Karzai Orders Private Security Out Of Afghanistan : The Two-Way Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered private-security contractors used by foreigners to leave. The guards have been a political problem for Karzai because they're detested by his people. But they provide essential security for foreigners.

Karzai Orders Private Security Out Of Afghanistan

Private security personnel search hotel guests as they arrive at the Serena Hotel's basement bunker after two explosions in the reception area, Oct. 28, 2009.  Anonymous/AP hide caption

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One of Monday's big stories out of Afghanistan is President Hamid Karzai's remarkable order that Western nations operating in his country must remove their 26,000 private-security contractors within four months.

The U.S. and other NATO members operating in Afghanistan, as well as non-governmental organizations and the news media, including NPR, lean heavily on private contractors.

They provide security for convoys and residential and office compounds. It's hard to imagine Westerners functioning without them.

But as NPR's Quil Lawrence explained to All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel Monday, the presence of the contractors has been a political problem for Karzai.

ROBERT: So why then is President Karzai so eager to get rid of these private security guards contractors, some of whom I gather protect his own government and his own family?

QUIL: It's a question of populism. Private security guards here in Kabul have been unpopular for years and years. There's a lot of resentment at seeing these private soldiers with their wraparound sunglasses, their poorly concealed flak jackets under their shirts, driving around like they own the city, closing down streets sometimes.

And about two weeks ago, an SUV full of private security guards barreled out of the embassy gate and into Kabul traffic and crushed a civilian car killing six people. It caused a riot. So President Karzai has been bucking against this.

And it also seems to be some indication of his current relationship with the United States. Because despite the fact that Gen. David Petraeus says he's meeting with President Karzai at least once a day, there have been many areas of friction.

And the stormy relations that Karzai had with the U.S. in the past might be returning. There was something of a honeymoon after the Kabul donors' conference last month.

But since that, we've seen Karzai putting pressure on these private security guards. We've seen him putting a lot of pressure on what the U.S. sees as its most effective anti-corruption tool here in Kabul. And we've seen him backpedaling on some commitments on women's issues.

So if there was a honeymoon after the Kabul conference, it might be at an end.