Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 10th, 2018

The Privatization of War in Afghanistan

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The Privatization of War in Afghanistan

Private military industries in the US are behind the proposal of privatization of the war in Afghanistan. Erik D. Prince, the founder of the Blackwater Worldwide private military company, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, each see a role for themselves in the future of the US long-drawn-out war in Afghanistan.
It could get worse if handled in this vein. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Prince laid out a plan whereby the fighting force would be led by an American viceroy who would report directly to Trump. Modeled after General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled Japan after World War II, the viceroy would consolidate all American power in a single person. His mission: Do whatever it takes to pacify Afghanistan. No more backseat driving of the war from pesky bureaucrats in Washington, or restrictive rules of engagement imposed on soldiers. An American viceroy with a privatized fighting force would make trains run on time in Afghanistan—if they had trains.
Who would this viceroy be? Probably Prince had himself in mind, and that worries everyone. Under his watch, Blackwater military contractors opened fire in a city square in Baghdad, killing 17 civilians in one of the worst episodes of the Iraq war. When asked by Congress how he addressed potential wrongdoing among his employees in 2007, he said: “If there is any sort of … problem, whether it’s bad attitude, a dirty weapon, riding someone’s bike that’s not his, we fire him.
There are other problems with Prince’s proposal. MacArthur was fired by President Harry Truman for abuse of power—hardly a venerable model for a viceroy. Also, the armies of the British East India Company did much harm in India, and bankrupted the company. British taxpayers had to bail it out in 1770, and then the government had to seize control in 1874. This said, utmost attention should be paid to nature of the viceroy-centered war which Eric dreams of in the case of Afghanistan. From military perspective, there are many concerns about accountability, morality, culture, people’s reaction and so on. In a country such as Afghanistan where Islamic ideology predominantly calls the shot over the hearts and minds of the people, this would further create a sense of hatred among the people given the past behavioral factors of outfits such as Blackwater in other parts of the world, Iraq’s case taken as a live example where 17 people were killed by Blackwater’s mercenaries. On the other hand, if privatization of war is realized, the Afghan anti-government forces would make much of it by mobilizing the illiterate masses in the areas where insurgency is on the high, under the title of Jihad the plight of which the country has been suffering for so long. People’s emotions could be very easily overtaken by proselytizing forces and the so-called jihadists against America. According to Ahmed Rashid the distinguished Pakistani journalists, twenty three thousand Islamic madrassas exist across Pakistan and almost all of them are already contributing in Afghanistan war providing manpower and suicide bombers to Jihad cause. Given this fact, they would be much emboldened than ever, and would encourage more sympathy towards the Taliban grounds. So much so, this issue would bring about further mayhem and destruction on Afghanistan past two decades half-baked achievements and democracy. This type of an initiative is doable for a small force under certain conditions and proper oversight, but it is wholly different from what Eric Prince has envisioned for the war like Afghanistan’s.  However, the privatization is already underway in many other areas, denial is not a strategy to manage and sort out this growing problem. Prince sees how it can be harnessed for U.S. interests and is pushing his proposal, as are others in the industry. But America is not ready for such a radical idea, and may never be, given the historical experiences it has in the course of its wars in other places.

Abdul Qahar Bakhshi is a International Relations Student. He can be reached at aqahar1@gmail.com

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