Karzai Bans Private Security Firms

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Al-Jazeera-English

Karzai Bans Private Security Firms

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Karzai has repeatedly called for the banning of private security companies in Afghanistan. (Gallo/Getty)

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has given private security firms working in Afghanistan four months to end their operations.

Karzai has repeatedly called for banning private security companies, saying they undermine government security forces.

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

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

"It's not about regulating the activities of
private security companies, it's about their presence, it's about the
way they function in Afghanistan ... all the problems they have
created," Omer said.

US support

Omer said more than 50 private security companies, roughly half
of them Afghan and the other half international, employ 30,000 to 40,000
armed personnel in Afghanistan.

He said 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.

The US military responded on Monday saying it supported the plan
and was tightening oversight of its own armed contractors in the
meantime.

"Certainly we understand President Karzai's statements that he is
determined to dissolve private security companies," Brigadier General
Margaret Boor, head of a new task force to better regulate and oversee
private security operations, said.

"We are committed to partnering with the government in meeting that intent," she said.

Security concerns

However, Boor declined to give a timeline, saying private security
contractors can only be phased out as the security situation improves.

That could be a long time given worsening security in recent months
in areas of northern and central Afghanistan that had previously been
relatively safe.

About 26,000 armed security contractors work with the US government
in Afghanistan, including 19,000 with the US military, Boor said.

The majority of military contractors protect convoys, though some also provide base security, Major Joel Harper, a spokesman for Nato forces, said.

Karzai has said such responsibilities should fall to either enlisted
military or police, though it is unclear how soon Afghan forces would be
ready to take on additional jobs.

Boor said private contractors were needed right now to keep development projects and military operations running.

"Since the Afghan army and the Afghan police are not quite at the
stages of capability and capacity to provide all the security that is
needed, private security companies are filling a gap,'' Boor said.

In Afghanistan, contractors have been in the spotlight on several occasions.

In
February, US senate investigators said the contractor formerly known as
Blackwater hired violent drug users to help train the Afghan army and
declared "sidearms for everyone'', even though employees were
not authorised to carry weapons.

The allegations came as part of an investigation into the 2009
shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians by employees of the company, now
known as Xe.

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