Kabul: The Afghan government is giving
companies extensions ranging from a few weeks to 90 days to change from private security guards to a government-run force, NATO officials and security company managers said today.
The reprieve comes just three days before the March 21
deadline that the Afghan government had set for the majority of companies to start using government-provided security.
Private development companies have said the move is
threatening billions in US aid to the country because
companies would delay projects or leave altogether because
they didn`t feel safe using strictly local security.
President Hamid Karzai has railed for years against the
large number of guns-for-hire in Afghanistan, saying private
security companies skirt the law and risk becoming militias.
He ordered them abolished in 2009 and eventually set the
March deadline for all firms except those guarding military or
diplomatic facilities to take on government guards.
But the process has been chaotic and has been weighed
down by lengthy contract negotiations, making it appear
unlikely in recent weeks that the Afghan Public Protection
Force would be ready to take over for some 11,000 private
guards by the deadline.
People involved in the handover said today that companies
that are still far from signing contracts are being allowed to
continue to use private guards for a limited period of time,
most ranging from 30 days to 90 days.
Managers of private security companies, who spoke
anonymously to avoid endangering contracts, said they had been called into a meeting with Afghan officials to explain the process for obtaining the interim permits.
Noorkhan Haidari, the business manager for the APPF, said
the permit process was still under way and declined to comment further. Other APPF officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.
A number of deals have already been signed. So far, the
APPF has signed 16 contracts with companies to provide
security and licensed 14 "Risk Management Companies,"
according to a NATO official.
The Risk Management Companies will essentially act as
go-betweens for companies and the government agency in order to help manage the guards, payments and help hold the Afghan guards to an international standard.
The official spoke anonymously to discuss the inner
workings of an Afghan government programme. But Afghan
officials have said that there are about 75 companies they
need to sign contracts with in order to complete the
switchover and there were worries that holding to the March 21 deadline would create security gaps.