The importance of mercenaries (or contractors) within the security bureaucracy of the United States is growing rapidly. The Trump administration has been building increasingly close relationships with American companies in this industry for some time. Erik Prince’s Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, is now becoming an integral part of the Pentagon’s strategy and that of America’s allies. Such evidence comes by way of news that the United Arab Emirates had tens of thousands of contractors ready to invade Qatar during the period of highest tension between the Saudi bloc and Doha. And there was further evidence, still in the sphere of mercenary involvement in United States military plans, in the news leaked by many White House-related sources who reported they had discovered President Donald Trump’s plan to use private militiamen to strengthen U.S. forces in Afghanistan, without sending thousands of additional U.S. Armed Forces troops. The founder of the former Blackwater firm pressured Trump to extract a million-dollar contract to send his soldiers to Afghan territory. It seems that the president and his entourage (not the military, of course) have been seriously considering the possibility of “subcontracting” the war for a long time. This possibility of sending contractors instead of military soldiers still seems to be a goal of Academi’s leader, Erik Prince. In a CNN interview, he said the president’s decision not to employ contractors would be repeating a mistake, because what had happened under Obama would happen again.
What is certain is that never before has the president of a contractor company been considered to be a public spokesman of the United States government; and not just that. Until a few years ago, it was difficult to imagine the president of a private militia involved in public speeches or interviews, or even in a possible Senate race. Today, however, it seems almost well established that there is a private paramilitary system that exists for engagement in wars or crisis scenarios. The latest move involves Trump’s request that Academi be the front line of security on the island of Puerto Rico. According to information confirmed by Paul Donahue in the New York Post, the CEO of Constellis (the parent company of Academi) has already received five requests for intervention on the island devastated by Hurricane Maria. One of these requests comes from the Federal Protective Services, an integral part of the Department of Homeland Security. Puerto Rico particularly needs protection of basic goods and safe transport of fuel and water, which are essential for restoring all activity on the island.
This request for a private company’s intervention in a natural disaster can be considered another indication of the growing demand for services, also in the public sphere, of private contractor companies. It's a company that, among other things, has strong ties to the Trump administration. Blackwater’s (now Academi’s) founder is, in fact, the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. He has worked as an unofficial consultant to the White House. He owes his debut on the consultancy circuit particularly to Steve Bannon, a connection from a time when he was still national security adviser to President Trump. Bannon’s idea was to build a sort of company in parallel to the U.S. bureaucratic system and the so-called Deep State. A personality such as Prince could have been a counterweight to the Pentagon’s influence. It was influence that later became certainty, seeing as how today Trump has three generals as his main consultants on foreign and domestic policy – John F. Kelly, James Mattis and H.R. McMaster – while Bannon has been sacked along with his anti-establishment agenda. However, Prince still remains. He is evidently an integral part of Trump’s plans, most of all for the dirty work that the Pentagon would like to avoid doing. But everything comes with a price. Beyond payments for the services his company renders, there could be a place in political office. After dreading the possibility of running for senator in Michigan, he may now instead be headed toward a position in the Senate for Wyoming. He also said something else to the Washington Examiner: He would like the U.S. to support Kurdish independence and the redefinition of borders in the Middle East. It’s an idea that somebody in the U.S. establishment has been taking seriously for a long time.