Afghanistan OKs security guards for aid projects

Afghanistan will allow armed guards employed by private security companies to continue protecting aid and economic development projects in the country until their current contracts expire.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 19:03 PM IST

Kabul: Afghanistan will allow armed guards employed by private security companies to continue protecting aid and economic development projects in the country until
their current contracts expire, a government official said Tuesday.

The decision comes despite an earlier order that all
security companies disband by mid-December.

It also clears up uncertainty that had been hanging
over large companies involved with ongoing aid and development
projects for the US and other foreign governments since a
presidential decree to disband them was issued in August.

Many of the companies had said they would have to
cease operations in volatile provinces in the south and east
if they could not use private security guards to protect their
workers and their projects.

But the Interior Ministry official in charge of
overseeing security firms, Gen. Abdul Manan Farahi, said today
that all existing contracts to guard aid and development
projects would be allowed to continue until they are
completed.

"When they finish that contract, they should move,"
Farahi told The Associated Press.

President Hamid Karzai has said the existence of
dozens of private security firms undermines the Afghan
security forces creating private militias that often flout
Afghan laws and regulations.

There are about 30,000 to 40,000 armed security
guards working in Afghanistan, about 26,000 of them employed
by the US military or government, according to Afghan and U.S.
officials.

Karzai said in October that he would review development projects on a case-by-case basis for exemptions.
Farahi said the government has a record of every
contract entered into by registered security firms, so it will
not be difficult to make sure that only existing contracts are
given an exemption.

Farahi stressed that those contracts will not be
renewed. But when asked what will happen if Afghan police are
not ready to take over security once the contracts expire, he
said the government would have to consider its options if that
happened.
Permanent exemptions have been granted to
diplomatic missions and to guards for NATO bases, but the plan
is for all other employers of private guards to gradually
start using a special police unit called the Afghan Public
Protection Force.

PTI