US firm to stay but Baghdad and Washington to jointly probe all security firms.
|Prince defends his company before a congress committee|
But Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California and the chair of the committee, said there were serious questions about Blackwater’s performance and that the shooting on September 16 was just the latest in a number of “troubling” incidents.
“Is Blackwater, a private military contractor, helping or hurting our efforts in Iraq?” he asked in his opening statement.
A US congressional report has said Blackwater was involved in nearly 200 shooting incidents in Iraq over the past two years and opened fire first in most of them.
The private contractor in Iraq, hired by the US state department, has been the first to fire in more than 80 per cent of shooting incidents in which it has been involved according to the report.
In prepared remarks to the committee, Prince pointed out that 30 of Blackwater’s contractors had been killed while protecting US diplomats and no other Americans have died under its protection.
Blackwater has nearly 1,000 personnel working in Iraq.
No-holds barred probe
The hearing comes as debate continues over the role of private contractors in Iraq and whether the US government relies too heavily on outsiders to perform jobs traditionally done by the military.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state says she wants a no-holds barred probe into the affairs of Blackwater.
|“Is Blackwater, a private military contractor, helping or hurting our efforts in Iraq?”
Henry Waxman, Congressman
“I have been very clear with people that I expect it to be probing, I expect it to be a 360-degree look, and I expect it to be unvarnished from these outside experts and I’m sure it will be,” Rice said of the investigation in an interview with the New York Post on Monday.
“The question for this hearing is whether outsourcing to Blackwater is a good deal to the American taxpayer.”
|Prince said he supported moves to increase
accountability of private contractors [AFP]
“The results of the investigation will be reviewed for possible criminal liability and referred to the appropriate legal authority,” Kolko said.
Prince told the panel on Tuesday that he regretted the loss of innocent life.
The oversight committee will also question senior state department officials to assess whether the growing use of military contractors is undermining US efforts in Iraq.
Later this week, the House of Representatives will consider a bill written David Price, a Democratic congressman, that would make all private contractors in Iraq subject to prosecution in US courts.