Last week the Blackwater empire – about two dozen subsidiaries in all – announced that it was changing its names. The training facility, Blackwater Lodge and Training Centre, which tackles much of the training and operational burden, will now be US Training Centre Inc., while the holding company will now become the more Zen-like, Xe. The company spokesperson, Anne Tyrrell, an embattled woman given the events over the past few years, admitted that the name change was required to step away from the damage that the company’s reputation has suffered over the past few years.
The question is whether the shift is simply a cynical attempt to step away from a tainted brand, or whether, as asserted, there is a greater underlying attempt to focus more on training. Moreover, Blackwater will not be providing protective personnel to the State Department – or anyone else – in Iraq once the Iraqi Government’s ban comes into effect. However, that is not to say that Blackwater operations are ceasing completely; remember that they recently bought a McArthur cutter to provide a presence off the Coast of Somalia. My personal assessment is that if one places a Coast Guard cutter, with a helicopter deck, off the Coast of Somalia, and it is being operated by a company with a strong former-SEAL presence, there is a good chance that the littoral (the shoreline and area behind it that is the ”operational zone” for the special forces of various international navies), has as much of a chance of being the focus for action as defensive battles from the decks of target ships.
Again, it is my opinion that Xe is winding down its private security practices because they are in a situation that has been forced upon them. Some years ago there were reports that they were lobbying to be commissioned to operate in Darfur in lieu of UN Troops; let us not imagine for a second that Xe is not, more than anything else, a profit-making pragmatic operation. The reality is that Xe, just like Triple Canopy, Aegis and others, is predicting the reduction in government contracting in Iraq, and is positioning itself ahead of the future streams of revenue through. However, I have no doubt that if the opportunity comes up again to provide protective services, then a new brand, a new flag within the Xe network will be there to fill it.