Some officials are worried that President Donald Trump, who has expressed frustrations with the current situation in Afghanistan in recent cabinet meetings, may take a controversial and ethically worrisome route — hiring private soldiers to carry out military operations in the region.
The idea is one that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater (and the brother to current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos), has openly pushed for, for over a year. Prince plans to promote the plan using an “air campaign” in the coming days to get Trump on board with the idea.
A year after Trump announced a policy increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the president has become restless with the slow pace that the current strategy in the war-beleaguered nation has taken, according to some current and former officials speaking with NBC News.
Prince has taken note of the president’s feelings on the matter.
“I know he's frustrated,” he said. “He gave the Pentagon what they wanted. ...And they haven't delivered.”
The plan that Prince wants implemented (which would undoubtedly net him millions, if not billions, of dollars in government contracts) isn’t a new one to Trump. A year ago, in the run-up to the decision to increase troop levels, Trump’s then-adviser Steve Bannon pushed for the same idea that Prince is advocating for today: putting private military companies in place of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The idea would be simple: A U.S. envoy for the war would oversee the activities of the private soldiers. That envoy, in return, would report directly to Trump.
But the proposal has problems, too, including issues of accountability. Aside from the envoy, who would oversee issues arising from potential misdeeds or mishandling of the war effort by private troops? What role could Congress have in calling the troops back, if any?
It’s also a proposal that wouldn’t likely be backed by the government in Afghanistan. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai stood steadfastly against the plan when it was discussed before, and a former official within the Trump administration suggested it would make the war last longer, not shorter.
“It's a ridiculous idea. It would only make things worse, prolong the war, and cause more deaths,” that official said.
There’s more to consider about the plan, specifically relating to the individual who is promoting it. Prince is, according to reporting from The Washington Post, being eyed by Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller. Prince, according to documents Mueller has, tried to establish backchannel communications for Trump administration officials to speak with Russian counterparts in 2017.
When it comes to the plan for privatization, there's just too much that could go wrong, and too little accountability. The Trump administration ought to reject this idea as foolhardy, and hopefully Trump himself will learn to be more patient with his commanders, rather than give into the media blitz campaign that Prince has in mind to sell the idea.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Ariana News via REUTERS