Former CIA Chief Shoots Down McMaster’s Afghan Plan

McMaster Official Portrait

Writing for the security and intelligence website The Cipher Brief, former CIA Chief of Station Kevin Hulbert blasted President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s desire to load up Afghanistan with more US troops.

Hulbert’s piece is titled ‘Dereliction of Duty II: The Afghanistan Years,’ a play on McMaster’s book ‘Dereliction of Duty.’ In the powerful op-ed, he details how a troop surge will achieve no positive results and will continue a “failed strategy and one that could not win.”

“In his book ‘Dereliction of Duty,’ now current National Security Advisor LTG H.R. McMaster excoriated a whole generation of U.S. military leadership for not speaking truth to power and for not articulating their objections to the strategy then being used in Vietnam at the behest of Washington politicians.  McMaster faulted the military leadership for not having developed good alternatives for policy-makers to what the military leadership knew in their hearts was a failed strategy and one that could not win. McMaster called it an abdication of the Generals’ professional and civic responsibilities,” Hulbert wrote.

The former CIA chief asked readers to evaluate if we are winning, and what exactly a victory in Afghanistan would even look like.

“Are we just going to be in Afghanistan forever spending $50 billion a year? Are we going to be doing the ‘nation building’ role forever, lest Afghanistan slip back into being a hot bed of terrorism? Does anyone have any plan other than to keep doing what we have been doing for the last 16 years, spending untold billions in blood and treasure every year because no one can articulate anything else we might do instead?” Hubert asked rhetorically.

The piece goes on to explain that an alternate idea from Blackwater founder and former Navy SEAL Erik Prince would not only save the US tens of billions of dollars, but would also finally get the big US military footprint out of Afghanistan.

Prince has proposed that the US restructure and scale down the 16-year-long operation in Afghanistan by teaming mercenaries with local partners. 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.

As we previously reported, 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 of 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.

While Hulbert admits that he does not think Prince’s plan is the “perfect” plan to handle Afghanistan, he adds that “if there was one, we would already be doing it.”

“I have been surprised at how quick some pundits are to poke holes in the idea while offering zero ideas of their own about what we should do other than the same status quo of the last 16 years,” Hulbert writes. “We had better start thinking more broadly about our options in Afghanistan and what the end game there might look like, otherwise some young smart colonel in the war college will be writing a sequel to McMaster’s book in a few short years titled, ‘Dereliction of Duty II:  The Afghanistan Years.’”

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.”

Prince suggested that the massive savings could then be used by the Pentagon to pay for things they are short on funding here in America — veteran’s healthcare, for example.

Perhaps we should slow down on creating more veterans until we can properly provide for the ones we already have.

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