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BLACKWATER MERCS IN IRAQ
Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where it operates a tactical training facility that it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. The company markets itself as being "The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world". At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts.
In 2003, Blackwater landed its first truly high-profile contract: guarding Ambassador L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, at the cost of $21 million in 11 months. Since June 2004, Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million out of a $1 billion, five-year State Department budget for the Worldwide Personal Protective Service, which protects U.S. officials and some foreign officials in conflict zones.
In 2006, Blackwater won the remunerative contract to protect the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is the largest American embassy in the world.
Of the State Department's dependence on private contractors like Blackwater for security purposes, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told the U.S. Senate: "There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts."
For work in Iraq, Blackwater has drawn contractors from their international pool of professionals, a database containing "21,000 former Special Forces troops, soldiers, and retired law enforcement agents," overall.