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.

PTI



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

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