Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan

Blackwater founder calls for military contractors in Afghanistan
© Getty Images

The founder of the private military company Blackwater is urging President Trump to reconsider his new Afghanistan strategy and instead use contractors in place of U.S. soldiers.

“In promising to add more dollars to the more than $800 billion already spent, not to mention more American troops to the thousands already dead or wounded, President Trump’s strategy is sadly more old than new,” Erik Prince argues in an op-ed published Wednesday in The New York Times.

“Fortunately, it is not too late to alter the course.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Prince, whose sister is Education Secretary Betsey DeVos, points to the Flying Tigers, a group of volunteer American aviators who fought Japan in China before the U.S. entered World War II, as a blueprint for his proposed strategy.

“Such a force could be just the solution Afghanistan needs,” he writes.

Trump, who earlier this month announced he will not withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, is widely expected to send around 4,000 additional soldiers to the country to help end the 16-year war there.

The administration has declined so far to say how many troops it would send.

Prince, who is now head of private equity firm Frontier Resource Group, bashed the decision, calling it “a kind of Obama-lite policy” and “a continuation of the same limited or failed strategy of the last 16 years.”  

Prior to Trump’s speech, Prince had been privately and publicly shopping a plan to replace most U.S. troops with just under 6,000 private military contractors — specifically former special operations veterans — to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level.

He had presented the proposal to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, but not to the president himself.

McMaster and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Trump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book MORE reportedly opposed the plan, but Bannon was rumored to be in favor.

“Unfortunately, serving or recently retired Pentagon generals monopolized the conversation, so a conventional outcome was assured,” Prince writes.

“The ‘new’ strategy that the president adopted last week would reportedly increase authorized troop levels from 8,400 to around 12,400. This will merely continue the conflict. And no one can seriously argue that this strategy won’t inevitably require more spending, more troops and more casualties.”

Prince says that should Trump decide to use private contractors, the Blackwater founder “would vigorously compete to implement a plan that ... costs less than 20 percent of current spending and saves American taxpayers more than $40 billion a year.”

Lawmakers have already argued against such a plan, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (Md.).

“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 wrote in an letter to McMaster earlier this month