INTERVIEW: Erik Prince: Here’s The Off-Ramp For The War In Afghanistan
Blackwater founder, and former Navy SEAL, Erik Prince is calling for the US to restructure and scale down the 16-year-long operation in Afghanistan by teaming mercenaries with local partners. His plan is estimated to save US taxpayers more than $40 billion.
The idea is one which both White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the president’s senior advisor Jared Kushner appear to be on board with.
Instead of having US military leading the seemingly endless fight, Prince and Stephen A. Feinberg, owner of DynCorp International, seek to have experienced professional European soldiers take over. The reason for this is that the US soldiers are routinely rotated out every six to nine months, so we essentially have to start over with each new group. If the operation was taken over by professionals with insight from experience, who are in it for the long run, this would no longer be the case.
Prince told Big League Politics that his plan consists of restructuring the use of contractors which are already in Afghanistan. There are currently at least 22,000 contractors being used in the region, and he would like to see them take on an enhanced role.
“So many, particularly the left, hate the idea of contractors. The fact is that there are 25,000 contractors in Afghanistan right now. Under this plan, most of them go away — as would, eventually, all the conventional US soldiers. This is the off ramp for the US in Afghanistan,” Prince told Big League.
Prince added that, “just like a business in bankruptcy — the US must tear down and clean up its efforts. The US must go back and refocus on what is necessary to defend itself from terrorism.”
Appearing on NPR on Wednesday, Prince explained that this alternative to sending thousands more US troops to fight would have both strategic and economic benefits.
“You can look at Afghanistan and say we should just pull out,” Prince said, noting that method would cause major cities to collapse with terrorism. “The other extreme would be to continue what we have been doing for the last 16 years, I believe Einstein called that the definition of insanity.”
Instead, Prince would like to see well-paid professionals lead the effort, hoping that the change would prevent terror from taking over the region while saving the US money.
“We are almost a trillion dollars in, in total spending, and another trillion dollars in veterans healthcare costs,” Prince said. He added that the mercenary model would cost just 8% of what the Pentagon’s plan would cost.
Prince suggested that the massive savings could then be used by the Pentagon to pay for things they are short on funding — veteran’s healthcare, for example.
The Blackwater founder also explained that a businessman running the operation over a military professional would help, as the main problem is that Afghanistan needs an economic plan — and therefore could use some leadership from someone with economic experience. Prince added that US taxpayers are funding 90-95% of Afghanistan’s economy right now, which is unsustainable to say the least.
White House assistant Sebastian Gorka recently defended the idea on CNN, asserting in an interview with Jake Tapper that using contractors would reduce some of the costs of the conflict. The fight in Afghanistan has already cost the US roughly $828 billion — as well as the lives of 2,300 soldiers.
“The US military has spent 16 years and a trillion dollars and they weren’t able to put the fire out,” Prince told Big League. “At bare minimum, this is a much cheaper way to proceed. Even if you ignore effect, you have a significant cost savings — $40 billion plus.”