Blackwater founder proposes privatizing Afghanistan war, cites East India Company as a model

In an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday, Prince pointed to the East India Company in India during British colonization as a source of emulation for U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

Irshad Salim — The Trump administration is considering a proposal to privatize the United States’ interests in the war in Afghanistan, the founder of security firm Blackwater said Tuesday.

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and former Navy SEAL officer, told USA Today he proposed using 5,500 private contractors, many former special operations troops, to take on the role of advising Afghan forces. He said the plan also would include a 90-plane air force.

Prince is now executive director and chairman of Frontier Services Group, report UPI.

Prince told CBS News the plan would cut the annual cost of U.S. involvement in the war from $45 billion to less than $10 billion. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted July 30 that the U.S. spent approximately $700 billion as of 2016, report Daily Caller.

There are 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in an operation to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. The United States has been involved in the war for 16 years.

Trump is the third president to grapple with the war in Afghanistan which according to an estimate is costing American taxpayers almost $4 million an hour.

“At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working,” Prince said. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.”

He said his plan would institute a “unity of command” and the contractors would “attach” to the Afghan army.

“The interagency process, you’ve had 17 different commanders in 15 years. That’s not even counting ambassadors or CIA station chiefs,” Prince said. “So you have to have one person that is clearly in charge of U.S. policy, spending, rules of engagement of the effort there.

“The way the United Nations defines mercenaries, by being attached to the Afghan army, they would not be mercenaries,” he added. “So they would be contracted people, professionals, former special operations veterans that have experience in that theater to go do that work.”

In an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday, Prince pointed to the East India Company in India during British colonization as a source of emulation for U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

When asked by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi if he had ever seen such a plan work somewhere else, Prince responded, “Sure. I mean, I’ve mentioned in that article – and I say, the East India Company. Again, not that I’m advocating for a colonization of Afghanistan. Farthest from it.”

Still, he went on to point to virtues of the East India Company, saying, “We want to prevent terror sanctuary and leave. But when the East India Company operated for 200-plus years, they deployed with that model. One mentor to 20 local troops.”

Prince’s idea isn’t new — he first laid out this plan in a Wall Street Journal article in May, calling for the United States to delegate decision-making responsibilities to a “viceroy” and military efforts to private contractors like himself, who would remain in Afghanistan for an indeterminate amount of time. In the article, he extolled the successes of the East India Company, the infamous corporation that devastated India and played such a large role in British colonization.

The East India Company was a British company that took over India with a private army for monetary gain, destroying India’s local government and diverting huge quantities of resources to Great Britain, eventually leading India to rebel in 1857 and the British Crown to take direct control in India. The company is usually regarded as a disruptive colonialist power, not a military success.

But “The Pentagon is not interested in privatizing the war in Afghanistan,” a former knowledgeable senior Pentagon official told The Daily Beast.

A decision on an Afghanistan strategy was expected more than two months ago, but it has been delayed as President Trump remains unsatisfied with the options.

Michael Anton, spokesman for the National Security Council said last week, “The president’s national security team is developing a comprehensive, integrated strategy for South Asia that utilizes all aspects of our national power to address this complex region.”

The national security team has been trying to come up with a new strategy the president can approve.

NBC News reported last week that Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, citing senior administration officials.

Meanwhile, dozens more U.S. Marines are headed to Afghanistan to help provide increase force protection for troops stationed in Helmand Province, a historic sanctuary for the Taliban in the southern part of the country bordering Pakistan’s Balochistan province in the southeast, NBCNews reported Monday.

Helmand Province has been a frontline for the battle between the U.S-backed Afghan National Security and the Taliban militants since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2015 and remains groundzero of poppy cultivation in the country.

The Taliban now appears to wield significant control over the war-torn country’s heroin production line, providing insurgents with billions of dollars, officials have told AFP.

In 2016 Afghanistan, which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium, made around 4,800 tons of the drug bringing in revenues of three billion dollars, according to the United Nations.

Western officials are concerned it is now running its own factories, refining the lucrative crop into morphine and heroin for exporting abroad.

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