Tue, Dec 13, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Date of Afghan ban on security firms remains unclear

POOR COMMUNICATION:The president said on Sunday that private firms would have 18 months to vacate the country, but an Interior Ministry official denied the delay

AP and Reuters, KABUL

The Interior Ministry says it’s standing by Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s decision to shut down private security companies early next year and transfer their responsibilities to a government-run guard force.

Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi yesterday said all private companies would be disbanded on March 20.

Karzai last year ordered the disbanding of security companies because they were flouting Afghan laws and creating the equivalent of paramilitary forces. Their responsibilities will be assumed by a new government-run force — called the Afghan Public Protection Force — that will guard NATO and international compounds, development projects and supply convoys.

Sediqqi denied reports that Karzai on Sunday had extended the deadline by 18 months.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

Karzai, a frequent critic of private security companies, has previously set dates for the cessation of their work in Afghanistan, but each time the deadline has been extended.

Speaking at an anti-corruption event in Kabul on Sunday, Karzai said he was giving the firms an extra 18 months, but did not say why, although the second half of this year has seen some of the bloodiest attacks on civilians and soldiers in the past decade.

AGREEMENT

“We agreed with the office, and we give permission for them [to carry on working] for one and a half years more, and one and a half years later [in September 2013] our minister ... will close them all,” Karzai said.

He said the prevalence of security contractors weakened the state by providing many of the services that the public sector otherwise would.

“Another reason why the Afghan government is not able to tackle corruption is a parallel administration to the Afghan government,” he said.

“Private security companies are the biggest barriers to law enforcement, and development of the interior ministry and police,” the president said.

Foreign forces in Afghanistan are in the process of handing responsibility for security over to the Afghan army and police, and by the end of 2014, most foreign combat troops, currently numbering more than 100,000, will have gone home.

Though both Karzai and his international backers want Afghan forces to take control of security, Afghanistan has said that it will not be able to afford the army and police force it needs after 2014 without international help.

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