Karzai delays ban on private security firms by at least two months

Kabul, Oct 28 (ANI): In what may be seen as yielding to intense Western pressure, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has extended the deadline for private security companies to end operations in Afghanistan by at least two months.

Karzai's office said that a committee would have to draw up a timetable till 15 November, and once it gets approved, companies would have a maximum of 90 days to disband, the BBC reported.

The extension aimed to recognise "the importance of maintaining the continuous delivery of critical development projects and programmes funded by the international community", his office said in a statement.

Once the decree is implemented, the Afghan government will assume responsibility for "providing necessary security for development and reconstruction projects", it added.

In August, the Afghan President had given the firms until 17 December to close, but his new offer came after days of talks, culminating in a meeting on Wednesday with international representatives including the UN's representative Staffan de Mistura and the commander of foreign forces US General David Petraeus.

Mistura said the international community should, for its part, "respond promptly to President Karzai's long-standing concerns about the conduct of private security firms".

Last year, Karzai had pledged to limit the operations of these companies when sworn in for a second term as president, saying that they had become a parallel security system, which undermined the development of Afghan government forces.

There have also been questions raised, even by the US Senate, about the lack of vetting, regulation and accountability of private companies, some of which have been involved in high-profile shootings and other incidents.

It is noteworthy that an estimated 40,000 Afghans work for private security firms. Though they have been encouraged to join the Afghan Army or police force, many say that the government pay is too little and the work too dangerous. (ANI)

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