Erik Prince, the former CEO of the private military company known as Blackwater, wants to step up the Afghan air war with a private air force capable of intelligence collection and close-air support, according to a recent proposal submitted to the Afghan government.
According to a senior Afghan military official, Prince has submitted a business proposal offering a “turn-key composite air wing” to help the fledgling Afghan air force in its fight against the Taliban and other militant groups.
The development comes as the White House is considering a plan to draw down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and replace the ensuing power vacuum with contractors.
Pentagon officials are skeptical of that plan, and moreover, a senior Afghan defense official said that U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince regarding the contractor plan.
The aircraft offered in the proposal includes fixed-wing planes, attack helicopters and drones capable of providing close-air support to maneuvering ground forces, and the proposal also states that weapons release decisions will still be made by Afghans.
The company named on the proposal to the Afghan government, Lancaster6, is already operating some of its aircraft in Afghanistan providing air mobility, troop transport, and parachute air drop support for supplies and cargo.