When the Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line, privatizing it is probably not a wise idea,” Mattis said when asked Tuesday if there were any advantages to using a private army in Afghanistan.
“In South Asia, we continue to work by, with and through allies and partners in pursuit of peace, and two additional countries have now joined the NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan as partner nations. That’s United Arab Emirates and Qatar. And 32 of the 39 nations which have already committed forces to the mission agreed to either increase or sustain the current force levels through 2019,” he said.
Mattis said the US is fully supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace efforts.
“We are fully supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation efforts, and hard fighting is going on to convince the Taliban they must negotiate,” the US defense secretary said.
Prince, who now heads Hong Kong-based security firm Frontier Services Group founded the private security firm Blackwater, which became infamous in September 2007 when the company’s contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded another 20 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
For more than a year, Prince has been trying to whisper into President Donald Trump’s ear that his legion of contractors could do a better job fighting the Taliban than American and coalition troops.
Prince is now making another push to privatize the war amid recent Taliban successes, hoping to find a more receptive audience in Trump.
Mattis argued valiantly on Tuesday that the U.S. military is successfully applying pressure on the Taliban to move toward peace negotiations with the Afghan government. He got into a heated exchange with one reporter, who asked why Afghan troops and police were unable to stop the Taliban from occupying the city of Ghazni.
There are more than 26,000 private contractors already serving in Afghanistan, according to the latest estimate from the offices of the inspector general at the Department of Defense, the State Department, and USAID.
In the meantime, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph F. Dunford said on Tuesday that the United States has permanent interest in South Asia and will maintain its presence to have influence in that region.
“We have permanent interests in South Asia, diplomatic interests and security interests. And we’re going to maintain a presence to have influence in that region. The diplomatic presence, the security presence, and the form of that presence is going to change over time,” he said while speaking at a press briefing at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.
Gen. Dunford said that at one point, the United States had over a hundred thousand U.S. forces in Afghanistan as compared to 14,000 at present, adding there would be a permanent diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.
“There ‘ll be permanent diplomatic presence across South Asia, but I certainly don’t expect that the current forces that we have in Afghanistan represents an enduring large military commitment,” he added.