Afghanistan Moves to Abolish Private Security Firms

Afghan forces stand guard during a security transition ceremony from private security companies to the Afghan government in Kabul, March 15, 2012.
Afghan forces stand guard during a security transition ceremony from private security companies to the Afghan government in Kabul, March 15, 2012.
Brian Padden

In Afghanistan, international development organizations and some businesses must now stop using private companies to provide security for their operations and instead rely on the interior ministry's new Afghan Private Protection Force.

President Hamid Karzai has long been opposed to the large number of private security companies in the country because he says many of them disregard Afghan laws and could grow into private militias. And, there have been cases of contractor abuse ranging from violence to cultural insensitivity that have given the private security industry a bad name among many Afghans.

Karzai set this month as the deadline for private security firms to be replaced with the interior ministry's new Afghan Private Protection Force or APPF. That deadline has been extended for up to 90 days to facilitate the transition. But more than 50 private security companies will be dissolved and more than 10,000 security guards will be re-assigned or replaced.

Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, says this is an important milestone in the process of transferring all security responsibilities to Afghan forces before most international combats troops withdraw in 2014.

“The APPF is focusing now on taking over security responsibility for development projects, convoys and commercial businesses," said Jacobson. "By March 2013 all security for ISAF bases and construction sites are scheduled to transition to the APPF.”

Of course the service is not free. Companies and the interior ministry have for months been negotiating how the process will work and how much it will cost. An American company called DAI, Development Alternatives Incorporated, recently made the transition. DAI runs a number of USAID funded projects including one to help farmers improve crop yields and profits as an incentive to turn away from the illicit poppy economy.

DAI's director of communications, Steven O'Connor, says the company uses security guards to protect personnel at a number of offices and compounds throughout the country. He says under the new arrangement with the interior ministry, things are much the same as before. His group was even able to retain the same security guards.

“So we basically contract with the APPF now, but it is the same people," said O'Connor. "They'll go down to get registered at the ministry and they return to work for us under a different heading, under a different title.”

DAI's former private security company, Edinburgh International, will remain involved as a risk management adviser. It will continue to train the guards and will liaison between the company and the interior ministry.

The shift comes at a time of intense anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan following the killing of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier and the inadvertent burning of Qurans at an American military base. The Quran burning sparked a week of violent nationwide protests and deadly attacks on U.S. troops.

Some development organizations and private security companies have privately expressed reservations about whether guards working for the Interior Ministry can be trusted to provide the same level of protection and security. And, there are concerns about the potential for patronage and corruption by ministry officials who will have exclusive control of the industry. Already, some organizations are seeing rising costs now that they must pay both the Interior Ministry and risk management companies.

O'Connor says DAI is cautiously optimistic about the new system but will keep a close eye on cost and safety issues.

“We wouldn't be there now if we didn't think this was at least in principle, a workable solution for providing security," he said. "That said, it's an untested solution, meaning we are just getting started. We're going to be extremely vigilant to make sure it does provide that kind of accountability and the same standards we had before."

If security concerns do develop or associated costs increase significantly, private development companies say they will delay or cancel projects which could cost Afghanistan billions in U.S. aid.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs