blackwater is working for the CIA in Pakistan.

In August, The New York Times said the firm was operating on secret bases in the country to load bombs onto the drones fired at the tribal areas – a contract the CIA acknowledged in December by saying it had been canceled.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Blackwater head Erik Prince detailed his firm’s partnerships with the CIA, including training agents to assassinate Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan. A November report in the American publication The Nation claimed that Blackwater employees were plotting assassinations from a base in Karachi and training Pakistani forces, and sometimes conducting raids with them, in the northwest.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Blackwater was operating in Pakistan under a different name,” says Rifaat Hussain, a security analyst at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad who is frequently cited in Western media.

Mr. Hussain says he is 100 percent sure Blackwater is operating in Pakistan. “Even when the CIA says they have terminated contracts with them, there is no guarantee that these guys will not resurface,” he says. “What has appeared in public is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Blackwater ‘defrauded US by billing for prostitute in Kabul’

Members of a private security firm in Baghdad. It is alleged that Blackwater hired strippers under “cleaning services”. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty)

London Times | Feb 13, 2010

by Tim Reid in Washington

The controversial American security company Blackwater is facing new allegations of gross misconduct after two former employees said that it had repeatedly defrauded the US Government, including charging it for the use of a Filipina prostitute in Afghanistan.

In a federal lawsuit, Melan Davis, one of the former employees, accused the company of employing the prostitute in Kabul and charging the Government for her plane tickets and monthly salary under the “morale welfare recreation” expenses category.

The lawsuit also accuses the company, which has since been renamed XE Services after years of bad publicity, of charging the Government for the use of strippers after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. The women were allegedly itemised under “cleaning services”.

The company is also accused of deceiving the Government by double-billing for travel costs and creating false invoices.

The lawsuit claims that the Government “has been damaged in the amount of many millions of dollars in funds” by Blackwater’s fraudulent accounting.

The most serious allegations against Blackwater, the biggest private security company used by the US Government in Iraq and Afghanistan, have centred on the use of excessive and lethal force against civilians.

The most controversial incident involved the shooting and killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, in September 2007.

Last year a US judge threw out charges against five Blackwater guards over the deaths. The Obama Administration has said that it is going to appeal against the ruling. A sixth guard pleaded guilty earlier.

The company has also been accused of arms smuggling. An audit released last year found that the State Department could be owed as much as $55 million (£35 million) by Blackwater because the company failed to provide the personnel necessary to fulfil its contract during the months examined between 2006 and 2007.

Blackwater eventually lost its State Department contract in Iraq but continues to provide security services in Afghanistan.

The lawsuit was filed by Mrs Davis and her husband, Brad, a former Marine and Blackwater employee. Mrs Davis was sacked by the company and is challenging her dismissal.

She says that she first raised concerns about the book-keeping in March 2006 and was told to “back off” and that she “would never win a medal for saving the Government money”. Mr Davis, who served as a Blackwater team leader in Iraq, resigned.

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 but has just been unsealed after the US Justice Department declined to become a party to the case.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the company, said that the lawsuit was misguided and noted that the Justice Department had declined to join the lawsuit.

“The allegations are without merit and the company will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” he said.

“It is noteworthy that the Government has declined to intervene in this action.”

From Blackwater to Xe, the Templar Crusade

globalresearch.ca | Jan 13, 2010

by Michael Carmichael

Blackwater is a corporation that provides mercenary soldiers and supporting security personnel to the US government.

Erik Prince, the founder and owner of the now infamous US corporation, Blackwater, hails from Holland, Michigan where his family was both powerful and prominent in two institutions – (1) the Republican Party and (2) the evangelical Christian Church.  After scandals hit his large and lucrative firm, Prince ordered a curious rebranding that changed its name to Xe.

X is an archaic form of abbreviation for Christ and/or Christian that was derived from the cross and the Greek Alphabet.  X or Chi is the Greek letter that is the initial of “Christos” – X – which at the same time served as a symbol for the cross.  Sometimes written Chi-Rho, (Xp) is another abbreviation for Christos and his followers, the Christians.  From the perspective of medieval Christian symbology, ‘Xe’ is a combination of the Christic cross and the Greek letter, Epsilon, the first letter in the Greek word, Evangelion, glad tidings or gospel.  From the perspective of a modern member of the Knights Templar, Xe is immediately recognizable as it symbolizes Christian Evangelism.

Prince’s background

Eric Prince’s father owned a thriving automotive parts business and sent his son to Holland Christian School – an evangelical establishment that accepts students from Kindergarten through the 12th grade.  Since then, Prince has converted to Roman Catholicism – and may be a member or associate of Opus Dei, a very conservative cult now described as a prelature that is a strong ally of the current pope, Benedict XVI, who – when he was a Cardinal – paved the way for the beatification and canonization of the cult’s founder, St. Josemaria Escriva by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

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Iraqis say they were forced to take Blackwater settlement

Several of the plaintiffs say they were told the firm, now called Xe, was in danger of bankruptcy and that they might not get any damages at all. They want the agreements nullified.

LA Times | Jan 11, 2010

By Liz Sly

Reporting from Baghdad – Several victims of a 2007 shooting involving American private security guards employed by the firm formerly known as Blackwater alleged Sunday that they were coerced into reaching settlements, and they demanded that the Iraqi government intervene to have the agreements nullified.

The Iraqis said they were pressured by their own attorneys into accepting what they now believe are inadequate settlements because they were told the company was about to file for bankruptcy, that its chairman was going to be arrested and that the U.S. government was about to confiscate all of the firm’s assets. This would be their last chance to get any compensation, the victims said they were told.

When criminal charges against the guards were dismissed by a U.S. federal judge on Dec. 31, the Iraqis concluded that they had been duped and that Blackwater, now called Xe, was not in the kind of legal and financial trouble they had been led to believe.

“We signed the papers to accept a settlement because we had psychological pressure and some of us were threatened,” Mahdi Abdul Khodr, 45, told reporters Sunday at Iraq’s parliament. He led a delegation comprising representatives of nine of the victims’ families who petitioned Iraqi officials to exert pressure on the U.S. government to nullify the settlements.

Xe confirmed last week that it had reached out-of-court settlements in seven lawsuits filed in the September 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square that killed 17 Iraqis, as well as a string of other incidents in which company guards are alleged to have killed or injured Iraqis. Altogether, the suits covered 45 injured people and the families of 19 slain Iraqis who have all signed settlement agreements, according to court documents.

Civilian deaths

The Nisoor Square shootings were the bloodiest of numerous incidents in which Blackwater contractors are alleged to have fired on civilians, inflaming anti-U.S. sentiments and straining relations between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

At least 14 civilians were killed and more than 20 injured when the guards opened fire in the busy square.

The charges against five guards accused in the shooting were thrown out on the grounds that the prosecution had built its case wrongly using statements the accused provided under immunity to State Department investigators.

The settlements were reached last fall in meetings at Baghdad’s Rasheed Hotel, where the claimants say they were required to sign a paper, written in English, and make videotaped testimony in Arabic, relinquishing all future claims against the company. Though Xe has not disclosed the settlement amounts, media reports say they averaged between $20,000 and $30,000 for an injury and $100,000 for a death.

Peter White, the lawyer representing Xe in the civil suits, said the company was not present at any of the meetings and “never stated to any victims or their counsel that it would be filing for bankruptcy.” All of the company’s contact with the victims was through the plaintiffs’ own lawyers, he said.

Susan Burke, the lawyer who represented the Iraqis in the civil case filed in Virginia, refused to comment Sunday, citing confidentiality agreements included as part of the settlements. She withdrew the civil suits last week.

After meeting with lawmakers, three members of the delegation described in separate interviews how they were summoned to the hotel and urged by their lawyers to accept the payouts. Burke was not at the meetings.

Fawzia Sharif, 53, whose husband, Ali Khalil, was among those killed at Nisoor Square, said Sunday that three Iraqi lawyers and one American attorney tried to persuade her to accept a settlement. She would not disclose the amount, but said it did not exceed the reported figures.

“At the beginning I refused,” Sharif said. “They spent three hours sitting with us and beseeching us to sign. They planted despair in our hearts, saying they are going to announce bankruptcy and the government is going to confiscate all their assets and you will not get any amount at all if you do not sign.”

“I feel I was deceived by them,” she said. “They told me the company is going to go bankrupt and this was my last chance. But now I wonder, how could this happen to such a big company?”

Feeling coerced

Khodr, the head of the delegation, lost his left eye in the shooting and spent three months in the hospital. He said he accepted a $10,000 settlement because “they told me Blackwater was about to go into bankruptcy, that their manager will be sent to prison and the government will confiscate all their assets.”

“I signed because I had financial difficulties and I needed the money,” said Sami Hawas, 45, a former taxi driver who accepted $30,000. He also lost an eye, walks with difficulty because of leg injuries and hasn’t worked since the shooting. “We don’t know English and we don’t know legal things. But now I think about it, it is not the amount I deserved.”

Not all those who settled are unhappy. Hassan Jabar Salman, an attorney who suffered injuries to his back, shoulder and arm, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he received significantly more than the amounts being reported and that he is satisfied. Because he is a lawyer, he said, “I know how to negotiate.”

An October ruling by a federal judge in the Virginia case suggests the Iraqis may have faced obstacles had they persisted. The ruling said that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that the company could be sued in federal court, and it suggested that they refile using different arguments. That could have dragged the case out for several years, legal experts say.

“These lawsuits would not have been a piece of cake,” said Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School. “It would have been a real hassle and who knows what the outcome would be.”

Though there have been no published reports suggesting Xe is in danger of bankruptcy, it is also highly unlikely that any court would dismiss the out-of-court settlements without proof of coercion or fraud, especially as the plaintiffs’ own lawyers were present when they signed, said Robert Strassfeld, director of the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

He described the amounts involved in the settlements as “disappointing,” but added, “I was fairly pessimistic about the likelihood of ever achieving justice in this case.”

A separate civil suit filed by several other victims of the Nisoor Square shootings is pending in a North Carolina court.

US pushing Pakistan into the abyss of oblivion

Theories abound about the identity of the perpetrators: Taliban, Indian agents, American agents, Afghan agents, Blackwater mercenaries and Mossad. The list is endless.

MMN | Jan 7, 2010

by Zafar Bangash

We are supposed to hate suicide bombers, those grotesque creatures hell-bent on killing innocent people because of their “demented ideology”. There is no shortage of experts delivering sermons from every pulpit pontificating on the evils of terrorism. Government officials and their media sycophants join in this chorus but few bother to ask whence these hateful creatures came? There were no suicide bombers in Pakistan or Afghanistan a mere five years ago. What happened during this period to give birth to the phenomenon of suicide bombings is a question that must be addressed in earnest.

No problem can be tackled or solved properly without understanding its genesis, the circumstances surrounding its emergence and factors that feed its growth. Equally important is the fact that if a particular approach fails to solve the problem, alternatives must be explored.

Pakistan is rapidly hurtling into the abyss of oblivion. Hardly a day passes by without a bomb explosion or suicide bombing in some part of the country. What possible excuse could there be for the murderous attack on a masjid as happened on December 4 that killed more than 40 people in Rawalpindi, we are asked. The coordinated attack by suicide bombers followed by armed men shooting worshippers during Friday prayers when the masjid was full was particularly gruesome. Among those killed were a major general, a brigadier, a colonel, two lieutenant colonels and two majors. Seventeen children were also killed.

Four days later (December 8), the Moon Market in Iqbal Town, Lahore was bombed when it was full of shoppers; 43 people died in that carnage. On December 9 the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offices in Multan were attacked. Unable to enter the building, the attackers detonated their lethal wares in the nearby building where families of ISI officials live. The car bombing left 12 dead and scores injured. Many more such attacks will occur in the days to come if past experience is anything to go by. The brief hiatus during Eid al-Adha celebrations has been shattered with far greater bloodletting.

Theories abound about the identity of the perpetrators: Taliban, Indian agents, American agents, Afghan agents, Blackwater mercenaries and Mossad. The list is endless. All of them may be involved but how has this situation evolved? Why were there no suicide bombers a mere five years ago; what circumstances led to their emergence and who else is fishing in the troubled waters of Pakistan? Is the US a friend or foe? The people of Pakistan know the answer but Pakistani elites continue to harbor illusions about America’s friendship and believe it wants to help Pakistan — presumably over a cliff.

Immediately after the Moon Market bombing in Lahore, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government had evidence that weapons were being smuggled from Afghanistan. Perhaps. Lahore Police chief, Pervez Rathore said India was involved. This may also be true. The Lahore daily, The Nation, reported on December 9 that two vehicles were stopped attempting to enter the restricted area of Lahore Cantonment late at night. The occupants were Americans who refused to show their identity papers or allow the police to search their vehicles. Officials from the US Consulate finally arrived at the scene to get the vehicles and their occupants freed. There is widespread belief that these were Blackwater mercenaries.

Thousands of Blackwater operatives (the organization has now renamed itself Xe Service to hide the criminal past associated with its former name) have descended on Pakistan. They carry prohibited weapons and on numerous occasions have been arrested by the police in suspicious circumstances only to be released on orders of Pakistani government officials. The US embassy in Islamabad has also hired a large number of retired army officers that act like warlords, trying to browbeat the police into submission. Poorly paid and lacking motivation, the police are easily intimidated by ex-army officers who throw their weight about driving in expensive, American-provided vehicles.

Last November, a plane load of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Pakistan and were immediately whisked through Islamabad International Airport without going through immigration and customs formalities, according to officials at the airport quoted by The Nation newspaper (November 4, 2009). “We had instructions to allow the foreigners entry without custom procedure,” officials on duty at Islamabad airport said. Blackwater mercenaries have operated in Pakistan for many years. On several occasions Pakistani police have arrested them at odd hours near Pakistan’s nuclear sites or other sensitive installations. Every time ex-army officers working for the US embassy have intervened to secure their release. These former military officers and a long list of bureaucrats, journalists and politicians are on the US embassy payroll and are working directly against the interests of Pakistan.

Former Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Baig has gone so far as to accuse the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf of being complicit in Blackwater crimes. General Baig has said it was Musharraf who gave these mercenaries the green light to carry out terrorist operations in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta. The current civilian rulers, led by Asif Ali Zardari, a venal character and a notorious crook, are in no position to say no to the Americans. Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on August 29, 2009 that the CIA hired these mercenaries for targeted assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as early as 2004. Following a particularly gruesome episode in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 Iraqis were murdered in cold blood, the Iraqi regime refused to grant the company an “operating license.” In a joint piece in the New York Times on December 11, Mazzetti and James Risen shed light on the tight relationship between the CIA and Blackwater. Hired for security duties, Blackwater operatives have indulged in wanton killings in Iraq. In Pakistan, the US hired them for illegal drone attacks as well as targeted killings.

Blackwater mercenaries are only one, even if the major problem facing Pakistan. There are other factors as well behind the escalating mayhem that is rapidly spinning out of control. The root of the problem is the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that has now spilled over into Pakistan. As a consequence of the US-NATO war and brutality in Afghanistan and the incessant drone attacks, there is great resentment in Pakistan toward the US. With fighting concentrated primarily in the south and southeast of Afghanistan where the Pashtuns reside, mass killings there have aroused much anger among the Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border as well.

It was bad enough when the US-NATO forces launched their aerial assault with B-1 bombers in October 2001 killing thousands of people in Afghanistan; the bombing of wedding parties and defenseless villagers in their mud huts in subsequent years has intensified hatred of the US. This has been heightened by the Pakistan military launching operations against its own people in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and now in Orakzai Agency. This ongoing painful chapter has contributed greatly to escalating tensions in Pakistan where none existed before, leading to the phenomenon of suicide bombings.

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