Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday
issued a decree ordering that all private security firms in
the country should be disbanded within four months.
"I approve the full disbandment of private security
companies, both national and international, within four
months," Karzai said in the decree.
The decision aims "to better provide security for the
lives and property of citizens, fight corruption, prevent
irregularities and the misuse of arms, military uniforms and
equipment by private security companies," the decree said.
The plan has prompted concerns of a potential security
crisis in the war-torn country, as there is little alternative
to the private contractors.
Up to 40,000 armed personnel are employed across
Afghanistan by more than 50 companies, roughly half of which
The firms provide security to the international forces,
the Pentagon, the UN mission, aid and non-governmental
organizations, embassies and Western media companies.
But Afghans criticize the private security forces as
overbearing and abusive, particularly on the country`s roads.
Karzai has often complained that they duplicate the work
of the Afghan security forces, and divert resources needed to
train the army and police.
The president`s office yesterday said that the deadline
for disbanding the companies was January 1, 2011.
The decree ordered Afghan government institutions to buy
the weapons and other equipment of international security
firms before cancelling the visas of their staff.
It said employees of private security contractors could
join the Afghan police force if they were eligible.
Any unregistered security companies would be treated as
illegal companies and their weapons and equipment would be
confiscated, the decree said.
The tight timetable for the security firms to disband has
caused some consternation among the international community,
though there is widespread support for the plan to rid the
country of what many see as private militias.
The main concern is the perceived inability of the Afghan
security forces to step into the breach, as many are regarded
as incompetent or corrupt.
The US State Department yesterday described the deadline
as "very challenging".
"We will see what we can do. Four months is a very
challenging deadline," spokesman Philip Crowley told
reporters, adding that Washington planned to study the decree
to understand it better.