So folks, I have been waiting a bit to post on this because so much has been written about it and I wanted to see where it goes. Basically Erik Prince came up with a plan for Afghanistan that would have historic implications for this industry and country if implemented. Already, contractors are a part of the history of this war, with great sacrifice and from many partner nations over the last 16 years. But this….this is an entirely different level.

At this point in time, we have a standing US President that is actually considering a plan conceived by a contractor. Actually two, because Stephen A. Feinberg of Cerberus Group and owner of Dyncorp came up with a plan as well. But I will focus on the Prince plan because of how much traction it is getting. I say traction, because the media and the naysayers of this industry have been writing this off as insignificant or risible. But I say not so fast….because from what I have heard on the grapevine, this is getting much more serious consideration than what is reported.

About the plan. It is basically modeled after what the US did in post war Japan, using a viceroy to command over the effort and an army of contractors. US Special Operations would still have a presence in the country to counter the Taliban and the various jihadists. It is a long term, cost saving answer to providing presence in that country. A solution that would dramatically lessen the contractor footprint in Afghanistan according to Prince, and send most of the troops home (minus the special operations folks). Please read the plan below.

I would also suggest listening to Erik Prince talk about the plan in his media blitz, ever since November of last year. This too is historically significant. Since Prince donated to the Trump campaign, as did his sister Betsy DeVos (who is now Secretary of Education), Erik has had the ear of the President of the United States. He also speaks the language of business, which is familiar to Trump. This interaction between an Administration and a private contractor reminds me of Claire Lee Chennault and his dealings with the Roosevelt administration for the formation of the Flying Tigers in China. The Flying Tigers were the only game in town after Pearl Harbor, and they were the rock star private air force that was sticking it to the Japanese in China. Claire made Time magazine’s man of the year back then, and several movies were made about what he did with his motley crew.

Another point as to the historical significance. The war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history. The Erik Prince plan would effectively end US troop involvement there, and switch that involvement to a private model focused on supporting and working with Afghan troops and police to wage war and provide security. It is a plan aimed towards providing a long term presence, yet with a much smaller, less expensive and efficient footprint. It would also entail consolidated, longterm leadership in that country. Prince compared the position to more of a bankruptcy trustee. That leader would also work with Afghanistan to get them on a better financial footing. Meaning mining laws and a means to invigorate investment there. If Prince is not able to implement this plan in Afghanistan, he will definitely be able to play around with the pieces of similar process in Somalia for the FZIA contract. That will be very interesting to see how it works. Afghanistan is in a similar boat, and they need to get their finances and industry in order so they can actually pay for their wars and security.

Further more, what is really interesting here is that President Trump is questioning what we are doing in Afghanistan. We have been there for 16 years, our Secretary of Defense clearly stated that we are not winning there, and the Taliban have taken over 40 percent of the territory by force. This war has been expensive, and will continue to be expensive on the current track and also with legacy costs. It will also cost lives, and the President is right to question what are we doing there? Currently the President is seeking plans from both his military, and now significantly, private contractors. The message to his generals is pretty clear to me. Give me a good plan and right the ship, or I will go with the EP plan. To be in this position where a private contractor plan is actually competing with a military based plan, is historically significant in modern times. Even if they go with the military plan, this is quite the moment for this industry.

Having listened to most of Prince’s interviews, the best guess as to what he wants to set up is similar to what Blackwater did with the Afghan Border Patrol contract. Basically train and mentor forces. As to a Close Air Support model, that too has been done. Dyncorp had their version of air support or armed Huey gunships to cover down on the Poppy Eradication Force contract in Afghanistan. Blackwater also did paracargo resupply missions in Afghanistan using CASA 212’s back in the day. Blackwater also used Little Birds as air support for their WPS contract, and their efforts were hugely successful there.

Other models outside of Afghanistan, is what STTEP did in Nigeria. That was a training and mentorship type contract that did very well for the Nigerians against Boko Haram.  I mention all of these examples, because contractors have already performed similar functions as to what Prince is talking about both in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the modern era. A contractor mentor or trainer would not be a shock to the ANA or ANP and would actually be quite familiar to them. Hell, there are thousands of contractors in Afghanistan as I write this and they have been working hand in hand with Afghans for the entirety of the war.

I should also note that Prince’s FSG company just won a contract in Somalia to basically set up a mini-Dubai there! The Free Zone Investment Authority of the South West State of Somalia to be specific. Talk about a busy guy! Between OBOR, Somalia, and meetings with the US administration for an Afghanistan plan, I would say that he is keeping busy.

Finally, I want to recommend some good podcasts and video of the EP plan. He has been busy presenting the plan in the news, at universities, and in social media/podcasts.  We will see how this develops, but no matter how it turns out, this has been historic and fascinating to watch and write about. Here are a couple of good sources below to check out to further get educated on the plan. –Matt

Erik Prince at Oxford University.  (significant, because this kind of kicked off the campaign for the EP plan)

Tucker Carlson interview.  (large conservative audience)

Podcast where Prince debates with Sean McFate. (I liked this, because Prince really dug into the history of contracting and won the debate -in my opinion)

David Isenberg’s take on the concept.

Deborah Avant article.

Sean McFate article.

Tim Lynch’s post at Free Range International here and here. (Tim wrote an excellent deal on this and is a very experienced contractor in Afghanistan)

Fox and Friends interview. (the President is said to be a big fan of this show, and this is the most recent interview Prince did)

* I will add more to this group as more good ones pop up.

The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan

Consolidate authority into one person: an American viceroy who’d lead all coalition efforts.

By Erik D. Prince
May 31, 2017
Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America. The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come. More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action. For all that effort, Afghanistan is failing. The terrorist cohort consistently gains control of more territory, including key economic arteries. It’s time for President Trump to fix our approach to Afghanistan in five ways.

First, he should consolidate authority in Afghanistan with one person: an American viceroy who would lead all U.S. government and coalition efforts—including command, budget, policy, promotion and contracting—and report directly to the president. As it is, there are too many cooks in the kitchen—and the cooks change shift annually. The coalition has had 17 different military commanders in the past 15 years, which means none of them had time to develop or be held responsible for a coherent strategy.

A better approach would resemble Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s leadership of postwar Japan. Given clear multiyear authority, MacArthur made bold moves like repealing restrictive speech laws and granting property rights. Those directives moved Japan ahead by centuries. In Afghanistan, the viceroy approach would reduce rampant fraud by focusing spending on initiatives that further the central strategy, rather than handing cash to every outstretched hand from a U.S. system bereft of institutional memory.

Second, Mr. Trump should authorize his viceroy to set rules of engagement in collaboration with the elected Afghan government to make better decisions, faster. Troops fighting for their lives should not have to ask a lawyer sitting in air conditioning 500 miles away for permission to drop a bomb. Our plodding, hand wringing and overcaution have prolonged the war—and the suffering it bears upon the Afghan population. Give the leadership on the ground the authority and responsibility to finish the job.

Third, we must build the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces the effective and proven way, instead of spending billions more pursuing the “ideal” way. The 330,000-strong Afghan army and police were set up under the guidance of U.S. military “advisers” in the mirror image of the U.S. Army. That was the wrong approach.

It has led to fatal and intractable flaws, including weak leadership, endemic corruption and frequent defections, which currently deliver the equivalent of two trained infantry divisions per year to the enemy. Further, barely 40% of Afghanistan’s U.S.-provided fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft are functional, leaving security forces without close air support, unable to resupply, medevac casualties, or move troops in a timely manner.

These deficits can be remedied by a different, centuries-old approach. For 250 years, the East India Company prevailed in the region through the use of private military units known as “presidency armies.” They were locally recruited and trained, supported and led by contracted European professional soldiers. The professionals lived, patrolled, and—when necessary—fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their local counterparts for multiyear deployments. That long-term dwelling ensured the training, discipline, loyalty and material readiness of the men they fought alongside for years, not for a one-time eight-month deployment.

An East India Company approach would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support. The U.S. military should maintain a small special-operations command presence in the country to enable it to carry out targeted strikes, with the crucial difference that the viceroy would have complete decision-making authority in the country so no time is wasted waiting for Washington to send instructions. A nimbler special-ops and contracted force like this would cost less than $10 billion per year, as opposed to the $45 billion we expect to spend in Afghanistan in 2017.

Fourth, Mr. Trump needs to abandon the flawed population-centric theory of warfare in Afghanistan. The military default in a conventional war is to control terrain, neglecting the long-term financial arteries that fund the fight, and handicaps long-term economic potential.

The Taliban understand this concept well. They control most of Afghanistan’s economic resources—including lapis, marble, gold, pistachios, hashish and opium—and use profits to spread their influence and perpetuate the insurgency. Our strategy needs to target those resources by placing combat power to cover Afghanistan’s economic arteries.

We need to encourage the growth of legitimate industries to raise tax revenue while choking off the Taliban’s sources of income. It’s absurd that Afghanistan—which holds an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral resources—still doesn’t have a mining law, after 15 years of American presence and “advice.” Our failed population-centric approach to Afghanistan has only led to missed opportunities, which is why Afghanistan depends on donors for 90% of government revenues. A smarter, trade-centric approach will boost Afghanistan’s long-run viability by weaning it off donor welfare dependency.

Finally, Mr. Trump must not lose sight of the reason we became involved in Afghanistan: to deny sanctuary to those who want to destroy our way of life. The largest attack in U.S. history originated in Afghanistan. The terrorists killed 3,000 that day because they lacked the means to kill three million. The U.S. should adjust course from the past 15-plus years of nation building and focus on pounding the Taliban and other terrorists so hard that they plead for negotiation. Until they feel real pressure and know the U.S. has staying power, they will win.

Mr. Prince is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and the founder of Blackwater.

Story here.