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Afghanistan's Ban On Security Firms May Halt Rebuilding, Relief Work

Hamid Karzai Attends Rural Development Conference

hide captionAfghan President Hamid Karzai (right) meets with elders in Kabul after a conference on rural development. Karzai rejected pleas Wednesday from the international community to reverse his order to disband all private security companies in Afghanistan.

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The question of who will rebuild Afghanistan — and who will guard them while they do it — is endangering the U.S. plan to rebuild the country. That's the picture you get if you combine articles from The Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor.

Less than two months away from the deadline set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for private security firms like Blackwater to leave his country, the situation is getting tense.

The story in the Monitor lays out the Pentagon's reliance on, and unease with, security contractors.

"We have absolutely no quality control of the people we're putting in these jobs," says retired Marine Col. T.X. Hammes, who recently conducted a study of contractors in war zones. "And we're authorizing them to use deadly force in the name of the United States."

But as Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes in The Post, at least one development executive says, "If we don't have private security, we cannot operate in Afghanistan."

As a result, some development firms are already starting to shut down huge projects. Citing talks with "U.S. officials," Chandrasekaran writes about the possible ramifications:

The decision to start shuttering the projects, collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars, could have far-reaching effects on the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban, disrupting a central component of the strategy to counter the insurgency at a critical moment in the war. Programs to assist Afghan farmers and improve local government, which are vital to the overall U.S. effort to stabilize the volatile southern and eastern parts of the country, are among those that will be affected, the officials said.

And development companies are not alone in depending upon private security companies. The Associated Press says that Karzai is hearing from embassies, aid groups, and media outfits — all of which routinely hire their own security firms to operate in Afghanistan.

Karzai says that instead of spending money on private firms, the money should instead go to help build his country's national police force.

But that brings up another issue, according to Hammes, who served in Iraq and is now a fellow at the Center for Strategic Research at the National Defense University. Speaking to the Monitor's Anna Mulrine, he says that any success the U.S. has in training people for Afghanistan's national security force is often short-lived.

"We get them trained up and certified, and the contractors hire them for more money," Hammes said.

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