Frustration with the stalemate in Afghanistan has broadened the domestic debate over U.S. strategy there. For the time being, President Donald Trump remains committed to the general approach taken by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. But options that seemed unthinkable a few years ago, like outright disengagement, are now on the table. As this unfolds, one out-of-the-box proposal in particular has sparked intense discussion among security experts: a plan to replace American troops with contractors.
The most prominent proponent of this idea, Erik Prince, is a former U.S. Navy SEAL with connections in the Trump administration. Prince is currently the chairman of Frontier Services, a Chinese-owned business that provides security, logistics and insurance to corporations operating in austere environments. He was also the founder of Blackwater, a private security firm that became infamous in Iraq when several of its employees were convicted of killing civilians.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Prince proposed downsizing America’s presence in Afghanistan to “a light footprint of American Special Forces, as well as contractors to work with Afghans to focus on the goal that Americans really care about: denying America’s enemies the sanctuary they used to plan the Sept. 11 attacks.”