Last year, President Trump announced plans to send 4,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. But given the ongoing quagmire, he’s now reportedly considering a controversial plan from Erik Prince.
Erik Prince — the founder of mercenary firm Blackwater (now known as Academi after briefly rebranding as Xe) and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — is campaigning once again to get the commander-in-chief to green-light his plan to outsource the Afghanistan war to private entities. According to NBC News, Prince is reportedly launching an “air campaign” to persuade Trump to sign off on his proposal.
“I know [Trump is] frustrated,” Prince told NBC. “He gave the Pentagon what they wanted… and they haven’t delivered.”
Prince’s 19-page plan, first published by BuzzFeed News, proposes that Prince’s company Frontier Services Group would play a critical role in the implementation of the plan. This essentially would mean that billions of taxpayer dollars originally earmarked for the U.S. military would be routed to a private company owned by the family member of a cabinet secretary.
Rather than establish a functioning Westernized democracy, Erik Prince appears to have an end goal of mining the country’s precious rare earth elements, calling it “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.”
Despite the U.S. sending troops to Afghanistan nearly 17 years ago and spending more than $1 trillion, the country is still widely considered to be one of the most unstable in the world. The Fund for Peace’s 2018 Fragile States Index ranked Afghanistan as the ninth-most unstable country out of 178. Last year, the New York Times reported that the Taliban still controls large swaths of Afghanistan, and the terrorist group ISIS has a foothold in the country as well.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Jarrett Blanc referred to Trump’s original plan of deploying several thousands more troops to the Central Asian country as a “dressed-up version of the status quo.” And in a 2017 interview with Grit Post contributor Ken Klippenstein, former Special Operations Command Sergeant Major Michael Adams said the strategy “wouldn’t change a damn thing.”
“This has all been done before and we know the result; thousands dead, an economy and an insurgency funded by opium [and] rampant corruption,” Adams told Grit Post.
All of these circumstances mean that even though the White House has come out in opposition to Erik Prince’s plan, Trump himself may still lend consideration to the idea of privatizing the war. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump 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,” Sanders said.
It’s unclear whether or not the ambitious plan Erik Prince would win the final approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, however. Prince may be seen as a security risk, given his attempts to establish a communications back-channel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin prior to then-President-Elect Trump’s inauguration.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.