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A Different Approach to the War in Afghanistan

Gen. Douglas MacArthur in occupied Japan, August 1945. PHOTO: THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

After 16 years of perpetual war, it’s time to start considering a different approach to the war in Afghanistan. Erik Prince, former Navy SEAL, and founder of the private security firm formerly known as Black Water, has some recommendations that people may find to be controversial way of looking at the war in Afghanistan.

Prince observes one of the major problems the US military faces in the current theaters of war , unlike the World Wars where soldiers stayed deployed for the entirety of the war, is that current troop rotations will have soldiers starting missions and passing on responsibility to another commander within a year to 15 months. Most deployments as of late are on a 6-9 month basis, with other forces on shorter rapid deployment missions.

Erik Prince’s recommendation is to have Private Military Contractors, composed of former veterans of these wars, deploy to Afghanistan, employing a viceroy, and staying in country until the job is done.

Here’s what you need to know about a Proposal for Private Military Contractors in Afghanistan:

  • Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America
  • The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come.
  • More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action
  • It’s time for President Trump to fix our approach to Afghanistan in five ways.
  • First, he should consolidate authority in Afghanistan with one person: an American viceroy who would lead all U.S. government and coalition efforts—including command, budget, policy, promotion and contracting—and report directly to the president.
  • The coalition has had 17 different military commanders in the past 15 years, which means none of them had time to develop or be held responsible for a coherent strategy.
  • Given clear multiyear authority, MacArthur made bold moves like repealing restrictive speech laws and granting property rights.
  • In Afghanistan, the viceroy approach would reduce rampant fraud by focusing spending on initiatives that further the central strategy, rather than handing cash to every outstretched hand from a U.S. system bereft of institutional memory.
  • Second, Mr. Trump should authorize his viceroy to set rules of engagement in collaboration with the elected Afghan government to make better decisions, faster
  • Give the leadership on the ground the authority and responsibility to finish the job.
  • Third, we must build the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces the effective and proven way, instead of spending billions more pursuing the “ideal” way.
  • It has led to fatal and intractable flaws, including weak leadership, endemic corruption and frequent defections, which currently deliver the equivalent of two trained infantry divisions per year to the enemy.
  • barely 40% of Afghanistan’s U.S.-provided fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft are functional, leaving security forces without close air support, unable to resupply, medevac casualties, or move troops in a timely manner.
  • For 250 years, the East India Company prevailed in the region through the use of private military units known as “presidency armies.”
  • They were locally recruited and trained, supported and led by contracted European professional soldiers.
  • The professionals lived, patrolled, and—when necessary—fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their local counterparts for multiyear deployments.
  • That long-term dwelling ensured the training, discipline, loyalty and material readiness of the men they fought alongside for years, not for a one-time eight-month deployment.
  • The U.S. military should maintain a small special-operations command presence in the country to enable it to carry out targeted strikes, with the crucial difference that the viceroy would have complete decision-making authority in the country so no time is wasted waiting for Washington to send instructions.
  • A nimbler special-ops and contracted force like this would cost less than $10 billion per year, as opposed to the $45 billion we expect to spend in Afghanistan in 2017.
  • Fourth, Mr. Trump needs to abandon the flawed population-centric theory of warfare in Afghanistan.
  • The military default in a conventional war is to control terrain, neglecting the long-term financial arteries that fund the fight, and handicaps long-term economic potential.
  • They control most of Afghanistan’s economic resources—including lapis, marble, gold, pistachios, hashish and opium—and use profits to spread their influence and perpetuate the insurgency.
  • Our strategy needs to target those resources by placing combat power to cover Afghanistan’s economic arteries.
  • We need to encourage the growth of legitimate industries to raise tax revenue while choking off the Taliban’s sources of income
  • It’s absurd that Afghanistan—which holds an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral resources—still doesn’t have a mining law, after 15 years of American presence and “advice.”
  • A smarter, trade-centric approach will boost Afghanistan’s long-run viability by weaning it off donor welfare dependency.
  • Afghanistan depends on donors for 90% of government revenues.
  • Finally, Mr. Trump must not lose sight of the reason we became involved in Afghanistan: to deny sanctuary to those who want to destroy our way of life.
  • The U.S. should adjust course from the past 15-plus years of nation building and focus on pounding the Taliban and other terrorists so hard that they plead for negotiation.
  • Mr. Prince is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and the founder of Blackwater.


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