|Blackwater, now called Xe, in running for work in Afghanistan despite legal woes
|The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide's legal woes haven't dimmed its prospects in Afghanistan, where the company is a contender to be a key part of President Barack Obama's strategy for stabilizing the country.
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 seems an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company after the Iraqi deaths.
During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now 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.
The State Department, with Clinton at the helm, elected 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 the State contract.
Despite the scrutiny, the U.S. relies heavily on Xe — pronounced "zee" — for support in Afghanistan, and the workload might grow significantly.
Xe spokesman Mark Corallo declined to comment on whether the company, based in Moyock, N.C., is bidding for the Afghan police training contract. But a U.S. official knowledgeable of the deliberations said Xe is competing. The official requested anonymity to discuss information about the federal contracting process.
Xe provides security services in Afghanistan, though on a smaller scale than it did in Iraq.