Afghanistan

The Afghan War Doesn’t Need to Be Privatized—It Needs to Be Ended

Erik Prince's plan may be better than the status quo, but that doesn't mean it's the best path.

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Defense.gov

Blackwater founder Erik Prince says the Trump administration has been considering a plan he pitched to "privatize" the war in Afghanistan, an approach he claims could save the U.S. upwards of $30 billion a year.

Under the Prince plan, we would no longer have more than 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Instead, more than 5,000 private contractors, mostly Special Ops veterans, would advise Afghan forces. A private air force made up of 90 planes would replace U.S. air support. The cost would be $10 billion a year rather than the $40 billion we pay annually now.

"At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working?" Prince asked USA Today.

Opponents of the war have been asking that for more than a decade. But the deeper issue here isn't what kind of military approach Washington should take; it's what "working" means in the first place.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) for Afghanistan, passed in 2001, targeted the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks and their "associated forces."

Yet the core of Al Qaeda, the terror group responsible for 9/11, has been defeated in Afghanistan. The Taliban government, which provided Al Qaeda with a safe haven, was toppled within weeks of the American invasion. For years, the U.S. war in Afghanistan has been more a nation-building exercise than a counter-terrorism operation. The radical Islamist extremists most often currently targeted by U.S. forces don't bear much resemblance to the perpetrators of 9/11—an entire generation has passed.

Further, in 2001 Afghanistan was virtually the only safe haven for groups like Al Qaeda. Today such havens exist across the Muslim world. Most recently, U.S. forces have been sent to the Philippines to assist in the fight against ISIS there. (ISIS and Al Qaeda, for those keeping track at home, are bitter rivals.)

The debate over Afghanistan has largely centered on which "strategy" could be successful, but the fundamental problem is that success has never been clearly defined.

A proposal to privatize the fighting could spur Congress to renew the authorization for the war in less expansive terms. Ron Paul has suggested the use of letters of marque and reprisal, a constitutionally prescribed instrument, for counter-terrorism. This would authorize private individuals and organizations to go after Al Qaeda or other enemies of the country. Such letters offers a far narrower framework than an AUMF, and thus are less likely to fuel a virtually endless worldwide war against an ill-defined ideology (extremism) and tactic (terror).

According to USA Today, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis are skeptical of Prince's plan. They want Trump to order a surge in Afghanistan, something the president appears skeptical of. Congress has offered little input outside of "it's time to win," allowing a deleterious status quo to continue in Afghanistan.

Privatization sounds better than that. But if there's no reason to stay in Afghanistan in the first place, then there's no reason to privatize a war that shouldn't be continuing at all. End it, don't mend it.

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20 responses to “The Afghan War Doesn’t Need to Be Privatized—It Needs to Be Ended

  1. Of course paying for it all won’t be privatized, but “privatizing” the war would make it even easier to skim billions from the Treasury. What am I saying? Pentagon books are inscrutable as it is now.

    1. “Privatize” – this word does not mean what he thinks it means. Based on that definition, all government contractors are privatized government services, which is complete and utter nonsense.

      1. While I’m sure Ron Paul probably has mentioned letter of marque and reprisal, I distinctly recall his statement during his campaign that ” We just marched in, and we can just march out.”

        That makes more sense than anything the Bush, Obozo or Trump administrations have done with regard to the matter.

    2. There is already 8.5 trillion missing. BTW, it was only coincidence that the plane that hit the Pentagon hit the offices of the people looking into the first missing 2 trillion. 😉

  2. This sounds like an awful idea.

  3. Old maverick and his mavericky ways is introducing an amendment to the defense budget forcing the president’s hand on a troop surge in Afghanistan. Most of the opposition to Trump in Congress (though not all) is based upon the fact that he is not pro-war enough.

    1. Basically every Never Trump Republican, save for people like Justin Amash, was a neoconservative who hated that he was questioning the validity of our interventions in the Middle East and had the balls to suggest we not pursue regime change in Syria. Not a coincidence that you see them publicly allying with the mainstream left now

      I saw somewhere on Twitter that Mike Cernovich, who is insane but occasionally does get real scoops on Trump now in between the pizza crap, says John Bolton might be on his way in. Maybe the neocons were too hasty in their belief that they couldn’t get Trump to pursue all their wars. I haven’t found the tweet but when you consider that Bolton’s name keeps coming up, there has to be something there

  4. According to USA Today, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis are skeptical of Prince’s plan. They want Trump to order a surge in Afghanistan, something the president appears skeptical of. Congress has offered little input outside of “it’s time to win,” allowing a deleterious status quo to continue in Afghanistan.

    There are only two choices: surge or go private. There are no other choices. None.

    1. Crusty, this isn’t one of your dates.

    2. “Very well, then. We’ll do *both*.”

  5. Instead, more than 5,000 private contractors, mostly Special Ops veterans, would advise Afghan forces. A private air force made up of 90 planes would replace U.S. air support. The cost would be $10 billion a year rather than the $40 billion we pay annually now.

    Single Payer Warfare?

  6. “At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working?” Prince asked USA Today.

    Replied USA Today: “How the fuck do I know? At the point of a gun?”

  7. “At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working?”

    “…And start giving truckloads of government money to me to continue accomplishing nothing?”

    1. What do you mean accomplish nothing? New tactics and ordinance gets tested, contracts are extended, and the People think the government is actually doing something.

      Oh, you mean accomplishing something as in moving closer to an end? Sorry. Never mind.

  8. Just like with private prisons, companies like Blackwater are barely “private”. When your leadership includes people like John Ashcroft and a bunch of former military/deep staters, you’re just an extension of the US government

  9. You ain’t never seen the level of blowback that will occur if the US decides to outsource and privatize its murderdeathkill.

  10. Go right a head, but the US taxpayer shouldn’t pay for it. They should bill Afghanistan directly. They can make a private use of force and liability contracts directly with the Afghan government. Get the US government out of it completely.

  11. Developing mercenary armies is dangerous. They kill those they are paid to kill, and historically pillage to support themselves.

    Why wouldn’t they kill US civilians if paid to do so?

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