Erik Prince is reviving his controversial proposal to turn over the 17-year-old Afghanistan war to private military contractors.
Prince, founder of the company once known as Blackwater, released a Youtube video on July 12 titled “The Way Forward in Afghanistan.” It emphasizes his strong personal critiques of the Pentagon’s strategy in Afghanistan.
Prince said his plan would “cost a fraction of what the U.S. is squandering now, utilizing about 6,000 contractors embedded with the Afghan military versus the 45,000 foreign personnel currently in the country.”
In the over 6-minute video, Prince appears along with images from the war in Afghanistan and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, saying Afghanistan is a location where terrorist organizations can plan and launch attacks against the United States. Prince says a military presence in Afghanistan is necessary to ensure American safety from foreign aggression.
Prince, a self-described libertarian, once stated: “I’m a very free market guy. I’m not a huge believer that government provides a whole lot of solutions.”
Prince said he believes he has a better strategy for Afghanistan that also takes into consideration the cost effectiveness of modern warfare.
The video draws on the example of the early successes of U.S. military special operations during the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. He said he believes that smaller units, comprised of highly skilled professionals backed by appropriate resources while conducting unconventional tactics, are far more efficient than conventional military tactics.
He highlights the $62 billion U.S. spending in Afghanistan this year and notes the $21 trillion the US still holds in debt.
However, like the skeletal support structure Prince is proposing, he has only offered a skeletal plan accompanied by a, “what President Trump should do” anecdote.
“President Trump should appoint a special presidential envoy and empower them to wage an unconventional war against Taliban and Daesh forces, to hold the corrupt officials accountable and to negotiate with their Afghan counterparts and the Afghan Taliban that are willing to reconcile with Kabul. As the skeletal support of mentors, airpower and governance stand up, the conventional DoD and NATO forces can go home, leaving a much, much smaller footprint,” Prince said in the video.
Prince said that, under his plan, the war in Afghanistan would not be completely privatized, noting that contractors would work in collaboration with U.S. military special operations and the Central Intelligence Agency.
This isn’t the first time Prince has proposed this model for Afghanistan.
Less than one year ago, in August 2017, Prince was meeting with members of the Trump administration in Washington to present a proposal called “A Strategic Economy of Force.” This proposal, essentially the same one outlined in his most recent pitch, was rejected by senior officials of the administration. The proposal had multiple criticisms from members in the Trump administration, as well as legal concerns specifically about Prince’s desire for a private air force in Afghanistan.
However, Prince is likely trying to capitalize on the change of many top administration officials since then.
The most important decision-maker for the Afghanistan war strategy would be Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Prince stated to Britain’s Independent that “General Mattis agreed with his analysis of the problems in Afghanistan but disagreed with his solution.”
No information has been released by Prince on when or if he has any official new meetings with President Trump or members of his administration regarding the proposal.
Neil is a former US Army Captain and served operational deployments in South Korea and Afghanistan. He is currently an Editorial Fellow at the Military Times.