Breaking from his usual detachment, Defense Secretary James Mattis called bullshit on Erik Prince’s scheme to hand over the Afghanistan war to mercenaries.

  • “When the Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line, privatizing it is probably not a wise idea,” Mattis said when asked Tuesday if there were any advantages to using a private army in Afghanistan.
  • Prince founded the private security firm Blackwater, which became infamous in September 2007 when the company’s contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded another 20 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
  • For more than a year, Prince has been trying to whisper into President Donald Trump’s ear that his legion of contractors could do a better job fighting the Taliban than American and coalition troops.
  • Prince is now making another push to privatize the war amid recent Taliban successes, hoping to find a more receptive audience in Trump.
  • Mattis argued valiantly on Tuesday that the U.S. military is successfully applying pressure on the Taliban to move toward peace negotiations with the Afghan government. He got into a heated exchange with one reporter, who asked why Afghan troops and police were unable to stop the Taliban from occupying the city of Ghazni.
  • “First of all, I would not say they fell apart because there were six military objectives in Ghazni,” Mattis said. “They [the Taliban] did not achieve a single one. Now, could they go in and shoot up the residential neighborhood, chase the police out where they outnumbered them, outgunned them? This is not an easy fight. We’ve never said it was. I wouldn’t jump to a larger conclusion about this being emblematic. The fact is: innocent people are vulnerable to terrorism, whether they be in Brussels or New York City or Ghazni.”

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