State Department renews Blackwater’s Iraq contract ‘for at least another year.’

Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that private security contractor Blackwater “is not expected to face criminal charges” over an allegedly unprovoked shooting in September 2007 that killed up to 17 Iraqis, essentially “ensuring the company will keep its multimillion-dollar contract to protect U.S. diplomats.” Today, the New York Times reports that the State Department has renewed Blackwater’s contract “for at least another year.” The reason for the renewal? The State Department says it has no other options:

State Department officials said Friday that they did not believe they had any alternative to Blackwater, which supplies about 800 guards to the department to provide security for diplomats in Baghdad. Officials say only three companies in the world meet their requirements for protective services in Iraq, and the other two do not have the capability to take on Blackwater’s role in Baghdad. […]

“We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq,” said Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management. “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”