Back in August I wrote about mercenary tycoon Erik Prince’s proposal to privatize America’s war in Afghanistan.
*Reminder – Prince is the brother of Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He was also implicated in a bizarre secret scheme to open a back-channel line of communication between president-elect Trump and Moscow.*
Today BuzzFeed News posted details of the pitch, including the PowerPoint slides that made up Prince’s presentation. It makes for stunning reading, with a new twist:
Not only was Prince proposing embedding his mercenaries — which he termed “mentors — with indigenous Afghan forces while providing combat air support and other services, he planned to pay for it by mining strategic minerals from the areas he promised to pacify.
BuzzFeed’s Aram Roston spells out just how lucrative this part of the operation was anticipated to be:
One surprising element is the commercial promise Prince envisions: that the US will get access to Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, used in batteries; uranium; magnesite; and “rare earth elements,” critical metals used in high technology from defense to electronics. One slide estimates the value of mineral deposits in Helmand province alone at $1 trillion.
The presentation makes it plain that Prince intends to fund the effort through these rich deposits. His plan, one slide says, is “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.” The slides also say that mining could provide jobs to Afghans.
When I wrote about this back in the summer, I figured that Prince was planning to fill his company’s coffers with a combination of US and Afghan government money. Instead, and in the best tradition of the East India Company (which apparently served as his inspiration for this scheme), Prince was going to make his money the old fashioned way. By imperial conquest.
I’m shocked Trump didn’t go for it.