October 4, 2010 in Nation/World

Karzai begins disbanding private security companies

Zarar Khan Associated Press
 
Fast facts

Nearly 40 private security firms with some 26,000 workers are employed in Afghanistan by the U.S. government alone, including those working for the military and the State Department.

KABUL, Afghanistan – Moving to enforce a pledge that has rattled Afghanistan’s foreign community, President Hamid Karzai has begun dissolving the Afghan operations of private security companies, including the firm formerly known as Blackwater, the government announced Sunday.

Karzai caught Western officials by surprise in mid-August when he announced a ban on private security firms that would take effect by year’s end. The U.S. Embassy at the time expressed support in principle but suggested the timetable was unrealistic.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force relies on private contractors to guard bases and supply lines, and many international organizations also use private security firms. With the insurgency increasing its reach across the country, few consider the Afghan police and military ready to step in and fill the role of security contractors.

The moves aimed at security contractors were the latest show of tension between Karzai and his foreign backers. Western officials have been highly critical of corruption in the Afghan government, and there are indications of widespread fraud in last month’s parliamentary elections. Results still have not been released.

Critics say the move to ban the contractors may be a way to tap into the millions of dollars in revenue generated by dozens of private security firms. Karzai, whose aides denied any financial motivation, had referred to the companies as a “mafia” and expressed determination to oust them.

The eight include four Afghan and four foreign firms. Among the foreign companies is North Carolina-based Xe Services, formerly Blackwater, which has had a history of run-ins with Afghan authorities.

Also named were Four Horsemen International, based in New Mexico; NCL Holdings LLC, headquartered in Virginia; and Compass International, a British firm. Among the four Afghan companies is one of the largest security contractors operating in the country, White Eagle Security Services.

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