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US should replace Syria troops with private contractors: Blackwater founder

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A former Blackwater mercenary is seen outside the federal court in Washington, April 13, 2015. (Photo by AP)

The founder of an infamous private military company says American troops in Syria could be replaced with mercenaries after a planned drawdown ordered by US President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Fox Business, Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater now called Academi, welcomed Trump's Syria pullout decision, adding, however, that the US allies should not be abandoned in the war-torn country.

“The United States doesn’t have a long-term strategic obligation to stay in Syria. But, I also think it’s not a good idea to abandon our allies,” he said.

Trump announced the plan to withdraw American forces from Syria last month amid preparations by Turkey to launch an operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.

The planned pullout also raised worries among the anti-Damascus Kurds operating in northern Syria and left them feeling abandoned by Washington.

Prince, a former Navy Seal, argued that using private contractors would allow Trump to end "forever wars" and protect US allies against what he called Iranian military advisors and Syrian army soldiers.

“American history is filled with public and private partnerships, of places that the private sector can fill those gaps, where a very expensive military probably shouldn’t be,” he said.

“If there is not some kind of robust capability to defend from a ground invasion from the very conventional power that the Iranians and the Syrians have, our allies there will be smashed,” he added.

Blackwater, which was founded in 1997, received hundreds of millions of dollars in US government contracts during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The company found notoriety for a 2007 scandal in which four of its guards killed 14 Iraq civilians in Baghdad. Iraq banned Blackwater from operating in the country in 2009.

Recently, Blackwater published a full-page ad in the print issue of Recoil magazine reading, “We are coming.”

“The Recoil ad suggests Blackwater is making a resurgence on its own, but it was not clear in what form,” said Military Times newspaper.

Back in August 2017, Prince advised the Trump administration to deploy Western mercenaries to Afghanistan.

At that time, Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Prince’s initiative "proposes a way for the US to achieve its goals, by reducing the conflict’s visibility and allowing the long-term commitment.”

“This was the U.S. strategy in Colombia, long-term support for the local forces conducted almost entirely through contractors," he told Forbes magazine.

Last month, Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare the withdrawal of up to half of the roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

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