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Disturbing development: Trump is considering Erik Prince’s proposal to privatize war in Afghanistan for a while. If he does so, all pretense of “liberating Afghanistan” or “fighting terrorism” would be dropped for unabashed colonialism. A quick history:
Erik Prince’s proposal stems from two core motivations: A romantic view of British colonialism and desire to extract profit. He openly cites the East India Company a source for his proposal. Emulating the East India Company is bad.
The Crown granted a Royal Charter to George, Earl of Cumberland in 1600 who formed the company. The East India Company was a government approved monopoly. While originally a private enterprise, they were the arm of British colonialism. Their history in Afghanistan is a disaster
Caught in the Great Game with Russia, the East India Company invaded Afghanistan. Having failed to negotiate with Emir Dost Mohammad, in 1838 they issued a declaration claiming they weren’t invading Afghanistan, rather they were there to support the “rightful” ruler Suja Shah.
The pretense was “liberating” Afghanistan, but in reality, it was to bring the country under British dominion. The Maharaja of Punjab joined his Dal Khalsa with the East India Company’s forces to create the Grand Army of the Indus. They marched on Afghanistan on December 1838.
They made their way through Kandahar to Ghazni, fending off an attack by locals. Afghanistan had no standing army and instead the Shah relied on rallying local warriors and landlords. By August 1839, the Grand Army had defeated Dost Mohmmad Khan & installed their puppet ruler.
Victory, right? Nope. You can invade and occupy Afghanistan, but you can’t hold it. No one wins a war in Afghanistan.
The Company was exploitative. They extracted a vast amount of Afghanistan’s natural wealth, expanded their monopoly over trade, & bribed local chiefs. Under the guise of “reform” they eliminated the waqfs, endowments used to pay orphans, widows, religious schools etc.
The eliminating of the waqf and use of bribes had lasting economic impact on Afghanistan, who would never fully develop its own economy and would from then on rely on foreign subsidiaries for its government.
By 1841 resistance was boiling up. North of Kabul, Mir Masjidi Khan had been leading a stiff resistance to the British while Akbar Khan (Dost Mohammad's nephew) rallied local fighters. The British had Mir Masjidi poisoned rallying more people to the resistance.
In a matter of months Kabul was in open rebellion. A mob swept through the streets. Suja Shah sent out his guards, commanded by Scotsman Campbell only to be routed. Kabul was lost. The British retreated.
January 1942, General Eliphinstone retreated from Kabul with his army. Between the harsh snows and the constant raids, the British forces were destroyed to a man. Only Dr. William Brydon made it to Jalalabad along with a handful of servants.
British army chaplain GR Gleig wrote: "a war begun for no wise purpose... brought to a close after suffering & disaster w/out glory attached either to the govt which directed, or great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military was acquired w/ this war"
Erik Prince romanticizes this history. He sees a chance, like the East India Company, for profit. That is his second motivation. He repeatedly refers to Afghanistan's mines
It is no accident that this comes among China’s increasing influence in Pakistan & Afghanistan and its One Road One Belt plan. China is interested in Afghanistan’s mines, like Mes Aynak, a copper mine. Mes Aynak is the site of Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist & Zoroastrian temples
Erik Prince is very conscious of Afghanistan’s mines and resources. Foreign intervention in Afghanistan has come full circle. It started with a colonial endeavor by a private army to extract its wealth and resources. Erik Prince wants to return to that. All pretense is dropped.
He wants a private army to occupy Afghanistan & extract its’s wealth once more. His rose-colored view of the East India Company has blinded him to the lesson: The endeavor was a disaster. Mark Twain was right; history may not repeat itself, but it oft rhymes.
There is no other way to put it, the war in Afghanistan is a neo-colonial war and with this new proposal with shed all other pretense.
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