Freedom's Sentinel 2017
By August 2017 US policymakers were close to a new military strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, but options still ranged from withdrawal to an increased reliance on private security contractors. The US had about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan helping Afghan forces fight the Taliban, while also targeting militants aligned with the al-Qaida and Islamic State terror groups. Plans to send perhaps an additional 4,000 troops to boost US efforts there had been delayed while the White House and military planners reviewed various options.
One possibility that caught Donald Trumpís attention was a proposal by a Trump insider to decrease US reliance on its military forces and instead turn to private contractors. Erik Prince, the founder of private security firm Blackwater, proposed replacing US troops with about 5,000 contractors who would be backed by a 90-plane private air force. Prince said his plan would get the job done for less than $10 billion a year.
Donald Trump was advised to turn to private military contractors and hire a mercenary army to "fix" Afghanistan, where it has been at war since 2001. The proposal was offered by Steve Bannon, President Donald Trumpís chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law. Local media reports say that Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, were quick to jump on the idea and each see a role for themselves in this future.
Prince, a former Navy SEAL, hails from a wealthy western Michigan family. His father, Edgar Prince, founded Prince Automotive, an auto supply firm. Upon his death, his family sold the company to Johnson Controls for $1.35 billion in 1997. Erik Prince used his inheritance to form Blackwater, a training facility for special operation soldiers and police in North Carolina, in 1997. Prince and his family were major GOP donors in 2016. Prince, the brother of US Education Secretary Besty DeVos, met with a high-ranking Russian official on the Sechelles days before Trump was inaugurated, in an effort to establish a back-channel of communication to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Blackwater, founded by Prince, is a private military company that gained notoriety in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003. During the Iraq War, Blackwater was involved in numerous troubling incidents. The most infamous was the Nisour Square massacre, when contractors opened fire on a crowd of civilians in Baghdad, killing 17; it led to court cases that put four of the contractors in prison.
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