If there's any justice in this world (a big if), then when the history of the United States's disastrous effort at nation-building in Afghanistan — and its even more disastrous withdrawal thereof — Erik Prince will surely go down as one of the worst villains of our time. As founder and former chairman of the massive private security company Blackwater (now known as "Academi"), Prince is arguably the most powerful, wealthiest mercenary of the modern era. His employees have been responsible for some of the worst wartime atrocities in recent memory, while he personally amassed immeasurable wealth and power from a steady churn of global conflict and instability.
Today, the epicenter of that same conflict and instability is Afghanistan once again, where the vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal has allowed the fundamentalist Taliban to reassume the governing power they lost when America invaded nearly two decades ago. And after having spent years making a fortune by setting the stage for last week's collapse in Afghanistan, Prince has now hit upon a new, even more morally bankrupt scam to squeeze every last cent out of the tragedy
According to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Prince has begun charging $6,500 to fly people out of the Kabul airport on a private plane — all while the U.S. scrambles to evacuate tens of thousands of people, Americans and Afghans alike. To put that price tag in perspective, the median annual income in Afghanistan is just over $500. And while Prince is hardly the only person spearheading a private effort to evacuate people out of the country, his is a particularly egregious example of the sort of exploitation that's already made him a wealthy man. Making matters worse is the fact that the $6,500 fee is simply a starting point, with the Journal reporting that it will cost aspiring evacuees even more if they need Prince to help get them to the Kabul airport in the first place.
To date, more than 80,000 people have already been flown out of the country as part of what President Biden described as "one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history." But the scramble to evacuate the country under the gun of a Taliban takeover has proven to be a wildly uneven, deeply chaotic enterprise, as desperate Afghans flood the Kabul airport in hopes of fleeing their homes.
While it's unclear whether Prince has successfully enticed anyone to pony up the cash for a seat on his chartered flight out of the country, it's nevertheless a sign of just how deep the craven rot at the heart of his war-for-hire business goes. It takes a special sort of conflict-vampire to help push a country over the brink into chaos, then look at the broken pieces and think to themselves, "I can make money here." And no one embodies that moral emptiness quite like Erik Prince.