National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)


Securing security

with one comment

In August, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a decree ordering the disbanding of private security contractors in the country. No specific date was given as deadline, but a four-month period for phasing out said contractors from the country was mentioned.

This decision is causing ripples in the international community. Private security contractors, many of them run by Americans and Europeans, employ about 30,000 Afghans all over the country. Their main purpose include protecting embassies and consulates, providing roving security teams for international aid organizations and other civil society groups, as well as security detail for dignitaries and embassy officials. These organizations and agencies are utilizing these private contractors due to the perceived inefficiency and lack of skills of the local Afghan police, as well as the widespread corruption in government.

In an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour, President Karzai defended his decision: “We have decided in the Afghan government to bring an end to the presence of these security companies, who are running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government, who are not only causing corruption in this country, but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people, who are causing a lot of harassment to our civilians, who we don’t know whether they are security companies at daytime and then some of them turn into terroristic groups at night time. They are wasting billions of dollars of resources, and they are definitely an obstruction, an impediment in a most serious manner to the growth of Afghanistan’s security institutions – the police and the army.”

Karzai may have a point. Indeed, there are accusations that these private security groups are no more than well-paid armed thugs who actually bribe the Taliban so that they may carry out their tasks without hitch. However, many are questioning the timing of this decree. There is a general consensus that the Afghan police might not yet be skilled or trained enough to handle a bigger task when the private groups are eventually phased out. There is also lack of trust on the local forces, hotbeds for corruption allegations.

More importantly, an election is coming up, and the Karzai government — plagued by accusations of not only inefficiency and corruption, but also of illegitimacy due to reports of massive cheating in last year’s presidential election — must be anxious to ensure that allies get most of the seats in the parliament. Right now, foreign aid workers and election observers find their movement and conduct of their responsibilities severely hampered, because many of these security groups have started not to accept further assignments. Instead, they are now concentrating on pulling out from the country, before they are deemed illegal.

(Report filed by Paolo Maligaya, Mazar-e Sharif, northern Afghanistan)

Written by namfrel

September 3, 2010 at 10:32 am

One Response

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  1. thanks for the advisory, paolo.

    the decree is laudable in principle because it is a statement of the capability of the afghan police to secure its citizens and visitors. but there is a difference between making a statement and actual capability. can the police do it?


    September 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

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