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Mercenaries Are Not Good for the War in Afghanistan

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Here’s what you need to know about why Mercenaries are not good for the war in Afghanistan:

  • For the past year, Erik Prince has been peddling an idea that should alarm anyone who has followed his career: We should replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan with mercenaries. Under his management, Blackwater committed perhaps the worst war crime of the Iraq War: A squad of armed contractors killed 17 civilians at the Nisour traffic circle in Baghdad.
  • The incident sparked a political uproar in Iraq, vastly complicated the mission of the State Department diplomats the contractors were ostensibly there to protect, and set off multiple probes into Blackwater’s conduct.A FBI inquiry later found that 14 of the 17 deaths were unjustifiedFor Iraqis, Blackwater’s reckless behavior and callous disregard for Iraqi lives seemed emblematic of America’s handling of the war as a whole, and helped to hasten our exit.
  • As a former military contractor, I cannot imagine a worse outcome for Afghanistan or the U.S. than handing everything over to mercenaries. Prince also compares mercenaries to SpaceX, the private space company, which we are not.
  • He urged an American “viceroy” be installed to rule Afghanistan like a colonial overlord, backed by a mercenary army modeled on the old British East India Co. That’s like recommending plantations to assist African-Americans in poverty.
  • Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s ex-president, tweeted this: “I vehemently oppose the proposal to the U.S. govt to outsource its war in Afghanistan to private security firms.”
  • I know because I’ve done these things. For years, I worked as a private military contractor in Africa and elsewhere. I built armies for clients, dealt with warlords, conducted strategic reconnaissance, worked with armed groups in the Sahara, transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe and even helped prevent a genocide in Central Africa.Their very lack of accountability is their main selling point; they offer plausible deniability and brute force to those too weak or squeamish to wage war.
  • Clients include countries, extractive industry and even terrorists, with mercenary proliferation in Afghanistan, Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. This trend may one day alter international relations: When anyone can rent a military, then super-rich and large corporations can become a new kind of superpower.
  • Worse, mercenaries can start and elongate conflicts for profit, breeding endless war.
  • Somehow, he believes 6,000 mercenaries and a small air force can solve Afghanistan’s problems. NATO could not succeed with 140,000 troops eight years ago, when the Taliban was in retreat. Now they run half the country.
  • When I raised an army in West Africa, under worse conditions, it took more than a handful of contractors at the battalion and company levels to create a professional, fully functioning military.The U.S. Army War College asked me to write a monograph on how we did this.
  • Where will these mercenaries come from? According to Prince, all will be “brave Americans” who are “former Special Operations veterans.” To keep costs down, he will probably have to outsource to the so-called Third World, where military labor is cheap. Private warriors are just like T-shirts; they are cheaper in developing countries.
  • To avoid Nisour incidents in the future, he wants to place all mercenaries under U.S. military law, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • Where has Prince been these past seven years? After the Nisour Incident, he left Blackwater and helped raise a mercenary force for the United Arab Emirates. Now, he is working for the U.S.’s main geopolitical competitor, China.
  • Prince smells an opportunity in Donald Trump. His sister is Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, giving him access to the White House.

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