Afghan president formally orders security firms to disband

Afghan president formally orders security firms to disband
# 17 August 2010 22:09 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday ordered all private security firms in the country to disband to prevent the misuse of weapons that could cause "heart-breaking and tragic incidents", APA reports quoting website.
"I approve the full disbandment of private security companies, both national and international, within four months," Karzai said in the decree.
The decision aims "to better provide security for the lives and property of citizens, fight corruption, prevent irregularities and the misuse of arms, military uniforms and equipment by private security companies that have caused heart-breaking and tragic incidents," the decree said.
The decree gave no details of such incidents, though Afghans criticise the private security forces as overbearing and abusive, particularly on the country’s roads.
The plan has prompted concerns of a potential security crisis in the war-torn country, as there is little alternative to the private contractors.
Up to 40,000 armed personnel are employed across Afghanistan by more than 50 companies, roughly half of which are Afghan.
The firms provide security to the international forces, the Pentagon, the UN mission, aid and non-governmental organisations, embassies and Western media companies.
Karzai has often complained that they duplicate the work of the Afghan security forces, and divert resources needed to train the army and police.
The president’s office said Monday that the deadline for disbanding the companies was January 1, 2011.
The decree ordered Afghan government institutions to buy the weapons and other equipment of international security firms before cancelling the visas of their staff.
It said employees of private security contractors could join the Afghan police force if they were eligible.
Any unregistered security companies would be treated as illegal companies and their weapons and equipment would be confiscated, the decree said.
The tight timetable for the security firms to disband has caused some consternation among the international community, though there is widespread support for the plan to rid the country of what many see as private militias.
The main concern is the perceived inability of the Afghan security forces to step into the breach, as many are regarded as incompetent or corrupt.
John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Tuesday threw his support behind Karzai’s efforts to rid Afghanistan of private security firms, but questioned the timetable.
"I believe that President Karzai is right on target in wanting to minimise private security presence in his country and it’s in his interest to build his own security capacity as fast as possible," Kerry said.
"Whether the four-month timeframe is appropriate or meetable, achievable with security needs in mind is beyond me, I think experts have to sit and work that through.
"I’m confident he’ll make reasonable decisions because a lot of people’s security depends on it."
Kerry was speaking with reporters during a brief visit to Afghanistan, during which he met Karzai twice and was scheduled to visit US troops.
He said replacing contractors with home-grown security forces would be "a good sign for our troops, it’s a good sign for Afghanistan’s independence and the (country’s) ability to protect its sovereignty".
"So I think it’s a worthy target, it’s a worthy goal, we should work towards it, work with the president to try to achieve it," he said.
The Pentagon, which makes heavy use of private security contractors in Afghanistan, on Tuesday described the four-month deadline as "very aggressive".
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