The Latest Attempt To Win The Afghan War: Replace The Soldiers With Mercenaries

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Daniel Lang via,

One of the most controversial aspects of the Iraq war was the heavy use of defense contractors, who were in many cases paid vast sums of money to do jobs that you’d think an ordinary soldier could do. When it was all said and done, defense contractors had reaped $138 billion dollars by providing security, logistics, and construction services. Among the most notorious of these contractors was Blackwater, whose employees gained a reputation for reckless behavior that caused many unnecessary deaths.

Fast forward to today, and now Blackwater’s founder, former Navy Seal Erik Prince, is pushing for a plan to win the war in Afghanistan by replacing the soldiers with defense contractors. Prince first suggested the plan last May in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, where he described this idea in colonial terms. The private military units would be based on units that were deployed by the British East India Company, and would be lead by a single person who he referred to as an “American Viceroy,” that would report directly to the president.

As strange as it may sound, Trump appears to be taking the idea seriously. It’s hard to blame him. Afghanistan is now America’s longest running war, and no matter how many soldiers, generals, aid, or money we throw at the country, nothing seems to bring stability. 

Which is why this radical new plan probably looks very enticing to Trump right now.

Under his proposal, private advisers would work directly with Afghanistan combat battalions throughout the country, and the air force would be used for medical evacuation, fire support and ferrying troops.


Prince said the contractors would be “adjuncts” of the Afghan military and would wear that nation’s military uniforms. Pilots would only drop ordnance with Afghan government approval, he said.


Currently, troops from a U.S.-led coalition are stationed primarily at top level headquarters and are not embedded with conventional combat units in the field. Under the plan the contractors would be embedded with Afghanistan’s more than 90 combat battalions throughout the country.

In addition the plan will supposedly cost $10 billion per year, which is a far cry from the $40 billion that is currently being spent. It would involve replacing much of the 8,400 troops who are currently stationed in Afghanistan with 5,500 contractors, and provide a privately owned air force of 90 planes that wouldn’t give fire support without the permission of the Afghan government.

However, there is one problem with this plan. There’s probably a good reason why our soldiers aren’t embedded with the Afghan army in such a decentralized fashion. It probably has to do with the fact that our soldiers are routinely killed by Taliban sympathizers masquerading as Afghan soldiers (many of whom are severely demoralized, poorly paid and equipped, and lead by corrupt officers). Without separating the contractors into heavily fortified compounds (as our military does right now), and by spreading them thin across a vast and desolate country, these contractors would be extremely vulnerable.

It’s certainly a unique plan that is at least different from what our military has been doing in Afghanistan since 2001, which has been more of the same, year after year. But it’s also fraught with danger and the potential for disaster. This is Afghanistan we’re talking about. When it comes to military operations led by advanced nations, disaster is always the safest bet. After all, they don’t call Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires” for nothing.

Perhaps instead of asking how we could win the war in Afghanistan, we should be asking ourselves how we can get out as fast as possible and cut our losses.

It’s been 16 years, and there’s no sign that the people in that country have any interest in becoming the kind of liberal democracy that we want them to be. And without that support, there is no military plan in the world that will ever give us a satisfying victory in Afghanistan.

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ACP's picture

Contractors may cost 1/4 of a military deployment, but nukes cost nothing.

3 trillion dollars in mineral reserves?

Hellz yeah!

HowdyDoody's picture

"Contractors may cost 1/4 of a military deployment"

The same argument that was used to 'justify' the F-35 - a common fighter/bomber platform for all forces. The contract will probably have the same performance and penalty conditions. /sarc


Ofelas's picture

Let the Afghans be! 

The Pashtuns have been fanaticised with Saudi money and Mullahs, in Pakistani religious schools and US oversight. Great cannon fodder against the Soviets and but since then this fantastic idea has turned bad. Stop medling in their affairs. 

How many Afghans took part in 9/11? How many Afghans have committed terror attacks in the West? How many Afghans have been operating outside their own country (North West Pakistan is Pashtun country so they have a right to be there) 

This is beyond stupid. We cannot win this one, pack up and leave the Afghans to it. 





MillionDollarButter's picture

Can we have no-bid contracts too?

mtl4's picture

Using mercenary troops to bring stability will fail miserably just like police used to live in the towns they police, but today their reputation is so bad we need police bill of rights to protect them from the "dangerous" public.  Imperialism is a death sentance, just ask the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portugese, etc......

Joe Trader's picture

Ofelas - you don't understand islam (I don't blame you) - the reality is islam is most guilty of foreign intervention as it originated from present day Saudi Arabia - and only when it adopted the policy of conversion by the sword - did it start to see it's followers increase, and since then it's taken over the middle east, Pakistan, wreaked havoc in Africa, and many other places. Their doctrine literally wants to take over the world, and now they're invading Europe through migration and birth rates, and islam above all else wants to rip your constitutions and bill of rights to complete and total shreds.

As far as foreign intervention goes, they have a very twisted view of history. Islam launched 548 first strike, unprovoked attacks on Europe alone, prior to the crusades, and occupied Europe for more than 400 years. The Crusades were defensive on the contrary - yet these militant islamic organizations like ISIS constantly refer back to them and try to liken them to persecution. So they have a long history of attacking Europeans and Christian nations, and modern western intervention or no intervention - we would be faced with constant islamic aggression on the west whether we like it or not. The only relevance that foreign intervention in the middle east has had, is that the militant branches of islam use these as propaganda and for brainwashing purposes.

It's very sad that the people living under islam suffer, that millions have died in these wars - which have really been pointless. But it's a total mistake to blame these attacks on foreign intervention - the reason they attack us is 100% because of what's taught by islam. They refer to non-muslims as "kafirs" and these are the worst of the worst to them, and I believe it's in their sura books where well over 50% of the verses say bad things about non-muslims and repeatedly teach to attack them - this is where things like hijrah, taqiyya, etc all come into play.

Koba the Dread's picture

Yeah, yeah! Blah, blah, blah!

HalinCA's picture

There is no Afhgan nation.  Never was.  Probably never will be.  If the Taliban can pull it off, let them.  The reason we went in there no longer exists. 

Leave and let them create a Islamic paradise on earth with all their natural resources ... or fail trying.

If the West cannot suvive their independent 'system' and coeixst with it, our system is beyond saving anyway.

quadraspleen's picture

You are much mistaken. The reason we went in there was to secure the poppy fields from the Taliban, who despite their ultra-orthodox running of the country, hate opium...They were burning whole poppy fields just prior to 911. Opium was at its lowest production yields for over 25 years. The year after that Afghan had its biggest opium harvest *ever*

Go figure

Yog Soggoth's picture

More insult, the huge deposit of copper and other valuable minerals has been taken over by a chinese company after we cleared the way, kind of. 

Mes Aynak: Afghanistan's Buddhist buried treasure faces ...
new game's picture

where can i apply? i've plinked some cans in the backyard. i've never shot a live human, but i think i could if the pay is right. bonus plan? like tyed to brown people down, confirmed kills? s/ so no misunderstanding for newbies

Buck Johnson's picture

And what the afghan will do is what they do all the time with empires, what them out and continue to attack them and betray them.  They have been doing this since Alexander came through the region.  It's the graveyard of empires and we haven't figured it out yet.


FringeImaginigs's picture

Flashbacks again this morning. I read your comments and noted the date. Something is rotten in the State of ZH. The date! My screen says 2017.  I am sure you wrote this in 2001.  

MK13's picture

It's not an empire until it doesn't fail conquering Faghanistan.

Meanwhile, reality is if US want to subjugate Farghanistan, it could, it just doesn't have cajones to do so. Wars are won when you broke enemies will to fight.

Nuke Khandar, promise to nuke any city giving support to Taliban and alike every week until no more resistance. True, Faghanistan would be 90% percent depopulated, but that would be victory.

Or leave that forsaken country and let it be its own corrupt hellhole.

Youri Carma's picture
Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War & Install Viceroy to Run Nation
Aug 9, 2017 Democracy Now!
MillionDollarButter's picture

+1 Yep, don't fall for it.  War is a racket.  Privatized war, doubly so.

detached.amusement's picture

report directly to trump?

I guess that means he can send them all home, then?

*guffaw* we know trump will do what's best for israel

Eyes Opened's picture

ALL soldiers are mercenaries....

Another regional indian.'s picture

Wrong. There are a lot of people who sign up thinking they are a going to fight a just war. 

wanderer9641's picture

They would be wrong - all wars are bankers wars - just is just propaganda.

the_narrator's picture

Sounds like the British East India Company model.  British basically says to a private company:  You own India!  Just pay us some taxes on it and the people there ... whatever you want to do with em.

ACP's picture

That would be the Dutch East India Company.

And they went out of bidness in 1800, because they didn't have the power to tax people like government entities, or else they would still be in bidness, like Goldman Sucks and JP Morefucks.

Banks levery taxes THROUGH the government, and will never go out of bidness.

(At least until they are razed by the people and all their employees and government lackeys executed)

Piranha's picture

"It’s been 16 years, and there’s no sign that the people in that country have any interest in becoming the kind of liberal democracy that we want them to be. And without that support, there is no military plan in the world that will ever give us a satisfying victory in Afghanistan."


lets not learn from this experience but instead focus on the next country to invade and promote regime change

miketv's picture

Except it's going exactly to plan.


rayban's picture

Good training exercise before deploying the mercs in the West, say Greece. Or Italy. Or the USA.

Joe A's picture

What is there not to like for the government? It is cheaper, you can take your hands off it when some big atrocity happens (it wasn't me), no PTSD or Vets to look after, probably no mourning next of kin, soldiers of fortune motivation is making big bugs and satisfy bloodthirst and not some ideological cause, and no trouble with patriotic soldiers that become disillusioned. Win win for the government. For the Afghan people not so much.

Mercenaries are psychopaths.

SoDamnMad's picture

Blackwater says 10 billion of which 65% is up-front money. 6 months later they "walk" saying," he government wouldn't give us permission to bomb the shit out of hospitals, schools, wedding parties and funerals so the war is unwinnable and this was a contract violation." Sorry, no refunds. 

The Cooler King's picture

So who gets the heroin?

SAE6065's picture

Exactly. Who gets the heroin. IMO we aren't there to win a war

 We are there so Big Pharma can make obscene profits from the poppy plants. If a few soldiers die that's just Collateral Damage. With all the technology we have and we can't even beat some cave dwellers since 2001, how in the FUCK can we beat Russia or China in upcoming battles. Interesting to say the least.  USA , The EXCEPTIONAL people. Hahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha



lurker since 2012's picture

It's a business perk, though 'the company' might have something to say about that, since it's their patch.

A. Boaty's picture

Opium is the opium of the masses.

AurorusBorealus's picture

"It’s been 16 years, and there’s no sign that the people in that country have any interest in becoming the kind of liberal democracy that we want them to be. And without that support, there is no military plan in the world that will ever give us a satisfying victory in Afghanistan."

The entire premise of this article is naive.  The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has nothing to do with producing a "liberal democracy," and imperial Washington has no intention of ending the "war" in Afghanistan.   The entire purpose of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is to establish military bases for air and ground assets in South Asia from which to threaten Russia and Iran.  In case anyone has forgotten, the original justification for war was "bin Laden."  The Afghans offered to turn bin Laden over to the U.S.  That did not stop the invasion.  Bin Laden was supposedly killed.  That did not stop the occupation.  

There is no "war" in Afghanistan: only a U.S. occupation.

uhland62's picture

On bloomberg the idea was mentioned to leave the troops there to guard the rare earth mine(s). Pretty expensive now for 40 billion p.a. Maybe that's what Prince is looking for, talk democracy, but just guard the mine at taxpayers expense when the companies who profit from rare earths should cover these costs. 

Eyes Opened's picture

Can't have those terrorists breaking in, mining, purifying & smelting .... then turning those neodymium magnets  on us.... lol

Nexus789's picture

When the US leaves the Chinese will be in like flint with attractive commercial deals and they will then tap into the trillions of dollars in raw materials. There may also be oil and gas deposits. 

TabakLover's picture

My bass amp has neodymium magnets.  Sounds good!.  Get in there BlackWater.  

EddieLomax's picture

There is no conspiracy here, the soviets ended up doing the exact same thing, protecting what little economy was there to try and get a return - the mines.

The end result for both was bankrupting their states, so the return is never enough to justify it.  There are millions of people in Africa who would jump at a chance to earn 1000 dollars a month guarding areas, and they'd bring their families, with this sort of model the budget could be balanced.  Other than air power (airforce training base dropping bombs on Muslims for training) there would be no US or Europeans needed, and the Afghans can then show their love, tolerance and compassion that the Koran teaches them to the new invaders, sorry immigrants.

Doom Porn Star's picture

Telsa and Solar City can't cover those costs.

Westinghouse is bankrupt.

GE was bankrupt ten years ago.   It's just a bailout zombie.   The legs will eventually rot out and it'll stop wandering around muttering about debts and dishwashers...

hoos bin pharteen's picture

The real deal is they're trying to invent new reasons why people should "care" about Afghanistan.  Bottom line is it isn't whether minuerals are there.  It comes down to the question of can they be extracted profitably?  The answer today is a big no.

NuYawkFrankie's picture

Afghanistan: Yet another resounding NeoCON Success!

That's if you don't count the $trillions wasted - like they don't count the body-bags being flown home - and America morphed into the USSA - the Planetary Pariah fighting Foreign Wars for a Foreign Entity.

Yup - the NeoCONs are so brilliant, it's hardly surpising the Trump's following their orders to launch WW3 (vs N.Korea, Russia, or China - Fck it! All three!) for an assured & easy victory - just like in Afghanistan!

Let's get this fcker on! Lets roll! YeeeHaaa!!!


They were never trying to win. Only to control the drug trade as to fund 0their regime change fantasies. Thats what theyve done isnt it?

Nexus789's picture

The neoconservatives have destroyed the US more effectively than any external enemies could have and the decline continues. 

otschelnik's picture

The era of political correctness is coming to an end and we can now admit that all countries are not created equal.  In fact, some are not really countries at all.  Afghanistan is an undeveloped rump state dominated by belicose clans with various degrees of fanatic religiousity: Uzbek, Pushtun, Hazari, Turkmen and Tadzhik, being the dominated ones. These ethnicities would have better been factored into the surrounding states, but the territory is so backward, poor and uncontrollable that the surrounding states don't want them. 

In a case like this, a mercenary army is just what the doctor ordered.  Just moderate order between the clans, regulate the poppy trade to help subsistence farmers, you can build a highway or two to help gradually civilize them, and of course with enough air power to blow up the ones that get out of hand. 




East Indian's picture

Americans are not the first genius to discover this mercenary route. Please read about what Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal emperor of India, did in Afghanistan. He also came to grief, like Akbar before him, and Marathas after him. 


There are good reasons why the great empires of the area always gave it a wide berth. It was a rough terrain, and even today, with infinite % air superiority (Americans have all the planes, Taliban has none), Americans are struggling hard to control Afghanistan. In the Third Afghan War, in 1919, the British used their planes and bombed the Afghans but once the war was over, they let it go off their protectorate sphere. This area falls between the three empire zones: Persian, Central Asian and Indian. Yet, after their defeat in the Tenth Century, Indians left it for good; Central Asians left in the 16th Century, and Persians in the 18th Century. 


It is simply not worth the trouble. Even with trillions of dollars of rare earth minerals also.