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Afghan President Firm on End of Private Security Contractors

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has reiterated his intention to disband private security contractors in his country by the beginning of next year. U.S. military officials say they will work with Mr. Karzai to achieve the goal.

In an interview on U.S. television, ABC's This Week program, President Karzai accused private contractors of perpetrating a host of ills in Afghanistan.

"We have decided in the Afghan government to bring an end who are running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government, who are not only causing corruption in this country, but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people, who are causing a lot of harassment to our civilians, and who we do not know if they are security companies in the daytime and then turning into terrorist groups at nighttime," he said. "They are wasting billions of dollars of resources."

Mr. Karzai did not distinguish between Afghan and international security contractors. He said that private contractors will be allowed to continue to protect diplomats and international aid operations within their compounds, but will not be allowed to operate on the streets of Afghanistan.

The president described their presence as an impediment to the formation of capable Afghan security forces. He said that the sooner they are disbanded, the better.

"The more we wait, the more we lose," said Mr. Karzai.

U.S. military officials have expressed surprise at the announcement. Military analysts say Afghanistan's security forces are not ready to assume the duties performed by private security firms. But the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, appears to have accepted the new reality. He spoke in an interview with CBS News.

"It is incumbent on us to help with this [Karzai directive]. To ensure that our money is not undermining our very efforts," he said. "We are very supportive of that, and we are going to do everything we can to help the [Afghan] Ministry of Interior to deal with that and figure out the way ahead. And in some cases, we are going to have to take on some of those tasks [currently performed by contractors]. And the Afghan forces will have to do more, as well."

Tens of thousands of private security personnel are employed by international forces, non-governmental organizations, and foreign media outlets in Afghanistan.