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Don't Let Erik Prince Anywhere Near The War In Afghanistan
With more than $700 billion spent (and at least $15.5 billion outright wasted) on America's long war in Afghanistan, it's easy to understand why President Donald Trump might pursue unusual options to finally bring the 17-year-old conflict to a close.
Allowing Erik Prince to take over the war effort should not be one of them.
NBC News reported on Friday that Prince, founder of notorious private security company Blackwater and brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is once again pushing to effectively privatize the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
Prince's plan to take over the Forever War isn't new. In July 2017, the New York Times reported that Prince originally developed a proposal alongside defense contractor DynCorp International CEO Stephen Feinberg for the Pentagon to rely exclusively on private contractors "at the behest" of erstwhile Trump consigliere Stephen Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Politely rebuked by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, it appears that Prince is now trying a new tactic: appealing to Trump directly through cable news. "I know he's frustrated," Prince told NBC News of Trump's current attitude towards the war. "He gave the Pentagon what they wanted...and they haven't delivered."
Prince isn't totally wrong. The latest “lessons learned” report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) explicitly concluded that "between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed.”
But history does not suggest that adopting a counterinsurgency strategy that leans heavily on private military contractors would be more conducive to long-term stability. Quite the opposite, really.
First, it's important to note that private security contractors aren't always a cheaper alternative to the military, as Prince has suggested. Blackwater in particular “harmed, rather than helped, the counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq, going against our best doctrine and undermining critical efforts of our troops,” according to a 2007 Brookings Institution analysis based on hundreds of interviews and decades of research on PMCs. “Even worse, the [U.S.] government can no longer carry out one of its most basic core missions: to fight and win the nation’s wars. Instead, the massive outsourcing of military operations has created a dependency on private firms like Blackwater that has given rise to dangerous vulnerabilities.”
Second, and more importantly: Prince's priorities in Afghanistan don't seem to align with the Pentagon's. Just consider his leaked Afghan war plan published by BuzzFeed News back in December 2017, in which he proposed plundering Helmand Province of approximately $1 trillion worth of lithium, uranium, phosphorus, and other rare elements. Doing that would risk reversing whatever progress American troops have made in the region thus far by fueling the jihadi narrative that the U.S. government is a purely predatory, imperial force focused on enriching itself and weakening Muslim countries.
In a May 2017 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Prince argued that the U.S. could turn around the Afghanistan War by handing it over to “one person: an American viceroy who’d lead all coalition efforts.” But who, exactly, is qualified for that job? Certainly not Prince. On his watch, Blackwater massacred Iraqi civilians; promoted “a culture of lawlessness” that yielded allegations of sex trafficking and weapons smuggling; and even threatened its own employees.
In the long run, the security situation in Afghanistan would likely only become worse if Prince is handed the reins, simply because his strategy appears designed only to benefit himself. Since the 2010 sale of Blackwater, Prince has spent his time standing up a “secret” private army for the United Arab Emirates and hawking militarized crop dusters for use as light attack aircraft by South Sudanese clients, among other profitable ventures. Why would Afghanistan prove any different?
Perhaps a well-trained PMC could affect the dramatic change required to stabilize the country that the Pentagon's bureaucracy structurally prohibits, but Prince seems constitutionally incapable of achieving that goal.
The war in Afghanistan is broken, yes. Erik Prince is not the man to fix it.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.
These CIA officers were the first US boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 — and one was 'Marine Todd'
Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.
The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.
Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."
That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.
Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.
"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.
Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.
For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.
On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."