Erik Prince, the former CEO of the private military company, Blackwater, has offered to step up the Afghan air war with a private air force capable of intelligence collection and close-air support, the Military Times reported.
According to a recent proposal submitted to the Afghan government, a senior Afghan military official said that Prince has submitted a business proposal offering a “turn-key composite air wing” to help the fledgling Afghan air force in its fight against the Taliban and other militant groups.
The development comes as the White House is considering a plan to draw down the US involvement in Afghanistan and replace the ensuing power vacuum with contractors.
But the Pentagon officials are sceptical of that plan.
The Afghan official said that Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince regarding the contractor plan.
Military Times has reached out to US military officials in Afghanistan for a comment on Nicholson’s meeting or lack thereof with Prince and have yet to receive a reply.
The proposal submitted to the Afghan government in March boasts an impressive array of combat aircraft for a private company.
The aircraft offered in the proposal includes fixed-wing planes, attack helicopters and drones capable of providing close-air support to manoeuvring ground forces, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Military Times.
The proposal promises to provide” high speed response” close-air support and” the entire country can be responded to in under one hour.”
The proposal states that weapons release decisions will still be made by Afghans.
The air frames are also outfitted with equipment to provide intelligence collection that includes imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and communications intelligence.
The aircraft would be operated by the private company’s employees.
The Afghan air force is in the first stages of transition from its old fleet of Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters to US Black Hawks — a development Nicholson deemed as necessary to help break the stalemate in Afghanistan.
However, those helicopters won’t be arriving in Afghanistan for almost two years, and training isn’t expected to begin until later this fall, according to the report.
“President Ghani has told me he won’t accept it,” former U.S ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann told Military Times in an interview. “Afghans will never accept this.”