After three years of fighting, there are 180,000 dead in the Darfur region of Sudan. And yet the world's leaders continue to dawdle:
- The government in Khartoum has scuttled the UN's plans to take control of the troubled peacekeeping operations currently being led by the African Union, and NATO recently stated publicly that a force of its own in Darfur is ''out of the question." Meanwhile, refugee camps and humanitarian aid workers continue to be attacked, and the 7,000 African Union troops remain overstretched and ineffective.
But according to J. Cofer Black, vice chairman of the private security firm Blackwater, there is another option that ought to be on the table: an organization that could commit significant resources and expertise to bolster the African Union peacekeepers and provide emergency support to their flagging mission.
A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. ''We're low cost and fast," Black said, ''the question is, who's going to let us play on their team?"
Private security companies like Blackwater have thrived in Iraq, where the US military has relied on them for everything from guarding convoys to securing the Green Zone. But these companies recognize that the demand for their services in Iraq will eventually diminish, and Blackwater, for one, is looking for new markets.
Apparently Blackwater has no interest in offensive missions:
- Today, private military companies are offering defensive services-they propose to secure refugee camps and vulnerable villages, guard humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs, or, depending on the requirements of the contract, assist peacekeepers like the African Union troops in Darfur.