Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who has been reportedly pushing for the US government to "privatize" the war in Afghanistan, said on Monday that one year after the launch of the Pentagon’s new strategy for South Asia, the Afghan war “remains a total failure.”
He said in a statement: “The plan announced by President (Donald) Trump, devised by his generals this time last year, reinforced a strategy which has been and continues to be, a failure.
“The president gave his generals a chance, but the current approach has never worked and never will. It needlessly costs thousands of lives and billions of dollars that America continues to pay.”
He said that during Trump’s election campaign he condemned America’s wasteful wars abroad.
“Now is the time for him to follow his initial instinct on Afghanistan and deliver on his campaign’s promise,” said Prince.
According to him, Trump had been given two options at the time – by the Pentagon and by the National Security Council – either send in more troops or abandon Afghanistan.
Prince states however that there is a third option – his proposal.
He said what he is proposing “will end the conflict, save the lives of hundreds of US armed forces personnel (and thousands of Afghans), and will cost only a fraction of what we (the US) currently spend.”
Prince said it was not an attempt to “privatize the war” as has been reported in the media, but it is a “reduction in the number of private contractors engaged in Afghanistan.”
“For the last 17 years, the Pentagon has deployed units that spend a few months acclimating, and when finally productive are again rotated back home, never to return to the same area. Each new unit must deploy, embed, forge relationships and learn the terrain. This failed rotation process has been repeated nearly 30 times now.
“This can never work. There is never enough time for the troops to make real progress! We shouldn’t wait another 17 years for a change in course,” he said.
Instead, Prince suggests the Trump-Afghanistan approach should utilize the right balance of foreign contracted veterans and Special Forces to attach a mentor team to every Afghan Battalion, to provide blanket air coverage, and ensure process controls to prevent corruption in Afghan supply and personnel systems.
He suggests the total manpower requirements would drop by 85 percent of what is currently in the country and that such an approach would immediately reduce US spending on Afghanistan from a current $62 billion per year to $10 billion a year.
Prince also stated that his proposal would include the operation being fully accountable under US Government Uniformed Code of Military Justice and would operate under a normal military code of conduct, with Afghan government rules of engagement.
He said: “This new plan has a clear line of accountability. Who holds the Pentagon accountable now for 17 years of ineffectiveness?”
“This is no private army or privatization of the war effort, but an effective blend of Active Duty military and contracted military veteran personnel who are properly trained and paid to stay for the duration. This plan will, in fact, reduce the number of Active Duty US personnel from 15,000 to under 2,000, and the number of contractors in Afghanistan from the current level of over 30,000 to 6,000.”
“The President needs to double down on his initial instinct because without a change in approach, we are condemned to a never-ending expensive losing effort in Afghanistan,” Prince said.
However, many critics and government officials have considered Prince’s push for the plan as an attempt to privatize the Afghan war.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri also weighed in on the subject on Monday at a press conference and dismissed the claims.
He said reports of the US wanting to privatize the war were untrue.
But on Sunday, John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, told an ABC News journalist in an interview that he was always “open to new ideas” but he would not comment on what the White House’s thinking was as it would “ultimately be the president’s decision.”
On Friday, Prince said that Trump advisers who oppose his plan are painting “as rosy a picture as they can” of the US’s efforts to get the Taliban to the peace talks tables.
But Bolton said in response to this that there are signs that discussions between the Taliban and Afghan government are “moving in the right direction.”
“We've looked at several different possibilities to get the Taliban and others directly engaged with the government of Afghanistan. There have been some signs that's moving in the right direction," Bolton said.
“I don't rule out that we'd have a change in some of the things we're doing there, but the president's view is that he'll support the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to see if the Taliban are finally ready to talk seriously,” Bolton said.
Bolton said however that the US was intent on never allowing a 9/11 attack from happening again. He said: “The bottom line is the security of the United States.”
Prince meanwhile said last week that he hasn’t spoken directly to Trump about the plan, but said he plans to launch an aggressive media "air campaign" to get the president to embrace it.
His effort coincides with Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Trump announcing the new South Asia strategy that resulted in an increase in US troops in Afghanistan.