News / Asia

Afghan President Bans International Security Firms

Jennifer Glasse

The Afghan president has issued a decree that private security companies have four months to disband. The employees of the disbanded firms will be able to join the Afghan police force if they are eligible. The Afghan government estimates 30,000 to 40,000 people work for private security companies. The ban could affect the Afghan reconstruction effort and the training of the Afghan military and police.

The presidential decree says security companies have until January 1, 2011 to join Afghan police forces or disband. The Afghan government has said private security companies are poorly regulated and sometimes operate outside Afghan law. Andy Bearpark, the Director General of the British Association of Private Security Companies says the decision could have wide ranging implications for Afghanistan.

"My concern is more for the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan than it is for the private security industry," says Andy Bearpark.

Bearpark says private security companies are at the heart of some of Afghanistan's biggest reconstruction projects.

"Afghanistan needs that reconstruction, it needs the power stations, the dams, etcetera, and for a lot of international companies what they are going to say is we are not prepared to do this unless we can have with us the international private security provider we have worked with before," she adds.

While the ban exempts firms working in the compounds of embassies, international aid organizations businesses and non-governmental groups, Bearpark says security firms provide a host of other functions.

"They're training the Afghan police, they're training the Afghan army, but perhaps one of the biggest jobs they're doing that seems to be in some way outlawed, is they protect convoys," Bearpark said.

Those convoys, he says, are crucial to military and civilian operations.

"If one thinks of the scale of the international effort in Afghanistan, you have convoys going everywhere with the fuel for the trucks, with the food, with the accommodation etcetera and it's private security companies rather than NATO forces that usually protect those convoys," she added.

The Afghan government says Afghan forces will supply security for international convoys. In Washington officials are investigating allegations that some Afghan companies, using U.S. aid money, have paid bribes to insurgents or the Taliban to allow the safe passage of convoys.

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