Top Dem: Privatizing Afghanistan War would be 'affront' to US troops

Top Dem: Privatizing Afghanistan War would be 'affront' to US troops
© Keren Carrion

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is urging against a private contractor’s pitch to take over the war in Afghanistan.

“I am writing to request a briefing on the current policy review process related to Afghanistan and specifically, the steps that the Trump administration is taking to ensure that this process is immune from any conflicts of interest,” Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins Senate passes resolution honoring victims of Capital Gazette shooting MORE (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

“The unorthodox approach of outsourcing policy developments to private individuals with possible profit motives is an affront to thousands of American service members, who have undertaken a professional responsibility to protect and advance U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan.”

Cardin’s letter does specify a contractor by name, but Blackwater founder Erik Prince, currently the head of Frontier Services Group, has privately and publicly been shopping around a plan to replace most U.S. troops in Afghanistan with contractors.

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McMaster is reportedly opposed to the plan, as is Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon put in bind after Trump-Putin summit The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington MORE. But some in President Trump’s inner circle, such as chief strategist Stephen Bannon, are said to be in favor.

Prince’s plan would include sending 5,500 private military contractors to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level. They would be supported by a 90-plane private air force.

The war would then be led by a White House-appointed “viceroy,” who would have power over U.S. military commanders, ambassadors and the Afghan military.

In his letter, Cardin said such a proposal raises “a host of concerns.”

Among them, Cardin continued, “the profit potential from these contracts proposed [by] these executives; the risk to our bilateral partnership with Afghanistan posed by any ‘viceroy’ or private security force; and the lack of [U.S. government] oversight on the rules of engagement or accountability for abuses committed by such a private security force.”

He also said that privatizing the war effort would impede negotiating a political settlement and promoting an accountable Afghan government, which he said he continues to believe is the best way to end the 16-year conflict.

“I urge the Trump administration to engage in dialogue with the United States Congress about these issues,” Cardin concluded, “and to ensure that the current Afghanistan policy review process is informed by U.S. national security interests, not by the profits of any private company.”

Last week, NBC News reported that Trump had pushed to fire the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan because the United States is “losing” there. 

According to the report, Trump also compared the war to a New York restaurant’s 1980s renovation and complained that the United States isn’t making any money off Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in mineral resources, while China is.

Meanwhile, the United States will send additional Marines to Afghanistan following an on-the-ground request, NBC News reported on Monday.