Trump Administration officials say the president is considering Erik Prince’s suggestion that would privatize the war efforts in Afghanistan. Prince says he’s launching an “aggressive media campaign” to convince Donald Trump that privatization is the way to go, saying that after 17 years, it’s time to try something new. A spokesperson for the National Security Council says that Prince’s ideas are not officially being considered at this point, but administration members say that Prince has already swayed Trump through the use of the media.
NBC reported on the latest developments in Trump’s understanding of, and intentions for, troops on the ground in Afghanistan. While the NSC says that there’s no official plan to change strategies, advisors have tried to impress upon Trump the possibility of a political resolution. However, one senior official said that Trump doesn’t get a full understanding of the boots on the ground actions.
Trump is reportedly expressing frustration with the current situation, and Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Security, hopes to use that frustration. The Yale Review, noting that private security contractors take in about 1/3 of the annual military personnel budget, describes Blackwater as
…the most successful security contractor to have been in existence, but also the most controversial.
Sean McFate, a security sector expert whose background stretches from his own military service to a professorship at National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs, with a long list of security and intelligence accomplishments and contributions along the way, penned an opinion piece last year for Politico that can be summed up in its title:
I Was a Mercenary. Trust Me: Erik Prince’s Plan Is Garbage.
McFate applies his own expertise in the piece, describing Prince’s plan to use privatization to drastically reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to 6,000 mercenaries as offensive, unworkable, and deserving of the laughter it evoked from generals who know the facts on the ground. Further, he describes Prince as a mercenary who “follows the money,” has been working for political opponents of the U.S., and is only aiming his sites on Trump now because he “smells an opportunity.”
Donald Trump is notorious for being susceptible to certain kinds of pressure. The New Republic reported last year on the way that media is used, by his own team, to sway him to a chosen course of action. Aides and members of his administration reportedly carefully time presentations of selected media to generate the desired actions from the president.
Erik Prince is openly declaring his intent to use a media blitz to direct Trump’s views. Understanding Trump’s susceptibility to this type of manipulation makes it clear why his own senior officials fear that he will shift on the war in Afghanistan and give Prince a chance. Concerns from generals and experts in intelligence and defense demonstrate that Trump’s cabinet is right to be worried.