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Jan 30th, 2009

Blackwater: Agency Can Leave Iraq in 72 hours

U.S. embassy told to find new security after contractors’ ‘improper conduct’

Image: Blackwater contractors
Blackwater contractors secure the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad in 2005. (Photo credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP — Getty Images)

Jan. 29, 2009

BAGHDAD — Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, said Thursday it would be prepared to leave that country within 72 hours after Iraqi officials denied the North Carolina-based company an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad.

But Blackwater founder Erik Prince told The Associated Press that while losing the State Department contract would hurt the company, the move would cause more harm to the diplomats it has protected since soon after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. …

Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision. The shooting strained relations between Washington and Baghdad and fueled the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, where many Iraqis saw the bloodshed as a demonstration of American brutality and arrogance.

Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges in the United States that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. …

Blackwater president Gary Jackson told the AP the company has plans to remove its nearly two dozen aircraft and 1,000 security contractors from Iraq within 72 hours of receiving such an order. “If they tell us to leave, we’ll pack it up and go,” Jackson said. …

Blackwater has been operating in Iraq without a formal license since it arrived in the country. The State Department extended Blackwater’s contract for a year last spring, despite widespread calls for it to be expelled because of the shootings. …

Full story


2/10/10 Update

Iraq expels current and ex-Blackwater guards (AP, Feb. 10, 2010) – Iraq has ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest on visa violations. The order comes in the wake of a U.S. judge dismissing criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad. … Full story


U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq

As of Jan. 29, 2009, at least 4,236 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. …

Latest identifications:

Four Army chief warrant officers died Jan. 26, 2009 when two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters crashed in Kirkuk. All were assigned to the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew G. Kelley, 30, Cameron, Mo.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua M. Tillery, 31, Beaverton, Ore.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin H. Todd, 29, Colville, Wash.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Philip E. Windorski, Jr., 35, Bovey, Minn.


Remember Their Sacrifice

Remember Their Sacrifice

Related links

Iraq Casualties

Afghanistan Casualties

Honor the Fallen


Three Political Candidates Slain in Iraq

Jan. 29, 2009

BAGHDAD — Gunmen apparently targeting political candidates staged attacks around Iraq, leaving at least three people dead.

The shootings came as Iraqi forces began imposing a full-scale security clampdown in advance of voting for provincial council seats. …

Full story


Afghan Elections Pushed Back as Violence Rises

Image: Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai waves as he leaves Parliament in Kabul. The U.S.-backed leader’s popularity has waned due to widespread official corruption and widening violence. (Photo credit: Rafiq Maqbool / AP)

Reuters and The Associated Press via
Jan. 29, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan on Thursday announced presidential elections for Aug. 20, hoping a U.S. troop surge will improve security at a time when violence is at the highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban.

The election had been scheduled for the spring, according to the Afghan constitution, but Azizullah Loden, the head of the country’s Independent Election Commission, said the security situation is not strong enough to hold elections then. …

President Barack Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan, which a White House official said would have a “significant non-military component,” a likely reference to development aid.

The Obama administration is also considering almost doubling the U.S. force in Afghanistan from 36,000 to more than 60,000 to secure the polls. A similar troop surge in Iraq improved security there considerably.

Ensuring Afghanistan holds successful elections is a key marker of progress in the face of a Taliban insurgency that has grown stronger in the ethnic Pashtun heartlands of the south and east and is now encroaching into areas just outside the capital. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday described Afghanistan as America’s greatest military challenge.

The Pentagon’s ability to boost its forces in Afghanistan depends partly on how quickly it can withdraw them from Iraq, where 140,000 U.S. troops are deployed. …


North Korea Scraps All Accords with South

Jan. 29, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea declared all military and political agreements with South Korea “dead” Friday, warning it would not honor past accords if Seoul continues to push the Koreas to the brink of war.

The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea accused South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of raising tensions on the Korean peninsula with his hard-line position on Pyongyang. It warned that Lee’s stance would only draw “a heavier blow and shameful destruction.” …

Tensions between the two Koreas, which fought a bitter three-year war in the 1950s and remain divided by one of the world’s most heavily armed borders, have been high since Lee took office in Seoul nearly a year ago.

Lee, a conservative, pledged to get tough with Pyongyang, questioning the wisdom of his predecessors’ “sunshine policy” of nurturing reconciliation by handing over aid to the nuclear-armed North unconditionally. Pyongyang responded by cutting off all reconciliation talks with Seoul and ratcheting up the rhetoric. …


2/1/09 Update

North Korea says two Koreas on path to war (scroll down)

2 Responses to “Blackwater Booted from Iraq”
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