Erik Prince touts cost and combat capability in Afghanistan plan

Blackwater founder Erik Prince on Wednesday touted his proposed strategy to replace most U.S. troops in Afghanistan with private contractors, saying the plan would help lower costs and improve combat capability in the country. 

“It’s not accurate to call it a privatization. It’s really a rationalization,” Prince told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”

“You have 15,000 U.S. troops, you have 30,000 contractors there already. This plan brings both of those numbers way down 2,000 active duty, 6,000 contractors, that’s it,” he continued.

There are roughly 16,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently, working to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, and to conduct counterterrorism operations against terror organizations such as ISIS and al Qaeda.

Despite a near two-decade U.S. presence in the region, insurgents continue to launch attacks, while 12 percent of Afghans still live under Taliban control, and another 23 percent reside in contested areas.

Prince said his proposal would offer increased “combat capability.”

“I would say a significant increase in combat capability because you’re going to have attached mentors, as has worked throughout history with each Afghan unit on the frontline,” he continued.

“So that whenever an Afghan unit leaves the wire, there are mentors, contractors, professional soldiers with them leading, training, and supporting them,” he said.

Prince has been promoting his plan on television after the Trump administration rejected the strategy.

“I think a much smaller rationalization plan keeps pressure on the terrorists. If the whole idea of us being in Afghanistan is to prevent another 9/11, let’s do that,” Prince said.

However, senior U.S. officials have insisted their current course of action is working, citing a three-day ceasefire earlier this year, as well as “off stage” talks with elements of the Taliban.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Taliban and U.S. officials could meet for a second round of talks in Afghanistan this month. 

Prince said he has not spoken to President Trump himself about the strategy, but said he has been told the president has expressed interest.

“This started over a year ago when I wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. I’m told the president read it, and he circled it, and he told his national security adviser [H.R. McMaster] I like this plan, not yours,” Prince said. 

It has been reported as recently as August that Trump has reportedly shown renewed interest in Prince’s proposal. 

— Julia Manchester

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