The Founder of the Blackwater private security firm and the author of a comprehensive plan to save Afghanistan by shifting the country’s security to private contractors and away from the American military told The Star News Network on Sunday he warned U.S. diplomats the government of President Ashraf Ghani would fall before Labor Day.
“I told a number of ambassadors in the region there; they should expect a collapse of Kabul by Labor Day, and I said that back in April, based on when the U.S. air pressure, when the Air Force really stopped bombing, when that threat largely disappears, then the Taliban would be able to group and mass as they have done, and then they start blowing up cities,” said Erik Prince, the Navy SEAL veteran and national security entrepreneur.
“It’s a very predictable outcome that all these smart people in the military didn’t pass that kind of information off the chain of command so that the president even last month makes as dumb a statement as he does,” Prince said.
“We have a cosplay national security apparatus that sits and talks to itself into believing their own B.S., and sadly, the Taliban are feeding into us at the end of the bayonet right now,” he said. The term “cosplay” is defined by dictionary.com as “the art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially manga, animation, and science fiction.”
“This is not rocket science, but it’s a failure of imagination,” he said.
“It’s a failure to look at history to see what’s worked by our conventional military leadership and utter an abysmal failure,” he said. “The Afghan army has lasted a couple of weeks. The government built by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan lasted four years after the Russians pulled their forces out, four years not two weeks.”
Prince said once Taliban forces started rolling up provincial capitals, they could not be stopped by the Afghanistan government.
“The continued Taliban victories have certainly given them a very key element in the military success, and that’s momentum,” he said. “It certainly caused a lot of paralysis. When that momentum causes fear amongst the defending population and a few links in their chain suddenly disappear, they lack the resiliency, and so it all goes apart quickly.”
Kabul falling as it did will have a long-term negative impact on America’s reputation, he said.
“It will have second and third-order effects because everyone that thinks that they’re an ally of the United States is going to look at us today,” he said. “The United States walked out of there, like a bad one-night stand, and: ‘They just left us hanging.’”
In 2017, Prince presented a comprehensive plan to senior military and diplomatic leaders in Washington, which would have private military contractor personnel take over the Pentagon’s advise and assist mission with Afghanistan’s security forces.
The plan was rejected in favor of a mini-surge of 8,400 additional troops to Afghanistan proposed by National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Harold R. “H.R.” McMaster and backed by Vice President Michael R. Pence approved by President Donald J. Trump in August 2017.
According to Politico, McMaster rehearsed his presentation with Pence while blocking Prince from meeting Trump to make his pitch.
The purpose of the McMaster plan was to create a permissive environment for U.S. forces to leave the country in the hands of Afghanistan’s security forces as Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters continued to resist the U.S.-backed regime.
Despite the machinations of McMaster, Prince said he was able to get his plan to Trump and others, but he could not overcome the national security bureaucracy’s inertia.
“What I recommended in very clear written terms to President Trump, to H.R. McMaster, to Mattis, to the CIA, was a specific plan to give a, call it a skeletal structure support, to the Afghan forces to give them some resiliency they could depend on at a very cheap price compared to the cost of all the U.S. active-duty presence and very, very expensive logistics,” he said.
The three elements of the Prince Plan: Mentors, Air Power and Logistics
Prince said the first part of his plan was to break the cycle of constantly changing U.S. military partners assigned to work with Afghanistan’s military units with teams of military veteran contractor personnel attached to each Afghanistan battalion for three to four years.
The Hillsdale College graduate said he based his plan on the lessons learned from the successful long-term mentorship of U.S. special operations personnel provided to Afghanistan’s commandos.
“The only part of the Afghan army that’s demonstrated a willingness and ability to fight is the Afghan commandos because they were trained by the U.S. special operations counterparts, and that worked,” he said.
“All I was doing in taking the mentor model to the Afghan army is replicating what’s worked with the Afghan commandos, that being attaching, would have been 36 men mentor teams so that they had enough so that whenever that Afghan battalion was deployed somewhere, there would be enough,” Prince said.
“These mentors would make sure the key enablers were provided leadership, intelligence, communications, medical, and logistics expertise,” he said.
Because of the constant nine-month rotation of U.S. military units and personnel, he said there is no follow-up over time and no time for proper bonding between the mentors and their charges.
In effect, he said that each rotation had become its own new war with new people and new tactics.
“We’ve had 33 rotations at least,” said the former SEAL officer, who left the service upon the 1995 passing of his father Edgar D. Prince, an engineer and industrialist, whose businesses included die-cast machines and auto parts.
“I would have contracted guys that would have gone and stayed in the same area for three and four years,” he said. “They go in for 90 days, come home for 30. Back in for 60, home for 30.”
The goal is to create tactical stability, said the author of “Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror” about his groundbreaking creation of the private security industry.
“Always rotating to the same unit in the same terrain, so they get to know the area, Prince said. “They know who’s good, who’s bad, but the Afghan unit members see them, trust them, brothers in arms,” and that would have, I say with 100 percent assurance, the mentors, in place, attached, living with, training with, and fighting alongside that entire Afghan conventional army, would have greatly enhanced their willingness to fight, especially when the second part is provided and that being air power.”
Prince: Airpower means tactical support, medical support to fighters on the ground
“I would have provided 90 aircraft. I used to have 50 of my own aircraft in Afghanistan doing support for the U.S. forces,” said the native of Holland, Michigan. “Doing food, and fuel, and movement, and medevac, surveillance, et cetera, providing those aircraft that show up reliably with no excuse.”
Prince said as a private company with a no-fail contract; he could have provided air support for the entire country.
“We would have provided close air support on 30-minute notice from anywhere, from the bases we would have staged, to anywhere in the country, so from a maximum of 30 minutes lag time between someone calling for help, having aircraft with the ordinance, overhead and ready to go,” he said.
Prince said he would train each of the private contractor military mentors as joint terminal attack controllers, or JTAC, technicians capable of talking to aircrews with targeting information and other data from the ground.
One of the reasons the regular Afghanistan soldier was under-motivated to fight was the lack of battlefield casualty care, he said.
“To one year, three years, 10 years ago, you were seven times as likely to die if you’re an Afghan that got wounded,” Prince said.
“Afghan soldiers just lost confidence in the whole system because their supply wasn’t coming, their pay wouldn’t show up, they wouldn’t have food, and worst of all, they wouldn’t get the ammunition,” he said.
A tragic example of this was the Taliban’s June 16 ambush and massacre of 24 Afghanistan commandos and five local police officers in Farah Province. No aircraft were sent to help, rescue, resupply or medevac the men as the insurgents pinned them down.
“They were slaughtered after running out of ammunition,” he said. “They begged and pleaded, calling for help, calling Kabul news media, T.V. stations, begging for someone to help them, and no one came. That’s how you destroy the morale of an army, and that’s why it collapsed so quickly. This is really basic stuff.”
Prince Plan would have professionalized military logistics in Afghanistan
“The third part of the deal is combat logistics support,” he said.
He said that part of that would be using modern bookkeeping to find the ghost soldiers and take them off the books.
“You heard rumblings about the massive theft of pay, with the ghost soldiers, like a 100,000-plus, completely named, listed on the employment rolls, but not really people showing there, because the senior officers were skimming the pay, all the way up to Ghani,” he said.
“The third part of this is a combat logistics element to keep the food, fuel, parts, ammunition flowing reliably, and as low a corruption loss as possible, certainly different than what’s been done over the last 20 years,” he said.
“The great error of the U.S. is thinking that they were going to empower Afghans and dropping these many resources into a 90 percent illiterate country with endemic corruption,” he said.
Prince said American bureaucrats failed to set up left and right flanks to corral the corruption; then, the American officials gave up on corruption altogether.
“I guess the laziness caused people to say: ‘Oh yeah, they can handle the whole thing. Just turn it over to them, give them the checkbook,’” he said. “The reality would have said: No, we’re going to be very, very limited, defined things, and we can reevaluate that, and we can do this on a cheap, small footprint approach and not the very big, expensive, DOD approach that we had the last 20 years.”
Prince Plan based on the East India Company model
Prince said he modeled his plan on England’s East India Company’s success and its stewardship of India. It developed its commercial interests in India with a concession from the crown.
“Everything I laid out in this plan is based on 250 years of successful security operations by the East India Company in the South Asian continent, building local units with a few expats attached, like a 5 percent expat ratio,” he said.
Most Americans only know the East India Company as the company which owned the ship full of tea attacked by the Sons of Liberty in the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Yet, despite this chapter of the American Revolution, many colonial leaders supported a proposal to the British Parliament to give the American colonies the same independence inside the British imperial system the East India Company enjoyed.
In fact, the American flag is a direct lift from the flag of the East India Company.
Prince Plan would have fostered the development of natural resources
Prince said the linchpin of his plan was the development of Afghanistan’s natural resources made possible because of his plan’s security.
According to a 2011 U.S. Geological Survey report, Afghanistan’s natural resources include gold and strategic metals, such as copper, chromium, lead, zinc, and cobalt.
The Navy SEAL veteran said there is also oil.
“All the fuel, diesel fuel that the U.S. burned in Afghanistan, largely came from Greece on a big DLA, Defense Logistics Agency contract,” he said.
“It came down the Suez by boat, through the Red Sea, all the way around to Karachi, and then it got on a truck and trucked all the way up into Afghanistan with a massive tolling regime in place,” he said.
“There’s definitely an investigation that should be done there, as to all the people that got paid for moving that fuel. That’s why the fully-loaded costs per gallon of fuel for U.S. forces in Afghanistan were $250 per gallon,” he said.
“The disgusting thing is the Russians actually drilled oil fields in the north of Afghanistan,” he said.
“They explored, they drilled, they proved, and then they properly cemented the wells when they left,” Prince said. “All those wells are still sitting there and the U.S. military, or a private operator, could have drilled it, put it in production, slapped a $100 million refinery there and provided all the hydrocarbons needed for the entire country, including the U.S. military, for a tiny fraction. That thing would have paid for itself in probably four months, 20 years ago, and would have provided significant employment and other secondary electrical applications.”
The businessman said he knew a local Afghani who tried to reboot the old Russian wells.
“An Afghan friend of mine was the local partner, and he was exasperated because he could never get the right people to engage on it,” he said. “Ghani and Karzai were so damn corrupt that the other subsequent licensing was always held up because it was always asking for a greater bribe.”
Afghanistan’s oil resources are not widely known. Still, its copper deposits are both well-known and readily exploited—and the mining jobs would have pulled Taliban fighters off the battlefield, he said.
“Another example is Mes Aynak that is basically a mountain of copper; it’s about 50 kilometers south of Kabul,” he said.
“They have been mining copper there for more than a thousand years, and you could have put that in production and employed 10,000 Taliban because the Taliban was paying around $10 a day,” he said.
“You could have paid them $12 a day, given them picks and shovels, mined copper profitably, and sucked an entire infantry division’s worth of Taliban manpower away from them.”
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Neil W. McCabe is a Washington-based national political reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. In addition to the Star Newspaper, he has covered the White House, Capitol Hill and national politics for One America News, Breitbart, Human Events and Townhall. Before coming to Washington, he was a staff reporter for Boston’s Catholic paper, The Pilot, and the editor of two Boston-area community papers, The Somerville News and The Alewife. McCabe is a public affairs NCO in the Army Reserve and he deployed for 15 months to Iraq as a combat historian.
Photo “Erik Prince” by Miller Center CC2.0