AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
KABUL: The Afghan government said today it had shut dozens of private security companies, having watered down a controversial scheme that initially planned to disband all such firms within the country.
In August, President Hamid Karzai ordered the dissolution of all such private companies, triggering an outcry from the US-led NATO force, diplomatic missions and aid organisations that depend on the firms for their protection.
After months of pressure from Western allies, Karzai in October then allowed dozens of “legal” firms to operate, albeit under tougher regulations.
On December 6, interior ministry adviser Abdul Manan Farahi said 57 firms declared “illegal” were in the process of being closed. “We have dissolved all illegal private security companies. Now we can say that no illegal private security company exists in Afghanistan,” the adviser said Tuesday.
Farahi said more than 3,000 personnel had been disbanded and weapons confiscated, but refused to give details.
According to officials, many of the companies were small and barely operated at all, formed by Afghans in the hope of getting contracts from Western troops.
Farahi confirmed that dozens of security companies, contracted by diplomatic missions, Western military forces and aid organisations, were still operating. He did not give an exact number but earlier this month said 52 companies were being allowed to work.
He said all security companies will be dissolved as Afghan government security forces increase their responsibilities, but did not give a timeline.
Karzai has publicly accused private security companies of murder and fanning instability in the war-torn country, where his government and 140,000 US-led NATO troops are fighting a nine-year Taliban insurgency. Most private security firms are believed to be operated by senior government officials or their relatives. Karzai’s controversial half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, reportedly owns several such firms, although he denies this.