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The US in Afghanistan and the Privatization of War

Published Date: July 22, 2017


Since the past several weeks, the US media are discussing the privatization of the war in Afghanistan.  In an article published in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as well as in an interview on a radio program “Breitbart News Sunday”, the founder of the private military company Blackwater emphasized on changing the US strategy towards Afghanistan. He said that now the only way to win the war in Afghanistan was to bring the mercenaries in the battlefield. Three weeks ago, the US President Donald Trump’s some advisors and close friends have also undertaken efforts to deploy private army in Afghanistan, instead of US military soldiers. 

The issue of the privatization of the war in Afghanistan comes at a time that a recent report of UNAMA shows that the ongoing year was a bloody year for the Afghan civilians and only in its first six months, 1634 airstrikes were carried out in all over the country. [1] In the meanwhile, the US President Donald Trump met four US military members, who had fought in Afghanistan, and asked them about the security situation in Afghanistan. “I want to know what the purpose of our 16-years war in Afghanistan was and what we have to do [now]. Tell me about what you have seen and what your assessment is?” [2] Trump asked.

What is the background of mercenaries in our region? How did the US war in Afghanistan go on in the past years and what were the government and private militaries’ role? Will the businessman Trump privatize the war in Afghanistan? If yes, will the private military win the war for the US? These and other related questions are answered here.


Mercenaries in the battleground

The ancient history of using mercenaries in the wars is proven from the fact that some historians and sociologists believe mercenary to be the second old job that the human beings were occupied with.

A mercenary is one who fights for a foreign country or fights for the money and self-interests without being a party of the war at first. Many mercenaries have fought in the armies of empires and great conquerors throughout the history.

An excellent example of mercenaries in the modern history is the East India Company which reigned over India for several centuries.


The US war in Afghanistan; between the private and government militaries

It is not the first time that the US is using the private military to fight the war in Afghanistan, but also before this, the US had hired mercenaries to fight in Afghanistan in the past 17 years. At first, the war in Afghanistan was being carried out by CIA, Special Forces and private contractors who were supported by the US air forces and the local anti-Taliban forces.

The Americans are not the first foreigners who used mercenaries in their war in Afghanistan either, before this, in addition to some famous conquerors; the British army used India mercenaries in their two wars in Afghanistan in the 19th century.

After the collapse of the Taliban regime, the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan increased gradually and finally in 2011 the US had the highest number of forces in Afghanistan. We can say that the US war in Afghanistan in the past 15 years was not carried only by the US government soldiers. Mercenaries were fighting in Afghanistan between the end of 2001 and 2010. During this time, more than 52 to 90 domestic and foreign private security companies were active in Afghanistan which had more than 40 thousand soldiers under their command.

In the second half of 2010, the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree and banned the activities of 52 of these private companies including Blackwater. [3] After that, Blackwater was active under the name “XE”.  


Businessman Trump and the privatization of war

Before Presidential elections, Donald Trump would criticize the war in Afghanistan and Obama’s strategy in this regard. However, during the presidential campaigns, he made no important comment about the Afghan war. After winning Presidential elections, although he talked with the Afghan President over the telephone for several times and vowed to clarify the US policy towards Afghanistan, six months into the new administration, the US is yet to decide about its strategy in Afghanistan. According to the White House, the delay in announcing the new US strategy towards Afghanistan is due to assessment and comprehensive consultations so that an end could be put to the war in Afghanistan.

Since the past one month, the issue of the privatization of war in Afghanistan is being emphasized upon. This demand, to a greater part, is made by the heads of the private military companies and people who have made such investments. The request for the privatization of war is made by the founder of Blackwater Eric D. Prince and head of Dyne Corps Steve Feinberg who have the support of some advisors and son-in-law of Trump as well.

In his interviews with WSJ and other media outlets, the founder of Blackwater said that the only solution for the war in Afghanistan was its privatization. He believes that the East India Company in the Southern Asia was a successful example in this regard. The East India Company reigned in India for several centuries. Moreover, according to him, the privatization of war in Afghanistan will decrease the expenses of war as well. He said, if the war was privatized and mercenaries were dispatched to Afghanistan, the Afghan war will cost only 10% of its current expenditures. He indicates the first years of the war in Afghanistan to support his argument because he says in these years private military companies played an active role in the Afghan war. [4] 

Eric Prince, Stephen Bannon, and Jared Kushner also met the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis to discuss it with him. According to US media, Mattis has heard what they had to say but has not commented in this regard. It seems that James Mattis is against the scheme.


Will mercenaries make the US successful?

The most important question is can just a few thousand mercenaries accomplish what more than 100 thousand soldiers and more than 15 Generals could not fulfill in the past 15 years? It comes at a time that private security companies are defamed in Afghanistan, and they were involved in some of the bloody and irresponsible acts in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

The founder of Blackwater gives the example of East India Company while even this company was not a successful scheme. At that time, the main factors were Indian feudalism and the weak Mogul Kingdom. Due to the deeds of East India Company, Muslims and Hindus in India were forced to demand freedom from the company. Their war is known as the 1857 liberation war or mutiny. Due to these two factors, British were compelled to bring India under the reign of the Queen and made an end to the company’s control over India.

Deploying mercenaries in the battlefield will certainly benefit those who work in private military companies, but it will not make the US’s 17-years-old war successful in Afghanistan.

The end

[1] Washington Post, >US Air Strikes in Afghanistan are at levels not seen since Obama troop surge<, 17 July 2017, see it online:

 [2] Naray News, «ټرمپ په افغانستان کې د امریکا پر پوځي حضور نیوکې کړې» [Trump has criticizes the US military presence in Afghanistan], 19 July 2017, read it here:

[3] Duetsche Welle, «حکومت افغانستان: برنامۀ انحلال هشت شرکت امنیتي موفقانه انجام شد» [The Afghan government: the program to revoke eight security companies accomplished successfully], 3 Oct 2010, read it online:

[4] Click the following link to read the full text of the founder of Blackwater’s interview:

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