Blackwater founder Erik Prince is pushing a plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan. Prince, a former Navy SEAL officer, wants President Trump to cut down on U.S. troops presently in Afghanistan and replace the remaining with military contractors from his own security company, as The Hill reported in an interview with Prince.
Prince is optimistic that recent comments from national security adviser John Bolton means the White House may be more open to his proposal. Bolton, who replaced retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as the new head of the National Security Council, recently stated he is “always open to new ideas” on how to prosecute ongoing military campaigns in Afghanistan, even though the President makes the final call.
Prince Suggests 2,000 Special Forces and 6,000 Mercenaries at $3.5 Billion for the Job
The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 17 years, with no definite date of when to withdraw from the Taliban and ISIS-troubled country. With about 16,000 troops in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers have been training and assisting Afghan forces to repel Taliban fighters as well as eradicate Al Qaeda and Islamic State militia in Iraq and Syria. Still, there is no end in sight to winning the war.
The U.S. government has spent about $714 billion on the war effort since 2001 to 2017, yet the Taliban controls 12 percent of Afghan people and resources, and 23 percent of the population is in contested areas of the country while the government has 65 percent of the population in its control. Prince said he believes President Trump is frustrated by the protracted war and thus may be more open to alternative options.
“Before we go headlong into another year of the same failed strategy, I think it’s important that the president know that there are different options,” Prince added.
Prince’s solution lies in reducing U.S. troops and replacing them with private military contractors to save cost and explore a more effective war campaign in Afghanistan.
“Right now, there are 15,000 US troops and another 30,000 contractors,” Prince said in an MSNBC interview. “All I need is… my plan would say 2,000 Special Forces remain and about 6,000 contractors. That is by any stretch a severe reduction in manpower and spending.”
Key White House Officials and Top Members of Congress Oppose Prince’s Proposal
Instead of the several billions of dollars spent last year by the U.S. government on the war, Prince said around $3.5 billion would be enough to fund private military contractors. He alluded to post 9/11 when the government deployed a few CIA officers, a small Special Forces team, and some air support to decimate the Taliban within weeks.
This is not the first time Prince has pitched his proposal to the government. In fact, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon supported his ideas, but former national security adviser Lt. Gen. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis as well as major voices in Congress condemned the idea. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was also against the proposal.
Prince, a former Navy SEAL officer, co-founded Blackwater with Al Clark in 1997, as a private security services contractor. Later renamed as Xe Services and now known as Academi, Prince’s companies win federal government contracts to provide law enforcement training, logistics, close quarter training and security services both domestic and abroad.
Is Erik Prince Privatizing War for Profit?
Blackwater was highly criticized for killing 17 civilians in Iraq in an incident known as the Nisour Square Massacre. Prince’s private security forces have seen been portrayed as cavalier and reckless in their deployments. Prince’s sister is Betsy DeVos who is the Trump’s secretary of education, who many opponents think was approved because of her family wealth. Now critics of Prince see his proposal as another family attempt to capitalize on access to Trump and turn a profit.
Sean McFate, a former military contractor that helped build armies in West Africa and elsewhere, called Prince’s proposal to privatize the Afghanistan war a “con.”
“Prince smells an opportunity in Donald Trump. His sister is Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, giving him access to the White House. Prince is looking for a billion-dollar paycheck while wrapping himself in the American flag,” McFate said in an opinion piece on Politico.
Last Wednesday White House Press Secretary said the President is “committed to finding a political solution to end the conflict in Afghanistan… As always, we’re going to continue to review and look at the best ways to move forward.”