Private Protection for Iraqi Dignitaries
Officially, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani relies only on his personal security detail of Peshmergas to protect him. But the Kurdish fighters are, in reality, discreetly supervised by a team from Blackwater, an American company that sees to the protection of American diplomats and their facilities in Iraq. Blackwater has assigned a number of teams to Talabani, one of which is made up of South Africans who had worked for a small firm, Tropicana pi, that operated for a while in West Africa. In addition to the president, Blackwater oversees the protection of leading members of the Iraqi government.
Long confined to safeguarding Western interests in Iraq, private security firms are working increasingly for the new Iraqi government’s institutions, even if most of the contracts are bankrolled by the American administration or the Foreign Office (see graph below). One of the next security contracts to be awarded in Iraq will be a three-year deal to run the Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence located at Camp Taji north of Baghdad and which will train the Iraqi army in counter-insurgency warfare.
Another contract that private firms based in the country deeply envy is the one currently held by Britain’s Aegis, which has been coordinating the operations of all of the private firms in the country for the past three years. Worth $300 million, the Aegis contract has now been put out to tender again and several rivals are already lining up to bid for it. Among the most pro-active is Britain’s Blue Hackle headed by Michael Raper, who recently poached several executives of Control Risks. Among members of Blue Hackle’s advisory board is Jeremy Hanley, who was a junior minister in charge of the armed forces in John Major’s government and then minister of state for the Middle East and Asia at the Foreign Office.