Thus far, Erik Prince — founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater and brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — has only triggered a sketchy vibe when it comes to his ties to Team Trump. He was reported to have tried to open a secret line of communication between the White House and Russia, although he only admitted to an “incidental” meeting with a Putin ally. His ties to the Trump administration do run deep, and now, he’s told USA Today all about the White House’s plans to privatize a huge chunk of the war in Afghanistan — so the U.S. can start winning again.
It’s no secret that Trump is confused and disappointed about how the U.S. isn’t winning this war, and he even berated his top generals on the subject while making up an inspirational story about Manhattan’s infamous 21 Club. Now, Prince says that the White House wants to use contractors to “to turn the tide in a stalemated war,” and Blackwater (founded in 1997 by Prince, who sold it in 2010) hopes to assume the effort. This large scale of this proposal is “unprecedented” — although the use of contractors by the U.S. is nothing new in war — and the White House is supposedly leaning toward this option:
The plan remains under serious consideration within the White House despite misgivings by Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Other White House officials, such as chief strategist Stephen Bannon, appear open to using private contractors.
“At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working,” said Prince, a former Navy SEAL. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.”
So, McMaster opposes the plan and Bannon does not (not shocking). But if approved, the plan would involve mostly former Special Operations troops (5,500 of them), along with a private air force to assist Afghanistan combat forces in their battles against Taliban insurgents. The private troops would also gradually replace the 8,400 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan.
Besides winning, Prince boasts that such privatization would cost one-quarter of the current $40 billion the Pentagon is annually budgeting on this war. However, Prince downplays any possibility that he might profit from such a plan and prefers to only stress the decreased cost to taxpayers. Whether or not the White House is truly considering this plan … they won’t admit as much to USA Today. However, Rex Tillerson recently admitted that Trump is “not willing to accept” continuing the current strategy in Afghanistan, “so he is asking some tough questions.”
Also worth mentioning: One major point of controversy with this reported plan is that it’s being publicized by Prince, whose Blackwater guards were — only days ago — cleared of their sentences (which included a first-degree murder conviction) related to the deaths of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians.
In addition to speaking with USA Today, Prince popped onto MSNBC to talk about this proposal, and he cited the “East India Co.” as precedent, which is telling, although he’s previously made this reference on the same subject.