Monday, September 24, 2007

Blackwater exit not feasible

Iraqi official: Blackwater exit not feasible

Baghdad would have to pull troops out of the field to fill the void left by the private security company, the spokesman says.
By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 24, 2007
BAGHDAD -- -- An Iraqi official conceded Sunday that expelling a private U.S. firm accused in the deaths of at least 11 Iraqi civilians would leave a "security vacuum" and said the two countries would look at ways to better regulate companies that protect Western personnel and facilities in Iraq.

A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission was expected to hold its first meeting within days, the American Embassy said.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki demanded Wednesday that the embassy find a replacement for Blackwater USA and that the North Carolina-based company's activities in Iraq be frozen after Blackwater guards were involved in the lethal shooting Sept. 16 in Baghdad. U.S. officials asked him to wait for the results of a joint investigation.

A spokesman for Iraqi security efforts in the capital acknowledged Sunday that Blackwater was one of the main companies protecting foreign embassies and said it was not feasible to expel the firm, which has about 1,000 employees in Iraq.

"If we drive out this company immediately, there will be a security vacuum that would force us to pull troops out of the field to protect these institutes," Tahseen Sheikhly said. "That would cause a big imbalance in the security situation."


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