President Trump is said to be frustrated with progress in the 16-year-old Afghanistan war, and a familiar name in US military circles is offering an unprecedented solution. Blackwater founder Erik Prince has floated a plan to the White House that it turn over most of its military duties in the country to private contractors, reports USA Today. The US currently has 8,400 troops there, though their mission is to train and advise, not engage in combat. Prince would replace them with 5,500 contractors, most of them former Special Ops troops. They would be supported by a private air force of about 90 planes. One key point: They would wear Afghan uniforms and operate under Afghan command.
“At what point do you say a conventional military approach in Afghanistan is not working,” says Prince. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.” The newspaper says defense chief Jim Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster are leery, while adviser Steve Bannon is more open to the idea. The Navy Times notes that the proposal would likely run into legal trouble. Current defense law stipulates that "the use of combat power against enemy forces or hostile actors is inherently in the purview of the U.S. government." Contractors can provide assistance, but Prince's plan goes way beyond that. The former Navy SEAL says it would cost about $10 billion year, far less than the Pentagon's current annual outlay of $40 billion. (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)