Prince’s move back into the Middle East was singularly the result of a Republican leadership taking back control of our foreign policy. As Rolling Stone magazine wrote in October of last year, Prince made money providing security for interests in mining companies in Africa, serving as the chairman of Frontier Services Group—a company with unseemly ties to Chinese state conglomerate CITIC Group. Former chief executive of Frontier Services Group Gregg Smith told Rolling Stone, “Going forward, we were told, Frontier Services Group is Erik Prince, it’s CITIC, and it’ll be providing security for Belt-and-Road,” a Chinese project for building infrastructure in the developing nations of the world. Smith said he was told by the CIA that “a key company official was affiliated with Chinese intelligence.”
At the same time, Prince’s Frontier Services Group set off alarms when it announced they were building “training facilities” and “security equipment” in an area of China known for the brutal subjugation of the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority Uighurs. Then Prince figured out his way back in, being connected to Roger Stone, Wikileaks, and the release of the Hillary Clinton emails that made so much hay during the 2016 election cycle.
Prince’s obsession with privatizing the Afghanistan war got some press back in 2018, as he, like so many hustlers, saw an easy mark in former president Donald Trump. Even though Prince’s idea of almost entirely replacing American forces with a smaller mercenary group was shunned by Trump’s initial defense cabinet choices, those cabinet members quickly fell out of favor with Trump. Prince felt that his in was to offer Donald Trump the chance to fulfill the campaign promise of ending the Afghanistan war by offering up a privatized solution. “The president rightly campaigned on ending our endless wars. He has an opportunity to do it,” Prince told Military Times in September of 2018.
A former plans officer and commanding general, U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan Seth Jones told the Military Times that Prince’s ideas were a touch frightening, “I think it’s a recipe for corruption. I think it’s a recipe for potential for human rights or other abuses by forces on the ground because they are not government forces. [...] When I’ve looked at successful counterinsurgency campaigns since World War II, I see almost no cases of governments essentially contracting out significant parts of a war effort.” Of course, like virtually everyone involved in the military operations of Afghanistan, Jones has been pretty wrong about Afghanistan, writing a month ago about how the Taliban would not necessarily take back the country.
While Trump went ahead and made a classic lame-duck deal with the Taliban, Prince moved forward with ingratiating himself with Trump. Just as our country was about to face its first COVID-29 shutdowns, The New York Times reported Prince’s role in recruiting former intelligence agents—an attempt to infiltrate “Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda.” This included work that would help the plans of his useless sister Betsy DeVos.
One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
As TIME reported last month, Prince has been working hard to create a private military and a private weapons manufacturing stake inside of Ukraine for some time. His interests are enormous, and the money and power he looks to have are far greater than a few thousand dollars. For all we know, $6,500 pays for the gas and the guns and the way out of Afghanistan. Prince isn’t necessarily profiting from the ticket prices. But Prince has shown he only has an interest in profiting off war and violence and misery. It will be interesting to see if we ever get a manifest for who buys Erik Prince’s plane tickets. Maybe those ticket prices are simply a favor?