Notorious billionaire and war profiteer Erik Prince, who founded the disgraced mercenary firm Blackwater, is once again appealing to President Donald Trump to privatize the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.
As the Trump White House is “preparing for a government-wide appraisal” of the war in the coming months—as Reuters reported last Tuesday, citing “several current U.S. officials and other former officials and advisers with direct knowledge”—Prince is refusing to give up his dream of a mercenary takeover of the war.
While world leaders headed to Brussels for the NATO summit, Prince published a pair of videos on YouTube last Tuesday. Backed by suspenseful music as well as clips of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and U.S. military operations in the Middle East, Prince urges Trump “to appoint a special presidential envoy and empower them to wage an unconventional war against the Taliban and Daesh forces.”
Prince also delved into his master plan in an op-ed for RealClearPolitics and an exclusive interview with The Independent. His privatization pitch—he prefers the euphemisms “rationalizing and restructuring”—is not new. As the newspaper noted, “It was a strategy he put forward once before to the White House, where it received the backing of Steve Bannon, then Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.”
While the president rejected Prince’s proposal—which was criticized by Trump’s then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary James Mattis—when he unveiled his administration’s Afghanistan “strategy” last August, rather than scaling back the war effort or ending the conflict, Trump opted to send thousands more troops, in a move that peace advocates warned would undoubtably lead to more bloodshed.
Since then, the newspaper reported, “there have been changes, with the extraordinary churn, in the Trump administration, and the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton will be much more receptive, Mr. Prince believes, to his plan.” And although Prince sold Blackwater—which rebranded as ACADEMI—in 2010, he “will make money from the Afghan project if he is associated with it.”
When Prince pitched his privatization to the Trump While House last year—and promoted it through a series of op-eds—critics quickly pointed to his past blunders, particularly the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, and slammed him for trying to “tak[e] advantage of an opportunity to shill for his latest collection of well-compensated mercenaries.” Prince is now chairman of the Hong Kong-based private equity firm Frontier Services Group, whose “business involves selling ‘force protection’ to clients in countries including Afghanistan.”
Prince is also the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and served as an advisor to the Trump transition team. He is involved with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian election interference due to a 2017 meeting in Seychelles between Prince and the CEO of the Russian government’s $10 billion sovereign wealth fund, which reportedly occurred to establish a “back-channel line of communication” between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has denied the reported details about the meeting and told The Independent he has “no concern at all” about the Mueller probe.
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Jessica Corbett is a Common Dreams staff writer.