Neither the Afghan government nor the US military believes in Erik Prince’s plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan, the commander of US Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel said on Thursday, as quoted in a report by Task & Purpose.
Erik Prince, founder and former CEO of Blackwater security company, has held numerous interviews with the media over the past few weeks and just late last month he spoke to TOLOnews about his plans to privatize the war.
He said his forces could change the situation in the country within six months.
Defending his plan, he said: “Well, I would say six months after the program is fully ramped up, you have a very different situation on the ground, I will commit to that,” said Prince.
But Gen. Votel told reporters on Thursday that he does not buy Prince’s sales pitch. Citing US Defense Secretary Mattis’ previous comments on the subject, Votel said it would not be a good strategy to turn over US national interest to contractors.
“We have vital interests here and we are pursuing them with legitimate forces that can do that,” Votel said during a Pentagon news briefing. “Even broader than that: The bilateral security agreement that I think is in place with Afghanistan does not allow this. The Afghans don’t want this. They would have to approve this as well, and I think as you’ve seen from some of their comments, they do not support this either.”
The Afghan Office of the National Security Council (NSC) on Thursday stated government would consider all legal options against anyone who tries to privatize the war in Afghanistan.
In their statement on Thursday, the NSC rejected outright the notion and said “in no manner does the government of Afghanistan condone this destructive and divisive debate.”
The NSC said the debate around privatizing the Afghan war would “add new foreign and unaccountable elements to our fight.
Blackwater gained notoriety during the Iraq war. The company’s contractors killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 20 more in a September 2007 incident in Baghdad. Soon afterward, US Congress made contractors subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it is an open question as to whether that is constitutional.
Nicholas Slatten, one of the contractors involved, was initially sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, but a US appeals court overturned his conviction in 2017, Task & Purpose wrote in the report. The court also reduced the sentences of three other contractors because it found their lengthy prison sentences violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Slatten was prosecuted for murder a second time, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the case ended in a mistrial in September.
In August, Mattis said he did not see any advantages to having a private army take over the war in Afghanistan from the US military.
“When Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line privatizing it is probably not a wise idea,” Mattis told reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon.
The Task & Purpose quotes a spokesman for Prince’s latest private security from Frontier Services Group told Task & Purpose, as saying that “anyone who says that the current effort in Afghanistan is working is deluded”.
“The US taxpayer is spending $62bn per year, our soldiers are dying and the Afghan army is losing 3% of its man-power every month due to death, injury or desertion. Something needs to change,” the spokesperson said as quoted by Task & Purpose.
WHO IS PRINCE?
Prince is an American businessman and former US Navy SEAL best known for founding the government services and security company Blackwater USA, now known as Academi.
He founded Blackwater Worldwide in 1997 after buying 6,000 acres of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations.
Between the years 1997 to 2010, Blackwater was awarded $2 billion in US government security contracts, more than $1.6 billion of which were unclassified federal contracts and an unknown amount of classified work.
For nine years – between 2001 and 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) allegedly awarded his company up to $600 million in classified contracts and it became the largest of the US State Department's three private security companies.
Blackwater however came under increasing criticism after the Nisour Square massacre in September 2007, in which Blackwater employees opened fire in a crowded square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding 20 more.
Three Blackwater guards were convicted in October 2014 of 14 manslaughter charges, and another of murder, in a US court.
The criticism continued unabated after former president Barack Obama took office in 2009 – criticism that Prince said stems from politics.
Prince has since been hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi where he was task to assemble an 800-member force of foreign troops for the UAE. He has also trained 2,000 Somalis or anti-piracy oprations in the Gulf of Aden.
The list of Prince’s accomplishments and involvement in foreign governments is lengthy and questions have often been raised over his business dealings.
However Prince has been a Donald Trump supporter and although it is believed he had no formal role in Trump’s transition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating a January 11, 2017, meeting in the Seychelles at which Prince presented himself as Trump’s unofficial representative.