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Blackwater founder says Trump's Afghanistan plan is 'Obama-lite'
The founder of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide is ripping President Trump's new Afghanistan war plan as an "Obama-lite policy."
Erik Prince – who has encouraged administration officials to use contractors instead of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan – called Trump's plan "a continuation of the same limited or failed strategy of the last 16 years."
"This is a kind of Obama-lite policy," Prince told The Hill, referring to President Obama's 30,000 troop surge in 2009 in Afghanistan. The increase brought the total number of troops in the country to more than 100,000 in 2011 before a rapid drawdown.
"This is a lighter but almost as expensive version. Remember, the Pentagon now is spending as much as when they had five times as many troops in the country. It's horrendous how they've lost control of the spending. That's what makes this so unsustainable," Prince added.
The president is expected to send about 3,900 additional U.S. troops to the country, on top of the 8,400 already there. In his prime-time address, Trump declined to say how many troops he would send or reveal a firm timeline for how long they would serve there.
Prince is doubtful that the president and Defense Secretary James Mattis are fully behind the strategy.
"I don't think the president loves this plan, I don't think Secretary Mattis does either. He's not even on the same continent," Prince said, referring to Mattis's current trip to the Middle East and Europe.
Prince had been privately and publicly shopping a plan to replace most U.S. troops with contractors prior to Trump's speech Monday night.
The plan would have sent 5,500 private military contractors to embed with Afghan forces at the battalion level. They would be supported by a 90-plane private air force. The New York Times first learned of the plan in July.
He didn't personally brief the president on such a strategy, but Prince did present the proposal to former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
McMaster reportedly opposed the plan, as did Mattis, but Bannon was rumored to be in favor.
"Our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check," Trump promised of the latest strategy.
Prince is skeptical.
"He said it's not a blank check, but the Pentagon continues to stand and plan and operationalize as if it is a blank check," Prince said. "That's the fundamental problem the plan now doesn't address: How does this end. The Pentagon wants to position this like a forever occupation like South Korea. And I think that's a horrendous and untenable position."
Prince also accused McMaster and senior Pentagon leadership of blocking Trump from hearing him out.
"The plan I laid off for the president ... the Pentagon has chosen to ignore, for as much as the Pentagon tries to focus on diversity, they're not at all interested in diversity of opinion of how to end the longest war," he said.
[Source: By Ellen Mitchell, The Hill, Washington, 22Aug17]
War in Afghanistan & Iraq
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