Afghan President Hamid Karzai, centre, meets with elders after a conference on rural development, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Karzai rejected pleas Wednesday from the international community to reverse his order to disband all private security companies, saying money spent on those firms should be invested in the national police force instead.
Huge reconstruction projects in Afghanistan are in danger of shutting down because President Hamid Karzai’s government refuses to rescind an order banning the use of private security guards, according to media reports.
U.S.-funded development firms are already starting to shut down projects, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
More than a billion dollars worth of aid projects will have to be cancelled by the end of the month, the U.K.’s Guardian said.
Unless Karzai relinquishes his demand to have all private security guards disbanded by Dec. 17, NATO’s strategy to counter the Taliban insurgency could also be threatened, the papers report.
The U.S.-funded aid projects that aim to help farmers and improve local governments are seen as crucial to the war effort, officials told the Washington Post.
An estimate by the Overseas Security Advisory Council suggests 18 projects worth $1.4 billion would have to be shuttered starting at the end of October, the Guardian reported.
Contractors in Afghanistan insist private security companies are needed to protect their staff.
"If these projects grind to a halt, we might as well go home,” one official told the Washington Post. “They are essential to the counterinsurgency strategy."
The ban on private contractors, ordered by Karzai in August, goes into effect on Dec. 17. It applies to all development companies and non-governmental organizations.
Diplomats, and the representatives of development companies continue to maintain the private guards are essential. They say workers face real threats from insurgent attacks and criminal activity. Afghan officials say the contractors operate with too little oversight and are beyond the control of local police and the army.
The Afghan government say the workers and their projects must be guarded by local police officers and soldiers, but officials told the newspapers that goal is unrealistic. Local government security forces are corrupt, poorly trained and too few to do the job, they said.
"If we don't have private security, we cannot operate in Afghanistan," an unidentified development executive told the Post. "It's not open to negotiation."