Afghan President Hamid Karzai says private security firms are a source of corruption in his country as they have ties with Mafia-like groups funding the Taliban.
“I am appealing to the US taxpayers not to allow their hard-earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconveniences to the Afghan people, but actually are, God knows, in contact with Mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants and insurgents and terrorists through those firms,” the Los Angles Times quoted Karzai as saying on Monday.
The Afghan chief executive made the comments one day after he ordered all the foreign security firms to cease to operate by the end of 2010.
Karzai had set a four-month deadline for the companies to stop all operations across the country, saying they are a source of corruption that is undermining support for the war against the Taliban insurgency.
However, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman made it clear on Monday that the US favored a more gradual withdrawal, “in a deliberate way and a way that recognizes the scale and scope of this challenge.”
“Until that time (security firms are no longer needed), though, we’re going to continue to work with the government of Afghanistan to improve the oversight and management as well as developing plans to progressively reduce their numbers as the security conditions permit,” Whitman said.
Some 26,000 armed security contractors work with the US government in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Karzai told ABC’s “This Week” program that the firms are “running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government,” that they are “looting and stealing from the Afghan people,” and “some of them turn into terrorist groups at nighttime.”
The Afghan president further pointed out that foreign security personnel receive a higher salary than some 40,000 to 50,000 Afghans on the country’s domestic security and police forces and that has caused disappointment among those nationals.
“We will definitely not allow them to be on the roads, in the bazaars, in the streets – that is the job of the Afghan government and the Afghan police,” he said.
Karzai also noted that foreign embassies would be able to keep their security contractors.