Private security firms in Afghanistan given 4-month deadline
Last Updated: Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:43
Kabul: President Hamid Karzai will give armed contracting firms in Afghanistan four months to disband, his spokesman said Monday, sparking fears of a potential security crisis in the war-torn country.

"Today the president is going to issue a four-month deadline for the dissolution of private security companies," Waheed Omer said.

Omer gave notice last week that Karzai intended to deal with private security firms, calling it "a serious programme that the government of Afghanistan will execute".

He said the firms employ 30,000-40,000 armed personnel across Afghanistan. These are employed by more than 50 companies, roughly half of them Afghan.

"The deadline is the first of January 2011, but that has to come in the decree. The decree will come soon," Omer told reporters.

Omer said last week that Karzai had spoken to his Western backers as well as leaders of the US and NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) who contract the companies to safeguard many aspects of their work, including supply convoys.

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in a 2001 US-led invasion, private security firms rushed in to fill a vacuum created by a lack of adequately trained police and army forces.

In 2006 the Afghan authorities began registering, regulating and licensing the firms but there have been questions about the activities of some.

"It's not about regulating the activities of the private security companies, it's about their presence, it's about the way they function in Afghanistan," said Omer, highlighting the challenges the firms have posed to the government.

"It's about the way they have developed into alternative forces for the government of Afghanistan, all the problems that they have created," he said.

The flourishing sector provides security services to the international forces, the Pentagon, the UN mission, aid and non-governmental organisations, embassies and Western media companies in Afghanistan.

But Afghans criticise the private security forces as overbearing and abusive, notably 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.

ISAF said today dissolving private security firms would not be practical or possible until an alternative force was ready to take over.


First Published: Monday, August 16, 2010, 20:43

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