Privatization? More money for support? A look at the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan

Aug 10, 2017

U.S. And Afghan Forces Battle Taliban In Kunar Province

U.S. soldiers board an Army Chinook transport helicopter after it brought fresh soldiers and supplies to the Korengal Outpost October 27, 2008. ; Credit: John Moore/Getty Images


A recent proposal by a former contractor to privatize the war in Afghanistan has raised eyebrows along with questions about what the future of U.S. involvement in the country looks like.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain has released his own strategy for handling Afghanistan, focusing on a mix of troops and diplomacy. The two plans come at a time when many wonder if the old plan of training the Afghan army and then withdrawing troops is still working, and whether it’s time to try something new and, in the case of privatizing the war, maybe unprecedented.

The privatization plan comes from former U.S. Navy Seal and Blackwater security firm founder Erik Prince, who wants to send in 5,500 private contractors, mostly former Special Operations, and a private air force. These contractors would assumedly replace the 8,400 U.S. troops currently there. President Trump and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, are said to be open to the plan, but others like national security adviser H.R. McMaster have concerns. McCain’s plan, meanwhile, looks to flood the Pentagon with resources and try to come to an agreement with the Afghan government on a long-term U.S. presence. Trainers and advisers would be assigned at battalion level for more support for troops, but all this help would be contingent on Afghanistan making anti-corruption benchmarks.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll look at the two competing plans, discuss the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and debate what the role of contractors should be in the ongoing conflict.


Aaron O’Connell, associate professor of history at the University of Texas in Austin; former director of defense policy and strategy on President Obama’s National Security Council (2016-17); he is the editor of “Our Latest Longest War: Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan

Ronald Neumann, American diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan (2005–2007), Bahrain (2001–2004) and Algeria (1994–1997), president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, an organization of former senior diplomats that aim to strengthen American diplomacy

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