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Officials Worry Trump May Back Erik Prince’s Plan to Privatize War in Afghanistan

Officials Worry Trump May Back Erik Prince’s Plan to Privatize War in AfghanistanOfficials Worry Trump May Back Erik Prince’s Plan to Privatize War in Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the US strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the war, current and former senior administration officials said.

Prince’s idea, which first surfaced last year during the president’s Afghanistan strategy review, envisions replacing troops with private military contractors who would work for a special US envoy for the war who would report directly to the president, NBC reported.

It has raised ethical and security concerns among senior military officials, key lawmakers and members of Trump’s national security team. A year after Trump’s strategy announcement, his advisers are worried his impatience with the Afghanistan conflict will cause him to seriously consider proposals like Prince’s or abruptly order a complete US withdrawal, officials said.

In an interview with NBC News, Prince said he believes Trump advisers who oppose his plan are painting “as rosy a picture as they can” of the situation on the ground, including that “peace is around the corner” with recent US efforts for peace talks with the Taliban. He said he believes Trump’s advisers “overemphasize the fluff and flare of these so-called peace talks.”

His effort coincides with Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of Trump announcing a strategy that increased the US troop presence in Afghanistan. Trump approved the Pentagon recommendations reluctantly.

  Not Under Consideration Yet

A spokesperson for the US National Security Council said Trump is committed to the current strategy he signed off on after months of deliberations.

“No such proposal from Erik Prince is under consideration,” the spokesperson said. “The president, like most Americans, would like to see more progress in Afghanistan. However, he also recognizes that withdrawing precipitously from Afghanistan would lead to the re-emergence of terrorist safe havens, putting American national security and lives in danger.”

Prince says he hopes to speak in coming days with some officials on the National Security Council about his proposal. He said while last year he discussed it with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when Pompeo was CIA director, he has not spoken to John Bolton, who became Trump’s third national security adviser in April.

The defense official said Prince’s idea has not made its way to the Pentagon for official consideration yet, but it could quickly become a real option if Trump pushes for it.

Mattis and Pompeo both oppose Prince’s plan, officials said. A senior State Department official said there is “not a chance” it will be adopted. Asked for Bolton’s view of Prince’s idea, the NSC spokesperson declined to comment.

 

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