In Brief

Afghanistan resists offer to outsource Taliban war

President Ashraf Ghani dismisses plans laid out by private military contractor Blackwater

The government of Afghanistan has rejected proposals to privatise the war on terror in the country, following a “renewed push” by private military contractor Blackwater.

The company’s founder, Erik Prince, has been lobbying officials for more than a year about his plan for Blackwater’s own private air force and ground troops to take over parts of existing US military operations in Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

In an interview with NBC News in August, Prince said his firm would send over around 6,000 private military contractors as reinforcements for 2,000 US Special Forces, a move that would see US and Nato forces largely withdrawn from the region.

The 49-year old former US Navy Seal told a briefing in London that he could reduce the cost of America’s policy in Afghanistan from $52bn annually to just over $10bn, says The National.

However, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani - who is standing for re-election in April - has “reacted angrily” to suggestions that the war should be privatised, threatening “all legal options” against anyone who made attempts to do so.

On Thursday, Ghani’s national security adviser issued a statement criticising Prince for evoking what Afghan officials called a “destructive and divisive debate”.

“Under no circumstances will the Afghan government and people allow the counterterrorism fight to become a private, for-profit business,” the statement said. “As a sovereign nation, we will consider all legal options against those who try to privatise war on our land.”

However, an unnamed Afghan source told The Washington Post that Prince’s charm offensive was making headway in Kabul, where he is perceived as having the ear of the White House.

“He’s winning Afghans over with the assumption that he’s close to Trump,” the source said, adding that many of Prince’s ideas “feed into frustration with and within the Afghan military, particularly given its high casualty rate”.

Defending his plan, Prince said: “I would say six months after the programme is fully ramped up, you [would] have a very different situation on the ground, I will commit to that.”

But officials from the US military have also expressed concerns about Prince’s proposal.

General Joseph Votel, chief of US Central Command, said on Thursday that it would not be a good strategy to turn over US national interest to contractors, Afghan news channel Tolo News reports.

“We have vital interests here and we are pursuing them with legitimate forces that can do that,” Votel said during a Pentagon news briefing.

“Even broader than that, the bilateral security agreement that I think is in place with Afghanistan does not allow this. The Afghans don’t want this.”

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