Trump Doesn't Want the Same Old Options from the Pentagon on Afghanistan
Indeed, it's hard to argue why Washington should give Prince another chance when his employees ran wild and even threatened to kill a State Department employee performing an inspection. The September 2007 killing of fourteen Iraqi civilians at a traffic circle in Baghdad by Blackwater employees (this month, an appellate court ruled that three out of four Blackwater contractors who were convicted of manslaughter should be granted new sentences) is never far from people's' minds. If the Trump administration were to seriously consider Prince’s proposal, it would need to make sure that the mistakes and blunders of the past are nipped in the bud; there must be a series of accountability measures that reprimand, fire, or prosecute contractors who go off the reservation or commit abuses against civilians. There should also be a debate about whether U.S. taxpayers should pick up the $10 billion price tag for such an operation—if the mission is crafted to assist the Afghan army in the field, that is to the benefit of the entire NATO coalition and should therefore be financed be financed more evenly across the board.
Why the Afghan government would even allow contractors to embed with their soldiers after such a rocky history is anybody's guess. Deciding to do so wouldn't be a great political move for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose political support is already eroding due to series of terrorist attacks in Kabul.
In the end, all of this is moot. The only Trump administration official interested in what Prince was offering, chief strategist Steve Bannon, is no longer a White House employee. After months of asking for a variety of options, Trump will reportedly announce to the American people tonight that sending more American soldiers to Afghanistan is the only way to turn the war around.
Ultimately, Erik Prince had too much baggage for his proposal to get an in-depth look from the Pentagon. The sad part is that after nearly sixteen years, the United States could use as many ideas as it can get.
Daniel R. DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities He can be followed on Twitter at @DanDePetris.