Small Wars Journal

Blackwater’s Founder Wants Trump to Outsource the Afghanistan War. Why That’s So Risky.

Blackwater’s Founder Wants Trump to Outsource the Afghanistan War. Why That’s So Risky. By Andrew deGrandpre - Washington Post

One of the Iraq War’s most explosive criminal cases forced an uncomfortable debate about America’s reliance on private security firms in times of conflict. A decade later, that case is back in the spotlight as senior White House officials look to the founder of one such organization, Blackwater’s Erik Prince, for help extricating the U.S. military from its morass in Afghanistan.

As America’s longest war nears the start of its 17th year, and the Trump administration remains without a clear strategy, Prince has suggested that contractors could gradually supplant the 14,000 U.S. and NATO troops who remain in Afghanistan. Yet, for those opposed to the idea, the court case is a reminder of why such an approach seems so reckless and ill-advised.

Following an appeal, three former Blackwater security guards — Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty — learned last week that they will be resentenced for their roles in the 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left more than 30 Iraqi civilians dead and wounded. A fourth contractor, Nicholas Slatten, had his murder conviction vacated, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be retried. Families of the men are hopeful they’ll be freed.

The 2007 incident strained relations between Baghdad and Washington at one of the Iraq War’s most vulnerable moments, and raised tough questions — many still unresolved — about the accountability of hired guns who supplement combat troops.

This debate has once again engulfed Washington.

“It’s nuts,” said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran who held high-profile roles in the Pentagon and with NATO before serving as President Bill Clinton’s drug czar through the late 1990s.

“Single moms from Texas getting paid $120,000 to drive a truck in Iraq, that’s all well and good,” he said, alluding to the ample salaries government contractors can command while working in war zones. “But having contractors fly armed helicopters and conduct armed missions was a terrible idea. This court case underscores it.”

Loyalty, propriety and accountability top the list of concerns. Organizations such as Blackwater — and the mercenaries they employ — should not be trusted to prosecute America’s wars, detractors say…

Read on.