Erik Prince, former CEO of Blackwater, speaks to CNN’s Erin Burnett about his proposal for the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
“Who has really been in charge of Afghanistan? Nobody. It’s been extremely fragmented. We’ve had up to 140,000 troops in the country and we’re now spending, the Pentagon consumes more than the entire defense budget of the U.K. just in Afghanistan and we’re losing,” Prince, a retired Navy SEAL, said Monday on Erin Burnett OutFront.
Transcript, via CNN:
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT now, former Navy SEAL, Erik Prince, who is the former CEO of the private military security company Blackwater. Now, runs a company called Frontier Services Group.
And, Erik, thanks. Good to see you again.
ERIK PRINCE, FOUNDER AND FORMER CEO, BLACKWATER: Good to be here.
BURNETT: You point out that the United States has had 17 commanders in Afghanistan in 15 years.
PRINCE: Seventeen —
BURNETT: When you see that number in black and white, it’s stunning.
PRINCE: Absolutely. There’s been no unity of command. And that’s just military commanders. It’s not even counting the amount of ambassadors and chief of station from the CIA that we’ve gone through.
Who has really been in charge of Afghanistan? Nobody. It’s been extremely fragmented. We’ve had up to 140,000 troops in the country and we’re now spending, the Pentagon consumes more than the entire defense budget of the U.K. just in Afghanistan and we’re losing.
BURNETT: So, you are proposing a solution and this solution, you know, you’ve written about it in “The Wall Street Journal” op-ed, a private military force. So, I know you don’t like the word mercenary. Explain to me why it’s not the right word.
PRINCE: Because I’m recommending is a rationalization. You still have 9,000 U.S. troops, another 4,000 NATO. They’ll rotate every six to nine months. So, when those troopers leave, all of the experience and local knowledge that they have leaves with them.
There’s another 26,000 contractors in the country. This plan takes it from that overspend to a much smaller number.
The Afghan forces need help at the battalion levels. Battalion is the basic unit of command there. That’s where the rubber meets the road and the Afghans are continuing to lose dozens and dozens, thousands per month. Embedding mentors at the battalion level, attaching to the Afghan army does not even meet the thresholds of the U.N. definition of mercenary.
BURNETT: So —
PRINCE: So, they’re not mercenaries. They would be attached as long-term trainer/advisers. Imagine them as a —
BURNETT: Are they — are they military employees of the United States or people that your —
PRINCE: No, they’d be —
BURNETT: — they are contractors?
PRINCE: They’d be military employees of the Afghan government. Imagine them as a skeletal structure that provides leadership, intelligence, medical, communications and logistic support to all those Afghan battalions so it works reliably.
Second, they need air power. Less than 40 percent of the U.S. provided air power to the Afghan forces still even functions, because the maintenance and training has been such a failure. So, they need government support, they need mentor support and they need air power, all attaching to the Afghan government which doesn’t meet — you guys like to throw the mercenary word around — they’re not mercenary. They’re attached —
BURNETT: But then what are they if they are being paid by the Afghan government or U.S. taxpayers, but they don’t work for the — for the Pentagon?
PRINCE: Under the U.N. — no, they don’t need to. If we want to Afghanize this, this is the longest war in American history —
BURNETT: Are they Americans?
PRINCE: They could be Americans. They could be foreign nationals. They could be NATO allies. They can be from the global SAF community of professionals, most of whom have served in that country already that have a lot of experience that want to go back.
I mean, I’ve been in contact with, you know — remember, in the months after 9/11, a hundred CIA officers and a couple hundred special forces guys backed by air power crashed the Taliban. The more we’ve gone to a conventional war with a conventional army, we’ve gone backwards every year since then. They’ve surged up to 140,000 troops, as soon as they pull back, it fails again.
The reason I talked about in that op-ed, you have to put someone in charge. There has to be a lead federal official or in this case, almost a bankruptcy trustee, that rationalizes the U.S. presence that is in charge of all policies.
Second, they have to stay there for a while so you have that continuity of decision making.
BURNETT: OK. So, the word you used for that person was viceroy, was an American viceroy.
PRINCE: And I mean viceroy. That’s a colonial term. The last —
BURNETT: It is a colonial term.
PRINCE: Sure. But the colonial term came from — in the British empire, they had very little communications and you had to put someone in charge the can make the decision absent a ship going back and forth. But in this case, it really means someone that can rationalize the basic mess that is U.S. policy been, whether it’s in Afghanistan or Pakistan, we have gone backwards.
BURNETT: So, when we use the word, though, obviously, you pointed out it is a colonial word, right? The definition is a ruler exercising authority in a colony on behalf of a sovereign. In that case, Trump would perhaps be the sovereign. Afghanistan an …read more