On Oct. 7, 2001, in retaliation for the attacks of 9/11, then-President George W. Bush said America would begin military strikes targeting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Ten years later, President Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. One his campaign promises was to end the war in Iraq. But in 2011, he turned his gaze to Afghanistan and said he would begin withdrawing troops.
That was six years ago. Today, the U.S. still has 8,400 troops in Afghanistan who are trying to prevent the country's official government from collapsing. But the Taliban has ascended yet again.
So with no end to the war in sight and billions being spent, USA Today reports the White House is considering a drastically different approach. President Donald Trump might hire 5,500 private contractors to replace many American troops and to "advise Afghan combat forces." The plan is said to cost about a quarter of the $40 billion of what was budgeted.
What follows is an interview with Travis Tritten, defense and national security reporter at the Washington Examiner. Tritten told Newsy's Chance Seales, host of "The Why," what he's hearing at the Pentagon:
TRAVIS TRITTEN: This is a plan that has been that's been rattling around Washington for a few months now, a plan by Erik Prince who was a security contractor during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's been shopping this around kind of behind the scenes to the administration and to Capitol Hill, and now we are starting to see some public details about some of the ideas he has — kind of this out-of-the-box thinking on what the administration could do in Afghanistan.
CHANCE SEALES: Do you think in the administration that they are looking to offload some of the responsibilities that we have there? We had been there for about 15 years. Is this something they would entrust to a private contractor?
Tritten: I think what's driving the interest from the administration is frustration with the situation in Afghanistan, particularly the president's frustration about the strategic position we are in. So I think that they are looking for new ways or an escape hatch to get out of the same foreign policy trap that caught both the Obama administration and the Bush administration, which was holding the status quo in Afghanistan or sending more troops there when things start to look bad.
Seales: Is this a way of outsourcing responsibility?
Tritten: You have to remember whether you send contractors there or you send another wave of U.S. troops, the goal in Afghanistan remains the same. It's to prevent the country and the government from collapsing and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
So if you send these contractors in, the goal will be the same. The U.S. is still going to be trying to prevent the country from collapsing. But what it does politically, the idea behind it, would be to move the U.S. out of the spotlight.
Seales: Do you think we would be facing the same possibility if we had another administration? This seems like a no liability situation, but do you think any other president would possibly try the same thing?
Tritten: I think it's in Trump's nature to bring new ideas to the table. But the second part of that is also that Erik Prince has close connections to the administration. His sister Betsy DeVos is education secretary, and Prince was a supporter of Trump during the campaign, so he has the president's ear. He had an in, and he has a history of security contracting. I think that's what's got this plan so close to the president.
He's pitching this as a cost-saving plan. He's saying he can do it for $10 billion a year. Whether or not that's true, I think is arguable. There may be additional costs in there that he's downplaying. But he is saying, "Look, we can do this cheaper."
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