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Ending the Endless War? A New Strategy for Afghanistan
17th September 2018 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pmFree
The Afghanistan War has now lasted for 17 years, and estimates suggest has cost the US government upwards of $750 billion in prosecuting it. While the reasons for engagement in the first place post- 9/11 were obvious and necessary, what has been dubbed “The Endless War” seems to show no signs of ending. A succession of US Presidents – aided by NATO allies including the UK – have adopted various different military and political tactics. Yet none have provided the silver bullet approach that would enable the war to be formally concluded.
Erik Prince has a plan to change that. The former CEO of private security company Blackwater believes that downsizing the US presence, ending the NATO mission and replacing it with a small footprint of private military contractors and US special operations forces, could achieve what years of conventional military warfare has not. As well as dramatically cutting costs. His plan is undoubtedly controversial, and has drawn the ire of commentators who believe it underplays the complexities of Afghanistan and risks a loss of control to private contractors, but could it work?
The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to hear Erik Prince discuss his plan first-hand, and why he believes it is a winning strategy for Afghanistan.
Erik Prince is a US-born entrepreneur, philanthropist, military veteran and private equity investor.
Erik is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a global private security company, which he sold in 2010 after successfully growing the company over the course of more than a decade into the premier provider of global security and logistic solutions to the United States Government and others. His book on the subject, Civilian Warrior, has been internationally acclaimed.
He was educated at HIllsdale College. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the US Navy, where he served as a Navy SEAL until 1996. Erik now serves as the Executive Chairman of Frontier Services Group a security, insurance and logistics company operating in frontier markets internationally.
On the 17th September the Henry Jackson Society welcomed Erik Prince – the former CEO of private security company Blackwater, who currently serves as the Executive Chairman of Frontier Services Group. Our guest has extensive knowledge of Afghanistan and has been paying attention to the developments there since 1988. Erik Prince commenced the talk with an argument that although people may disagree on the methods but we all would like to end the war in Afghanistan and to have a stable local government, which would have control and would be able to prevent the disasters such as the 9/11.
There have been trillions of dollars spent, thousands of the US soldiers and hundreds of the UK soldiers dead, as well as many more wounded since 2001. Yet, the Afghan government still controls only around 30% of the country’s territory, whereas 70% is either in the enemy’s hands or is contested. Erik Prince has been disillusioned by the approach, which the West has taken since then and continues to implement to solve the ongoing conflict in the country. Therefore, he outlined the plan, which could change the current situation.
Our guest underlined the fact that the Taliban has survived for 17 years and has become a clever enemy, which knows a lot about how the Western forces operate on the field. He offered three key solutions, which should be implemented to change the current stalemate: the need for continuity in the deployed Western forces, the strengthening of air support and the instalment of mentor teams in each of Afghanistan battalions.
The need for continuity is essential as constant short-term rotation of six months does not provide the opportunity for soldiers to get to know the terrain and to use their potential fully. Currently, they have to spend a few months to get to know the territory they should operate in and, therefore, leads to only a few months of real productivity. He also highlighted the idea of the use of veterans as contractors, who would ensure that logistics, weapons, and intelligence are provided in a timely and efficient manner.
The importance of strong air support also should not be undermined. Erik Prince stated that proper air support has started to build only since 2007 and has been chronically understaffed. He highlighted the fact that without the close air support any military action becomes very difficult.
Finally, our guest suggested, that long-term mentoring programme of Afghan battalions by Western forces must be implemented. Continuity works and the long-term mentoring programme must also be supported by ensuring that Afghan soldiers would be paid on time and would receive proper medical care while fighting on the field.
Erik Prince stressed that keeping the lights up in Afghanistan is important, but his plan allows to do it cheaper and in a more efficient way. The plan presentation by our guest was followed by an engaging discussion with the audience and concluded with his question: ‘Ask your politicians, what have they done differently since 2001?’ The Henry Jackson Society was delighted to have Erik Prince as our guest.