The sources said Abbas, opposed by several senior members of his Fatah
movement, has contacted Blackwater USA, a key contractor in Iraq, for the
training of a new bodyguard unit. They said Blackwater has quietly been
examining the Presidential Guard and Force 17, the two units responsible for
"Force 17 has no loyalty to Abbas," the source said. "They are all
Arafat's people and this makes Abbas uncomfortable. He does not feel they
will protect him."
The sources said the introduction of Blackwater has alarmed PA security
officials. They said senior officers sent to retirement have not been
replaced and expressed concern that Blackwater would be responsible for all
recruitment, training and equipping of presidential security.
So far, Blackwater has not signed a contract with the PA, the sources
said. But they said U.S. officials responsible for enhancing PA security
support the employment of Blackwater as a means to significantly bolster
The United States, as part of an $86 million program, has been financing
the training and equipping of PA forces. In January, a battalion of PA
National Security Force officers was sent for training to a U.S.-financed
police center outside Amman. The center trained more than 30,000 Iraqi
police officers from 2004 through 2007.
"Abbas likes the U.S. approach to VIP security, which is unobtrusive,
quiet and highly professional," a Western security source said.