Blackwater founder Erik Prince has been trying to convince the Trump administration to privatize its military efforts in the Middle East since President Donald Trump took office, but his arguments have reportedly met with failure.
Now, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on his way out, Prince could be looking at an open door.
And it seems Blackwater, Prince’s previously-defunct private security firm, sees an opportunity as well: the company recently purchased a full-page ad in gun and hunting magazine “Recoil” with the message, “We are coming.”
If Blackwater returns, it would be the return of a private security contractor that was banned from Iraq, but re-branded and never really went away. By 2016 Blackwater had been re-named and restructured several times, and was known at the time as Constellis Group, when it was purchased by the Apollo Holdings Group. Reuters reported earlier this year that Apollo had put Constellis up for sale, but in June the sale was put on hold.
A representative for Constellis told Military Times late Friday that while it had acquired the former Blackwater training center in the 2016 purchase, it has no affiliation with the former security firm. It did not retain Blackwater’s founder and former CEO Erik Prince and has no current connection to him, or the firm’s former management structure.
The Recoil ad suggests Blackwater is making a resurgence on its own, but it was not clear in what form. The public affairs firm that handles Prince’s media engagements told Military Times Friday that he would not be able to speak beyond what was in the media “at this stage.”
Mattis, whose time with the administration will end come January 1, was critical of Prince’s privatization pitch, which was also dismissed by the White House.
“When Americans put their nation’s credibility on the line, privatizing it is probably not a wise idea,” Mattis told reporters in August.
But with Mattis gone and Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria and 7,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Prince’s plan could find more favorable reception.
In a nutshell, Prince “said he would scrap the NATO mission there and replace the estimated 23,000 forces in country with a force of 6,000 contracted personnel and 2,000 active-duty special forces,” according to what he previously told the Military Times.
Prince has also found himself caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and was interviewed by Mueller’s team earlier this year.
The Washington Examiner reported in June that Prince had cooperated in full with investigators.
“I have spoken voluntarily to Congress and I also cooperated with the special counsel,” Prince told the Daily Beast when asked if he had heard from anyone on Mueller’s team. “I have plenty of opinions about the various investigations but there’s no question some people are taking it seriously and I think it’s best to keep my opinion on that to myself for now.”
In March, the Mueller investigation uncovered evidence that a January 2017 meeting he had in Seychelles with a Russian investor close to Russian President Vladimir Putin was planned, even though Prince, a informal Trump transition team adviser, said the meeting was a coincidence.