Steve Bannon’s failed plan to outsource the war in Afghanistan to mercenaries

The New York Times reports: Trump authorized Mr. Mattis to send up to 4,000 additional troops — a decision the Pentagon announced in a cryptic late-afternoon news release on June 14 that played down its significance and suggested it was a stopgap measure. White House officials said nothing publicly about the decision, and Mr. Mattis said he would not send any troops until there was a broader policy in place.

Mr. Bannon, meanwhile, continued to play disrupter. As the administration tried to flesh out the policy, he recruited two outside businessmen — Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management — who proposed plans to substitute private military contractors for American troops. Both men owned companies that supply contractors and would have profited from such a policy.

On a Saturday morning in early July, Mr. Bannon visited Mr. Mattis at his office in the Pentagon to lobby him on the unorthodox concept. Mr. Mattis listened politely, officials said, but dismissed it. Although Mr. Bannon continued to share his views privately with Mr. Trump, he became marginalized from the process even before he left the White House on Friday.

On Monday, a few hours before Mr. Trump was to speak, Breitbart published an interview with Mr. Prince, in which he criticized the president for not being more receptive to his proposal for mercenaries. “The presidency by its nature lives in a bubble,” Mr. Prince said. “When you fill it with former general officers, you’re going to get that stream of advice.” [Continue reading…]

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