|Majority of Afghans dislike the private security firms for their involvement in high-profile shootings [AFP]|
Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, says he is “firm” on banning private security companies, despite pressure from the US-led alliance for him to back down.
Karzai stuck to his position on Sunday during a meeting of the National Security Council, attended by senior UN and Nato officials, including General David Petraeus, the top US commander in the country.
After hearing proposals from foreign representatives arguing for the continued presence of some security companies, Karzai responded that the private companies were a cause of insecurity. He said that he had already allowed for their continued presence in the country longer than his government wished.
“Five years ago, I raised the issue with our international friends who said it was impossible then and threatened to close down reconstruction projects; two years later, I again discussed the issue and asked the international community for co-operation,” he said.
“Now, the government of Afghanistan is decisive to disband the private security companies and therefore ask our international partners for practical and sincere co-operation.”
The ban is to come into force in December.
Private security firms have been unpopular in Afghanistan because of their involvement in high-profile shootings and other incidents.
According to James Bays, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the capital, Kabul, Karzai had been under intense diplomatic pressure from the Nato alliance on the issue.
“Behind the scenes there’s been a great deal of effort to try and persuade the president to change his mind, to modify this decree,” Bays said.
While Karzai will allow private security to continue for diplomats and military bases, “he hasn’t changed the rules for aid agencies, for humanitarian workers, for construction workers – all who rely on private security to do their jobs every single day here in Afghanistan.”
Afghan authorities have already stopped issuing visas for private security employees, and some development projects have been halted.
“Private security companies have had a bad name, both here and in Iraq, but private security companies are how aid agencies get their work done,” he reported.
“Western diplomats say that’s a very very worrying situation.”
Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, had called Karzai on Saturday and recommended the United States and Afghanistan develop a plan to replace private security guards gradually, rather than enforce a ban that could threaten millions of dollars in aid work.
A US senate inquiry into private security in Afghanistan concluded this month that funds had sometimes been funneled to warlords who were linked to the Taliban, murder and kidnapping.