Trump White House Weighs Unprecedented Plan To Privatize Much Of The War In Afghanistan

The comments highlighted in blue below are by/from Col. (Ret.) David Maxwell; and, his contact info is at the bottom of this email.  RCP,
David Maxwell:  Wow. Just wow.  I just cannot imagine Congress authorizing the funding for this.  I wonder if Congress can issue a letter of Marque and Reprisal (though we are no longer using sailing ships and privateers – can someone expand the concept of letter of marque to go after terrorists on land??  Only asked with some tongue in cheek – because if we do this I suppose we can significantly reduce our defense budget and military spending and the size of the US military and just contract out these adventures to those who want to play Army.)
Congress’ responsibilities:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
​The president’s responsibilities:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.


Trump White House Weighs Unprecedented Plan To Privatize Much Of The War In Afghanistan

President Trump is reportedly worried we’re losing the Afghanistan war. But tensions in the White House have made it hard to settle on a war strategy. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Afghan security official stands guard on a road side check point in Herat, Afghanistan, on Aug. 3, 2017. 2017. Security has been intensified after a deadly bombing of a Shi’ite Muslims Mosque by the Islamic State militants.Photo by: Photo: Jalil Rezayee, EPA

The White House is actively considering a bold plan to turn over a big chunk of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to private contractors in an effort to turn the tide in a stalemated war, according to the former head of a security firm pushing the project.

Under the proposal, 5,500 private contractors, primarily former Special Operations troops, would advise Afghan combat forces. The plan also includes a 90-plane private air force that would provide air support in the nearly 16-year-old war against Taliban insurgents, Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm, told USA TODAY.

The unprecedented proposal comes as the U.S.-backed Afghan military faces a stalemate in the war and growing frustration by President Trump about the lack of progress in the war.

The U.S. military has 8,400 U.S. troops there to train and guide local forces. They do not have a direct combat role, and presumably would be replaced gradually by the contractors.

Erik Prince is a former Navy SEAL officer and founder of Blackwater USA. He is chairman of the Frontier Services Group, a logistics company focused on Africa and South Asia.

The plan remains under serious consideration within the White House despite misgivings by Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Other White House officials, such as chief strategist Stephen Bannon, appear open to using private contractors.

“At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working,” said Prince, a former Navy SEAL. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.”

Blackwater, founded 1997, worked extensively in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prince sold the company in 2010.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Prince said the plan will cost less than $10 billion a year, significantly lower than the more than $40 billion the Pentagon has budgeted this year.

The prospect of accomplishing more with less money could appeal to a career businessman like Trump.

Prince, who has met frequently with administration officials to discuss his plan, is the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy Devos.

Under his proposal, private advisers would work directly with Afghanistan combat battalions throughout the country, and the air force would be used for medical evacuation, fire support and ferrying troops.

Prince said the contractors would be “adjuncts” of the Afghan military and would wear that nation’s military uniforms. Pilots would only drop ordnance with Afghan government approval, he said.

Currently, troops from a U.S.-led coalition are stationed primarily at top level headquarters and are not embedded with conventional combat units in the field. Under the plan the contractors would be embedded with Afghanistan’s more than 90 combat battalions throughout the country.

Opinion: Erik Prince says ‘restructure’ the war in Afghanistan

More: Trump stalls decision over troop increase in Afghanistan amid war strategy debate

The coalition sharply curtailed air support it provides Afghanistan forces by 2014, when government forces took over most war-fighting responsibilities, leaving major gaps in the Afghan military’s ability to provide air support.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged this week that the White House is looking for a new strategy to bring America’s longest war to an end.

“To just say we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, the president is not willing to accept that, and so he is asking some tough questions,” Tillerson said Monday in Manila during an Asia trip.

U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to oust a government run by Taliban extremists who provided safe haven to al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson has recommended that several thousand more troops be deployed to Afghanistan, primarily to bolster the advisory mission and help turn the tide against the Taliban.

Mattis has indicated he doesn’t want to make a decision on troop levels until an overall strategy has been approved. But the way forward is still under debate at the White House.

“The president doesn’t own the Afghan effort yet,” Prince said of a war that frustrated Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “He’s about to (with) whatever decision he makes next.”

Prince rejects criticism that he and others would profit from it. He said it would represent a cost savings for American taxpayers. “The idea of innovation and risk taking is certainly part of America,” he said.

Blackwater has attracted controversy under Prince’s leadership. In 2007, four Blackwater security personnel were accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Last week an appeals court overturned a murder conviction for one of the guards and ordered the other three be re-sentenced.

Blackwater was renamed Xe Services two years after the incident, which sparked international outrage. The privately owned company is now Academi.

Tens of thousands of contractors were used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater was hired to protect American diplomats in Iraq, while other contractors were used in support functions, such as providing food and supplies to U.S. troops. The U.S. military rarely deploys anywhere now without a contingent of contractors.

A close parallel to Prince’s proposal in U.S. history may be the Flying Tigers, a group formed before the United States entered World War II. The Flying Tigers were formed covertly from the ranks of U.S. military pilots, who resigned from the service and were hired by a private contractor and sent to China to defend against Japanese aggression.

David S. Maxwell
Associate Director

Center for Security Studies
The Walsh School of Foreign Service
Georgetown University
Office: 202-687-3834
Cell: 703-300-8263
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

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