Private contractors have proven to be highly controversial in Iraq where the security firm formerly known as Blackwater has been banned.
But the US state department has extended a contract with the firm, now known as Xe, indefinitely, just as its contract was due to expire this month.
Iraqis had long complained about incidents involving Blackwater’s ground operations, particularly when a shooting by Blackwater guards in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, in September 2007, left 17 civilians dead.
The deaths further strained relations between Baghdad and Washington and led US prosecutors to bring charges against Blackwater and its founder, Erik Prince.
But sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using a subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq.
Armed with spears and blowpipes, hundreds of indigenous tribesmen in the jungles of Borneo island have mounted a last-ditch attempt to try to save their land from logging.
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan reports from Sarawak on the Penan, some of whom still live as nomadic hunter-gatherers in the rainforests of this Malaysian province.
They have been battling loggers since the 1980s, when large-scale industrial logging commenced in the Malaysian state. At times the Penan have faced intimidation and violent crackdowns at the hands of security forces hired by logging firms and Malaysian police.
Meanwhile, vast tracts of Sarawak’s rainforest has been stripped of its valuable timber. Now forestry firms are eyeing forest lands for conversion to oil palm plantations, which will likely leave the Penan even worse off since these estates support less game than even logged-over forest.
Pakistan has a new weapon to combat the Taliban – a domestically made, unmanned aircraft that is expected to replace the country’s use of controversial US drones.
With more than 50 air attacks in the last two years, hundreds of civilians have been killed and public attitude towards the government has been inflamed.
The Pakistani military has said it has made gains on the Taliban this year with the aid of US drones, and that it has also been providing reliable information about targets which the US has not taken out.
With greater control over its skies, the Pakistani military hopes that will change.