अमेरिका में राष्ट्रपति चुनावों के वोटों की गिनती जारी है, जो संकेत मिल रहे हैं उनके मुताबिक मौजूदा राष्ट्रपति ट्रम्प चुनावों में हार रहे हैं और जो बाइडिन अगले अमेरिकी राष्ट्रपति बनते नज़र आ रहे हैं, अमेरिकी चुनावों के नतीजों को लेकर भारत में भी लोग इन्तिज़ार कर रहे हैं, इंटरनेट की वजह से अब सूचनाएं बहुत जल्द मिल जाती हैं, दुनियां करीब आयी है,
अमेरिका सबसे शक्तिशाली देश है, अपनी इसी शक्ति की वजह ये दुनियांभर में अपना दखल रखता है, कहाँ क्या होना है ये अमेरिकी राष्ट्रपति तै करता है, अमेरिका की नाराज़गी कोई नहीं लेना चाहता है, अमेरिका का मज़बूत कण्ट्रोल संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ और यूरोपियन यूनियन पर है, इनकी मदद से अमेरिका किसी भी देश को धमका लेता है
इस चुनावों में ट्रम्प और जो बाइडेन आमने सामने हैं, ट्रम्प अपने चार साल पूरे कर चुके हैं, अगर ट्रम्प के इन चार सालों पर नज़र डालें तो मालूम होता है कि ट्रम्प ने जो कहा वो किया है, जैसे कि अफ़ग़ानिस्तान से सेना वापस बुलाना, अफ़ग़ानिस्तान में शांति कायम करने की पहल, सीरिया की जंग से खुद को बाहर निकालना, यमन में सऊदी गठबंधन को समझौते के लिए कहना, इराक से अमेरिकी सेना को निकालना, नार्थ कोरिया से आगे बढ़ के बातचीत करना, ट्रम्प ने जारी जंगों से अमेरिका को बाहर निकालने का काम आखिर तक जारी रखा है साथ ही कहीं भी नया युद्ध शुरू नहीं किया
ईरान, फिलीपीन, वेनाजुला को लेकर ट्रम्प ने आक्रामकता अपनायी लेकिन उसे युद्ध तक पहुँचने नहीं दिया, इस्राईल के साथ जैसा उसने वादा किया था उसे पूरा किया है, अरब देशों को लाइन लगा के इस्राईल से समझौते के लिए खड़ा कर दिया है
भारत के मामले ने ट्रम्प ‘तफ़रीह’ करते नज़र आये, शायद उन्हें मोदी के बारे में अच्छे से जानकारी थी, कश्मीर मामले में मध्यक्षता की बात हो या कोरोना की दवा, ट्रम्प ने भारत को आँखें दिखाने, धमकाने में देर नहीं की
पाकिस्तान से ट्रम्प का आकड़ा 36 का था लेकिन इमरान खान के पाकिस्तान का प्रधानमंत्री बनने के बाद रिश्तों में नरमी आयी, ट्रम्प की पत्नी मलीना इमरान खान की बहुत पुरानी दोस्त हैं और ट्रम्प का दामाद भी इमरान खान का करीबी है, इस वजह से इमरान खान और ट्रम्प की tuning बनी रही, ट्रम्प ने तालिबान से समझौते में इमरान खान की विशेष मदद ली,
अमेरिका के भावी राष्ट्रपति जो बाइडेन एक राजनीतिज्ञ हैं, उनके पास लम्बा अनुभव है, जो अमेरिकी इस्टैब्लिशमेंट की पसंद है, बाइडेन के समय में अगर वो अमेरिका के राष्ट्रपति बनते हैं तो मिडेल ईस्ट, अफ़ग़ानिस्तान, पाकिस्तान, भारत में अनेक चुनौतियां सामने खड़ी होंगी,अरब देशों में हिंसा बढ़ेगी
बाइडेन और ब्लैक वाटर संस्था के आपस में बहुत गहरे रिश्ते हैं, ब्लैक वाटर का संस्थापक एरिक प्रिंस अमेरिकी सेना का पूर्व अधिकारी है, ब्लैक वाटर CIA, पेंटागॉन के कार्यक्रमों, निर्देशों के मुताबिक दुनियांभर में काम करती है, दिखावे में इसका काम समाज सेवा है लेकिन असली काम उस देश की सत्ता को उखाड़ फेंकने के लिए आतंकवादी गतविधियों को अंजाम देना है
अफ़ग़ानिस्तान, इराक, सीरिया में ब्लैक वाटर के आतंकवादी पहले से मौजूद हैं, बाइडेन के राष्ट्रपति बन जाने के बाद इनकी संख्या और बढ़ा दी जाएगी, तालिबान के साथ समझौते को ख़तम करने की बहुत उम्मीद है, बाइडेन अमेरिकी सेना को अफ़ग़ानिस्तान में बने रहना चाहेगा, ISIS-दाइश जैसे कुख्यात आतंकवादी संगठन को पुनः सक्रिय कर खूनखराबा करवाया जा सकता है, पाकिस्तान, कश्मीर में दाइश के आतंकवादियों को बाइडेन के राष्ट्रपति बन जाने के बाद भेजा जा सकता है
ट्रम्प एक खिलाडी ‘बॉक्सर’ था एक व्यापारी है, उसने अपना कार्यकाल धमकाने तक महदूद रखा, जबकि बाइडेन के समय में दुनियां बड़ी तबाही देखेगी …
– परवेज़ ख़ान
Prince in 2015 Born Erik Dean Prince June 6, 1969 (age 51) Holland, Michigan, U.S. Education Hillsdale College (BA) Known for Founder of Blackwater Spouse(s) Joan Prince (m. 1991; died 2003) Joanna Houck (m. 2004; div. 2012) Stacy DeLuke (m. date unknown) Children 7 Relatives Edgar Prince (father) Betsy DeVos (sister) Military career Allegiance United States Service/branch United States Navy Rank Lieutenant Unit United States Navy SEALs
Erik Dean Prince (born June 6, 1969) is an American businessman, former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, and the founder of the private military company Blackwater USA, now called Academi. He served as Blackwater’s CEO until 2009, and as its chairman, until its sale to a group of investors in 2010. Prince now heads the private equity firm Frontier Resource Group, and is chairman of the Hong Kong-listed Frontier Services Group.
He is the brother of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Early life, education, and military service Prince was born on June 6, 1969, in Holland, Michigan, the son of Edgar D. Prince and his wife, Elsa (Zwiep), and the youngest of four children. He graduated from Holland Christian High School. Prince and his father toured the world together, visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, divided Berlin, and Normandy. According to his mother, these trips “made a big impression” on the young Prince.
Prince was accepted into the United States Naval Academy and attended for three semesters before leaving, explaining that he loved the Navy but disliked the Academy. He went on to receive his B.A. in economics from Hillsdale College in 1992Some sources say Prince dropped out of the Naval Academy, while others say he transferred to Hillsdale.During his time at Hillsdale, he served as a volunteer firefighter and as a cold-water diver for the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department. Prince eventually became an emergency medical technician.
In 1990, Prince secured an internship in the White House under George H.W. Bush, but soon left to intern for California congressman Dana Rohrabacher, President Ronald Reagan’s former speechwriter. Rohrabacher described Prince as “a bright, driven young man.” At the age of 21, Prince volunteered to search for a mass grave in Nicaragua, to expose killings under President Daniel Ortega and later said that he had found one.
After college, Prince was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy via Officer Candidate School in 1992. He went on to become a Navy SEAL and deployed with SEAL Team 8 to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Balkans. He credits the SEALs for being an outlet for his entrepreneurial spirit. In his autobiography he states that during the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s, he realized that there was a need for private training facilities for special operations.
Prince ended his U.S. Navy service prematurely in 1995 when his father died. Erik assumed control of daily operations at Prince Machine Corporation for a year until 1996 when his mother sold the company for $1.35 billion in cash to Johnson Controls.
Private career Prince moved to Virginia Beach and personally financed the formation of Blackwater Worldwide in 1997 He bought 6,000 acres (24 km2) of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and set up a school for special operations.The name “Blackwater” comes from the peat-colored bogs in which the school is located
Prince credits the 1994 Rwandan genocide with his decision to start Blackwater. He later said, “It really bothered me. It made me realize you can’t sit back and pontificate. You have to act.”
From 1997 to 2010, Blackwater was awarded $2 billion in government security contracts, more than $1.6 billion of which were unclassified federal contracts and an unknown amount of classified work.From 2001 to 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates.It became the largest of the State Department’s three private security companies, providing 987 guards for embassies and bases abroad. Prince built a shooting range on his rural Virginia land to serve as a nearby training facility to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. In his memoir Prince says that he provided the CIA with links to Afghan warlords who helped “topple the Taliban and drive al Qaeda into hiding.”
Blackwater came under increasing criticism after the Nisour Square massacre in September 2007, in which Blackwater employees opened fire in a crowded square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding 20 more. Three guards were convicted in October 2014 of 14 manslaughter charges, and another of murder, in a U.S. court in 2019.
The criticism continued after president Barack Obama took office in 2009. Prince said he believes that much of this criticism stems from politics. “I put myself and my company at the CIA’s disposal for some very risky missions,” Prince told Vanity Fair for its January 2010 issue. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.”
Nevertheless, in 2010 the Barack Obama administration awarded the company a $120 million United States Department of State security contract and about $100 million in new CIA work.
Prince has defended Blackwater’s work, pointing to the fact that in 40,000 personal security missions, only 200 involved guards firing their weapons. He has said, “No one under our care was ever killed or injured. We kept them safe, all the while we had 30 of our men killed.”
Prince, according to author Robert Young Pelton, reportedly thinks of Blackwater’s relationship to the military as something similar to FedEx’s relationship to the U.S. Post Office: “an efficient, privatized solution to sclerotic and wasteful government bureaucracy.” He credits his father’s competitive streak in the automotive business with the inspiration to design a lighter, faster army.
Prince resigned as CEO of Blackwater on March 2, 2009, and remained chairman of the board until he sold the company in late 2010 to a group of investors.
Disclosure as part of a covert CIA task force Prince was part of a CIA task force created to kill terrorists. Allegedly, the House intelligence congressional committee leaked his name to the press.Prince has said that he is convinced that former CIA director Leon Panetta outed him as a CIA asset, after shutting down the covert CIA training operation in 2009.
Private security for the United Arab Emirates After Blackwater faced mounting legal problems in the United States, Prince was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010. His task was to assemble an 800-member troop of foreign troops for the U.A.E., which was planned months before the Arab Spring. He helped the UAE found a new company named Reflex Responses, or R2, with 51 percent local ownership, carefully avoiding his name on corporate documents. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit troops, among others from Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm hired by several African governments during the 1990s to defeat violent rebellions in addition to protecting oil and diamond reserves.
As of January 2011, Prince was training a force of 2,000 Somalis for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The program was funded by several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and backed by the United States. Prince’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, said Prince had “no financial role” in the project and declined to answer any questions about Prince’s involvement. John Burnett of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants said, “There are 34 nations with naval assets trying to stop piracy and it can only be stopped on land. With Prince’s background and rather illustrious reputation, I think it’s quite possible that it might work.”
Private equity investor in Africa Prince currently heads a private equity firm called Frontier Resource Group and is chairman of Frontier Services Group Ltd, a Bermuda-incorporated logistics and transport company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Frontier Services Group is backed by China’s state-owned CITIC Group and Hong Kong-based investor Johnson Chun Shun Ko [zh], with the Chinese government listed as the largest investor. Prince’s ventures advise and support Chinese investment in oil and gas in Africa.
In May 2014, it was reported that Prince’s plan to build a diesel refinery in South Sudan, in which $10 million had already been invested, was suspended. The halted refinery project was reported to be supported personally by the country’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit. Frontier Services Group was reported to be paid $23.3 million by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum to transport supplies and perform maintenance on oil production facilities.
As part of Prince’s Africa-focused investment strategy, Frontier Services Group purchased stakes in two Kenyan aviation companies, Kijipwa Aviation and Phoenix Aviation, to provide logistics services for the country’s oil and gas industry.In October 2014, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority denied Kijipwa Aviation an aviation license renewal.
Prince also purchased a 25% stake in Austrian aviation company Airborne Technologies. In 2014, Prince commissioned the company to modify Thrush 510G crop-dusters with surveillance equipment, machine guns, armor, and other weapons, including custom pylons that could mount either NATO or Russian ballistics. One of the modified crop-dusters was delivered to Salva Kiir Mayardit’s forces in South Sudan shortly before a contract with Frontier Services Group was cancelled. Frontier Services Group owns two of the modified Thrush 510Gs, but since executives learned the craft had been weaponized by Prince, the company has declined to sell or use the aircraft to avoid violating U.S. export controls.
Ties to Trump campaigns The New York Times reported in May 2018 that Prince arranged an August 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, attended by himself, Donald Trump, Jr., George Nader and Joel Zamel, during which Nader reportedly told Trump Jr. the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE were eager to help his father win the election, and Zamel pitched a social media manipulation campaign from his Israeli company Psy-Group.Prince had stated in his November 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that he had no formal communications or contact, nor any unofficial role, with the Trump campaign.Asked about this contradiction in March 2019, Prince replied, “I don’t know if [the Committee] got the transcript wrong” and “not all the discussion that day was transcribed, and that’s a fact.” Prince acknowledged for the first time in March 2019 that he had attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, asserting he was there to “talk about Iran policy.”
Special Counsel investigators have examined a meeting around January 11, 2017, in the Seychelles that was convened by the UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (known as “MBZ”), which Prince attended. Also present at that meeting were Nader and Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund, who is close to Vladimir Putin. UAE officials reportedly believed that Prince was representing the Trump transition and Dmitriev was representing Putin. The Washington Post had reported on April 3, 2017, that American, European and Arab officials said the Seychelles meeting was “part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.” Prince denied in his November 2017 House Intelligence Committee testimony that he had represented the Trump transition or that the meeting involved any back-channel.The Washington Post reported on March 7, 2018, that the Special Counsel had gathered evidence that contradicts Prince, and ABC News reported on April 6, 2018, that Nader had met with Prince at a Manhattan hotel days before the Seychelles meeting and later provided him with biographical information about Dmitriev.
The Mueller report later found that Nader had represented Prince to Dmitriev as “designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you! I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team,” while Prince “acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team,” although Bannon told investigators that Prince had not informed him of the Dmitriev meeting in advance. Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that “I didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy,” although the Mueller report found that he and Nader made significant preparations to meet Dmitriev. Although Prince characterized a second meeting between him and Dmitriev in a hotel bar as a chance encounter of no consequence, the meeting was actually pre-arranged after Prince had learned from calls back home that Russia had moved an aircraft carrier off Libya and he wanted to convey that the United States would not accept any Russian involvement in Libya.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff announced on April 30, 2019, that he was sending a criminal referral to the Justice Department alleging Prince had provided false testimony to the committee.United States Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd confirmed on February 4, 2020, that the Department of Justice was opening an investigation into Prince.
Connections to Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela On December 30, 2019, it was reported that Prince had traveled to Venezuela to meet with a top aide of Nicolas Maduro.Prince has been referred to the United States Treasury Department for possible violations of sanctions against the Maduro government.
Political infiltration operations allegations The New York Times reported in March 2020 that in recent years Prince had recruited former intelligence agents to infiltrate “Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda.”Prince’s efforts were reportedly conducted in an effort to assist Project Veritas, a conservative organisation that attempts to discredit Democrats and liberal groups.
Proposed cooperation with the Wagner group & activities in Libya In April 2020, the Intercept reported that Prince has offered his services as a subcontractor to Russian Wagner group’s activities in Mozambique and Libya, suggesting to provide aerial surveillance platforms and a ground force. An investigation by the Rolling Stone has since revealed a number of connections between Prince and the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s attempts in 2019 to overthrow the U.N.-backed government of Libya.
Personal life Prince lives in both Middleburg, Virginia and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.He converted to Catholicism in 1992 and describes himself as a practicing member of the church.
Political views Prince describes himself as a libertarian.He has said, “I’m a very free market guy. I’m not a huge believer that government provides a whole lot of solutions. Some think that government can solve society’s problems. I tend to think private charities and private organizations are better solutions.
Prince credits his time as a White House intern with some of his political views. He said that “having that White House internship responsibility and badges, I walked around some of these other cavernous federal agencies, and you want to talk about depressing? Walk through HHS or HUD or Commerce, you name it. Leviathan realized.”Speaking of his internship, Prince said, “I saw a lot of things I didn’t agree with–homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act.” Disenchanted, Prince became a backer of presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
Prince has advocated for a leaner, more efficient military. He suggests several ways to make the military more efficient without compromising security. His suggestions include: greater accountability of costs, using appropriate equipment for each job, reduction of overhead, and operational and procurement reform.
Contributions to political and charitable causes Between 1998 and 2007, Prince donated more than $200,000 to Republican and third-party causes.In 2006, Prince contributed money to the Green Party of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania as part of a failed effort to help Republican Rick Santorum defeat Democrat Bob Casey. He has also donated to the Family Research Council,a beneficiary of the Prince and DeVos families since the 1980s.
In 2016 Prince contributed $250,000 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and $100,000 to Make America Number 1, a Trump-aligned super PAC helmed by Rebekah Mercer.
Other Republican politicians that Prince has contributed to include Ron Paul, Walter Jones, Joe Miller, Todd Tiarht, Mike Pence, Dana Rohrabacher, Oliver North, Pat Buchanan, Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Duncan L. Hunter, Ted Poe, Jon Kyl, Pete Hoekstra, and Mitt Romney.
Prince serves as vice president of the Prince Foundation, which his family founded.In the 1990s Prince founded the Freiheit (“Liberty”) Foundation, a nonprofit charity which funded a number of conservative causes. Prince has often donated to organizations which promote Christian causes, including the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and the Prison Fellowship, and politically conservative groups such as the Council for National Policy, of which his father was vice president at the time of his death. Prince supported a Muslim orphanage in Afghanistan and built mosques at Blackwater bases.
Family Prince is the younger brother of United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,and the brother-in-law of former Alticor (Amway) president Dick DeVos.
Prince’s first wife, Joan Nicole,died of cancer in 2003 at age 36. She introduced Prince to Catholicism. They had four children. He later wrote that he had an affair with Joanna Ruth Houck, his children’s nanny, while his wife was dying. Prince and Houck married in 2004. He is now married to Stacy DeLuke, a former Blackwater spokeswoman.
Prince has seven children. His youngest child, Charles Donovan Prince, was named after William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
Blackwater’s Founder Talks Guns, Tactics, Logistics, And Politics
September – October 2019
Blackwater’s Founder Talks Guns, Tactics, Logistics, And Politics
Iain Harrison It’s hard to find a person with a neutral opinion of Erik Prince. To some, he’s the epitome of the hard-charging capitalist, finding solutions to problems where the big government failed miserably. To others, he’s a war profiteer, singlehandedly responsible for the deaths of 17 civilians in Nisour Square in Iraq, and whose company was supposedly banned from doing business in that country because of it. It wasn’t, but hey, why let facts get in the way of the narrative? Somewhere between the characters of Hank Rearden and Mephistopheles lies the real Erik Prince, and in order to divine which end of that spectrum someone falls, it’s usually a good idea to observe what they do, rather than rely on what they say.
We first encountered Prince at SHOT Show in January 2019, when he was signing copies of his autobiography. A 30-ish double amputee ambled up on prosthetic legs, shook Prince’s hand, and for the next five minutes, the two of them cracked jokes, bullsh*tted, and reminisced, while Prince’s staff glanced nervously at their watches, anxious about missing the next appointment. If anyone had reason to resent the globe-trotting venture capitalist, the man who had given his legs while a Blackwater contractor would be a good candidate. Instead, he quietly said, “Best job I ever had,” as the two parted company.
Growing up in the Midwest, Prince managed to escape the fate of many sons born to self-made millionaires. In our experience, such scions often mature into men devoid of purpose or responsibility, lacking challenge and content to live off their trust fund. In Prince’s case, he left home to join the SEALs, the start of a career that’d revolve around military operations in both the public and private sectors for the next 27 years, and result in the creation of a company synonymous with the private sector’s involvement in America’s Middle Eastern wars.
Following the sale of Blackwater in 2009, Prince moved his operations to the Gulf States and minimized his visibility in the U.S. media. Recently, he’s been back in the news, publicly espousing a strategy for Afghanistan, which relies heavily on a small contractor force to bring an end to the conflict. According to Reuters, he’s also been pitching the idea of a force comprising 5,000 private military contractors (PMC) to overthrow the Maduro regime in Venezuela, which reportedly has failed to gain traction in the Trump administration. We sat down with him to talk guns, geopolitics, and PMCs.
RECOIL: What was your first introduction to firearms?
Erik Prince:My dad’s dad died when he was 13 during the Great Depression, so he worked his ass off to support the family and was never much of an outdoorsman. I grew up in suburban Michigan and learned to trap muskrats and raccoons as a kid, so you’d see me at 5 a.m. in December out pedaling my bike in the snow, carrying a baseball bat because I didn’t have a gun yet, but eventually, I moved up to a pellet gun. The first real firearm I shot was due to my dad having a boat down in Florida during the cocaine wars of the ’80s — the traffickers would grab a boat and murder the occupants, so my dad bought a Mini14 and an 870, and I kinda adopted those. The next gun I bought was at an auction; it was a Ruger 10/22 covered in the Budweiser logo, and I shot the hell out of that thing and have passed it on to my son.
RECOIL: Do you have any notable guns in the collection now that you’d never part with?
EP: I have a 1901 Naval landing gun, which went around the world with Teddy Roosevelt. The cool thing is that it was a gift from the armorers at Blackwater; they found it in derelict condition and with unbelievable love and painstaking detail, they took that thing apart — every spring, every pin, every piece of metal was restored and made that thing fire again, and they presented it to me. I’m very nostalgic about that gun.
RECOIL: How and where do you spend your time these days?
EP:(Laughing) I work and fly too much. I enjoyed building and running Blackwater and really enjoyed employing thousands of highly motivated, hard-charging people. Standing around at the SHOT Show, it was extremely satisfying to have hundreds of guys say, ‘Hey, thanks, Erik. That was the best job I ever had.’ And so I’m running hard to do that again. Unfortunately, that means I’m gone too much, but I enjoy coming home to Middleburg, Virginia, where my wife runs a great farm, but I spend some time in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Hong Kong.
RECOIL: What’s Erik Prince been doing since the sale of Blackwater?
EP: I moved to the UAE because of piracy off the coast of Somalia. At the time there were 80 to 90 ships a year being hijacked and the UAE government wanted to do something about that, so I gave some ideas as to build a police unit, which effectively ended piracy and did it for a cost of less than the pirates were taking in ransom per year. It was kind of a passion project, and it showed how cheaply and effectively the private sector can do things if allowed to innovate. I compare that to the U.S. Navy, the EU navies that were dispersed all over the Indian Ocean — if you have a problem in your yard, the smart homeowner doesn’t chase bugs all around the yard with a spray can, rather they find the nest, and that’s what we did.
RECOIL: And since then?
EP:Since then, I started a private equity fund, I’ve invested in some mining and energy upstream geoscience activities, and I’ve been involved in some more aviation and transportation work in Africa and the Middle East. I’ve been very public about what the United States should do in Afghanistan and a few other of the nagging problems where people continue to suffer because no one can seem to put the fire out.
RECOIL: The role of the U.S. m
APRIL 4, 2018 @ 8:00 AM
By Noah Kirsch Illustrations by Sean McCabe
Amid reports that special counsel Robert Mueller had taken an interest in his activities, Erik Prince decided to host a fundraiser. On March 18, more than 100 people flocked to Prince’s sprawling farm in Middleburg, Virginia, for an afternoon of pistol shooting in support of Putin’s favorite congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, who the FBI reportedly found had his own Kremlin code name. As the day progressed, the group headed to the barn, where, over sandwiches and Budweiser, they heard from Oliver North, the central figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, and Matt Gaetz, a member of the House who’s big on Deep State “cabal” conspiracy theories.
Even among this motley bunch, Prince has enough notoriety to trump them all. The founder of Blackwater — the military contractor infamous for the 2007 massacre in Iraq in which a convoy of his mercenaries gunned down 14 unarmed civilians — he’s kept a lower profile since he sold the company in 2010. But that doesn’t mean he’s been idle. Since then, he’s pursued projects across the globe, from the United Arab Emirates to Somalia to Hong Kong.
But as the Rohrabacher event underscores, the so-called “Merchant of Death” again feels comfortable flexing his domestic muscles. The Trump administration “inherited a world on fire,” Prince says. “And I think some out-of-the-box thinking can help put those fires out.”
Following a decade in the wilderness, Prince has the White House access that will allow him to spread those ideas. He spent $250,000 to help get Trump elected; his sister Betsy DeVos now serves as Trump’s secretary of education; and when Prince pitched a plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan last year, the White House took him seriously. “He actually had the most cogent argument, much more than the guys who were ‘stay the course,’ ” Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon tells Forbes.
One major impediment to his privatization concept was national security advisor H.R. McMaster, a lieutenant general and war scholar adamantly opposed to the idea of replacing American soldiers with mercenaries. Nor did the Prince plan seem to fit the worldview of then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson. But now that McMaster will be replaced by neocon favorite John Bolton, and Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, who once ran an aerospace supplier, the dynamics have changed. Bolton’s selection, particularly, is “going to take us in a really positive direction,” a source close to Prince tells Forbes. “Do the math.” The assumption, of course: Prince would reap a big cut of the action.
As he planned his comeback, Prince met with Forbes at length, across two interviews, in the summer and fall of 2017. He stopped speaking to us after the Washington Post reported that a grand jury in the Mueller investigation heard evidence that Prince traveled to the remote Seychelles to try to establish a back channel between Trump and Russia. But Prince, still in muscular military shape at 48, had already laid out his grand strategy and provided a window into his temperament, one that mixes a belief in destiny, rooted in religion, with a warrior’s calm in the heat of battle. “My favorite miracle in the Bible is when Christ is on the Sea of Galilee and there’s an enormous storm,” Prince says, “and they’re in the boat and they’re at risk of being drowned.” He pauses. “He says, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the sea calms. Fantastic.”
To understand Prince, the first thing to know is that he’s never wanted for anything or had any reason to moderate his ambition. His father, Edgar, cofounded the auto-parts giant Prince Corp., based in Holland, Michigan. The religious family sent Erik to parochial school and made him a shareholder of the firm at a young age. “I didn’t have to put gas in my car,” Prince says.
The second thing: His family traveled widely, including behind the Iron Curtain, infusing Erik with a fervent belief in the primacy of free-market economies. (This upbringing clearly imprinted his sister, who espouses private education.) It fit his messianic worldview, where life is black and white, with only good guys and bad. As a teenager, Prince argued vociferously with his more liberal teachers about the threat of communism and Reagan’s military policies, and he’s never really stopped. “He’s a warrior,” says the Reverend Robert Sirico, who has known Prince since 1990 and baptized his children. “He thinks deeply about things, but… he’s very hardheaded.”
Erik Prince’s global reach extends from private armies to private equity.
So it’s no surprise he’s been drawn to hot spots of dysfunction, with a mission to clean them up. “China and Russia are not the major threats to American security,” Prince says. “Instability and sanctuaries where little pockets of psychopaths can breed and replicate — that’s our problem.” What about his critics, who have labeled him everything from hubristic to a neocolonialist to a war criminal? “Any mammals have parasites,” he shrugs.
Third: Despite his charmed upbringing, his father insisted he forge his own path before possibly joining the family business. After graduating from Hillsdale College, a Christian school near the Ohio-Michigan border, he became a Navy SEAL, enduring its legendary training regimen, including a “hell week” that allows just four hours of sleep over five and a half days. Even now, he says, “I try to do what most people would call an extreme event three or four times a year.” Recent examples include a 24-hour bike race in South Africa’s desert and a 600-mile sailboat race.
After Edgar Prince died in 1995, the family quickly sold Prince Corp.’s automotive unit to Johnson Controls for $1.35 billion. Erik, then 26, walked away with at least $50 million. Around the same time, he left the SEALs when his first wife, Joan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. (She died in 2003.)
Flush and underemployed, Prince used a piece of his inheritance to build a training center for special forces in Moyock, North Carolina, which he called Blackwater, after the region’s murky swamps. A series of domestic tragedies fueled the business’ ascent. The shooting at Columbine High School brought police contracts. The U.S.S. Cole bombing beckoned the United States Navy. And after 9/11, Blackwater became the Pentagon’s mercenary army of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq. Through 2006, Prince’s firm generated $1 billion in government work.
But as public support for the conflicts waned, things began to unravel. Tension boiled over in September 2007, when a convoy of Blackwater contractors shot 31 people in Iraq’s Nisur Square, killing 14. The contractors said they had been ambushed; Justice Department prosecutors thought otherwise. One Blackwater guard pleaded guilty to manslaughter, three others were also convicted of manslaughter and one of first-degree murder in 2014. (The murder conviction was vacated last August; prosecutors have appealed to the Supreme Court for a retrial.) The event — hardly Blackwater’s first deadly incident — was viewed in much of the world as an indiscriminate massacre.
Prince was summoned to Congress for questioning. Government officials, many of whom had sanctioned Blackwater’s aggressive tactics — even if tacitly — condemned him. Prince thinks he was singled out unfairly. Blackwater “was the perfect bogeyman for them to make up,” he says. “I was a sole owner, my guys carried weapons [and] I came from a conservative family.”
Whatever the reason, Prince’s name became toxic, and the new Obama administration wanted nothing to do with him. Blackwater rebranded as Xe Services, and in 2010 Prince sold the company to an investment group led by two private equity firms, Forte Capital Advisors and Manhattan Growth Partners, for over $100 million.
Prince is still not over the loss. “I’ve stuck it all out there for America. The previous administration was extremely abusive of us, and I don’t forget that,” he fumes with an unflinching stare. “That means I’m very cautious about sticking it out there for any government.”
To most of America, that chapter spelled the end of Erik Prince. But it’s not in Prince’s nature to slow down, much less concede defeat, and he quietly took his gambits offshore. He moved to Abu Dhabi in 2010, where, he says, he worked on his energy-and-mining investment firm, Frontier Resource Group. But according to a New York Times report he was also helping assemble a “secret army” for the UAE. (His spokesman denies the story.)
At the same time, he zigzagged around the globe on similar projects. Using Emirati funding, he helped create an antipiracy force in Somalia in 2010. The outfit targeted criminals on land rather than waiting for them to attack boats, “the way the U.S. or NATO or the EU was trying to do it,” he says. “If you have a wasp problem, you deal with the nest.”
To Prince, that endeavor offers proof of concept for his Afghanistan privatization proposal. “It worked,” he says. “Have you heard of Somali piracy anytime recently? And that program cost less than the pirates were taking in ransom.” But a 2012 UN report called the project “the most brazen violation of the [Somali] arms embargo by a private security company.” Others say Prince deserves little credit for the pirates’ demise. “It was ultimately the intensity of international naval patrolling, combined with the defenses that ships developed,” says Vanda Felbab-Brown, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Prince next shifted to Asia. In 2014 he cofounded Frontier Services Group, a logistics and security business that trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange. He says he spends more than 80% of his time on FSG. According to its literature, the firm provides straightforward services for “companies operating in frontier markets.” It has a market cap of $325 million.
“PRINCE ACTUALLY HAD THE MOST COGENT ARGUMENT, MUCH MORE THAN THE GUYS WHO WERE ‘STAY THE COURSE,'” SAYS STEVE BANNON
Once again, Prince’s work has government backing. One of FSG’s principal shareholders is CITIC Group, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate. CITIC and another state-owned enterprise, China Taiping, agreed to invest an additional $107 million in FSG on March 2, though the deal has not yet closed. President Xi’s corruption crackdown made raising the money a challenge. “I had meetings that were scheduled with senior executives,” Prince says, “and we were called: ‘Don’t come, state security is here arresting people right now.’ “
By all appearances, FSG is an incredibly dry business. “We deliver groceries,” Prince told students at Oxford last April. Intuitively, that makes little sense. Prince isn’t the type to go from battling al Qaeda and pirates to shipping rice and beans. Indeed, in 2015 a civil war broke out at the company over side projects Prince was allegedly running, two sources familiar with the events tell Forbes. Multiple executives left the business, while Prince remained chairman. The details behind the split are murky. The muckraking site The Intercept, cofounded by a longtime Prince critic, journalist Jeremy Scahill, reported that he was secretly planning to build armed aircraft in Europe, may have worked with Chinese intelligence and was under investigation for “attempting to broker military services to foreign governments.” Prince again denies the allegations, terming them “fantasy.”
Either way, Prince’s years in exile demonstrate one underlying fact: Blackwater was only the start for this young, ambitious tycoon. And the current political climate gives him a window to get back in the game in America.
On a dewy morning in Washington, D.C., last year, Erik Prince is waiting outside a cafe. While it hasn’t opened yet, he’s already scoped the place out. He gathers his things and moves to a table by the storefront, where he can keep an eye on nearby foot traffic. A hanging plant shields him from above. Dodging scrutiny, often unsuccessfully, is his habit and his business. “It is what it is,” he says.
Prince’s eyes dart around as if he’s on guard while he shares the early framework of his Afghanistan proposal. It revolves around a private force of 6,000 contractors, supplemented by 2,000 U.S. special operations troops and support personnel, who would embed with local Afghan units. Air power would be led by Afghan pilots, paired with contractors. All would be overseen by a “viceroy” who ultimately reports to the president.
Prince thinks his plan, which includes an overall drawdown, could save more than $40 billion a year. The current approach, he says, focuses on cycling in soldiers, who never fully adapt to the local climate. “How stupid is that?”
Prince first aired his full proposal last year via an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. According to Prince, Trump took notice. “He liked it very much,” Prince says.
It’s a relationship years in the making. Prince displayed early devotion to Trump, a president famously obsessed with loyalty. He donated $250,000 to entities supporting Trump’s candidacy even when he looked like a general-election long shot and unofficially shilled for the campaign. “If you actually want to change things, and take power away from a centralized, bloated and elite-serving government, vote for Donald Trump,” he told the alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in a podcast interview. “It’s a pretty clear choice.”
PRINCE’S FAMILY TRAVELED AROUND THE WORLD, INFUSING ERIK — AND HIS SISTER BETSY DEVOS — WITH A FERVENT BELIEF IN FREE MARKETS.
The trust is allegedly mutual. Prince traveled to the Seychelles prior to the inauguration, according to a Washington Post report, to meet a “Russian close to President Vladimir Putin.” The purported goal: arranging a “back channel” between the Kremlin and the incoming administration. The Post recently reported that George Nader, an advisor to the UAE who reputedly helped arrange the summit, confirmed the meeting to a grand jury.
Prince had previously testified to the House Intelligence Committee that the Seychelles encounter was a coincidence. He said he was there to talk business with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. After a discussion focused on terrorism and mining, a member of the Emirati entourage suggested he meet “an interesting guy from Russia” who, like Prince, did “business in the commodity space.” They grabbed a quick drink at the bar. Did he contribute to or know about any sort of Trump-Russia collusion? “Zero.”
Prince stands by his testimony, according to his spokesman.
The Seychelles blowback likely eliminated any thought of a primary race that Prince had been considering against Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming (his family owns real estate there). No matter. The recent White House shakeup has buoyed the prospects for his Afghanistan plan, which Prince claims had momentum last year. “If it was not for the debacle of Charlottesville,” he says, “and the lady that got killed and all the political blowback that fell on the president… I’m almost sure he would not have made the decision [against it] today.”
McMaster’s departure removes one obstacle, though top military brass and think-tank eggheads revile the idea. Pompeo could be the wild card. The secretary of state designate traveled to Afghanistan last year in part to evaluate Prince’s ideas, according to the Financial Times. He also pitched an Afghanistan proposal at Camp David in August 2017 that included elements of Prince’s plan, a source familiar with the events tells Forbes. A CIA spokesperson, however, disputes those claims, telling Forbes, “You have been provided wildly inaccurate information.”
Steve Bannon sees things differently: “Prince’s voice is only going to get stronger, not weaker, because everything he said was going to happen [in Afghanistan] has happened.”
Prince seems fine either way. Ever the SEAL, with Mueller potentially circling, he has backup plans. Libya could use a police force to choke off migrants; Somalia would benefit from armed boats patrolling its fisheries. Prince follows opportunity. And no matter how bad his PR, he always seems to find new backers. “If people think it gets to me,” he says, “they have sorely misunderstood.”
ilitary should be to win wars by killing people and breaking their stuff
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