Afghan President Hamid Karzai said today he was committed to disbanding private security companies, but signaled he may consider exceptions for some development firms after Washington called for more discussions.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommended on October 23 in a call with Karzai the United States and Afghanistan should develop a joint plan to replace private security guards gradually rather than enforce a ban that could threaten millions of dollars in aid work.
Karzai issued a decree in August banning all private security contractors in Afghanistan by the end of the year, with an exception for those guarding embassies, military installations, diplomatic residences, and the transport of diplomatic personnel.
The move caught U.S.-led military forces by surprise, and some U.S.-funded aid companies have reported they are already scaling back projects to be ready should the ban come into force in December as scheduled. This has spurred concern in Washington that aid work may already be starting to suffer.
At a meeting of Karzai's security council, to which top diplomats in Kabul and the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus were also invited, the president repeated his commitment to banning the companies.
But he also suggested he might be willing to make exceptions for major development companies.
"The president of the Republic of Afghanistan thanked the international community for development projects," Karzai's palace said in a statement about the meeting. "At the same time he asked those big international development projects which need security, to present a list of their projects and security needs to the Afghan government so it can review these and take a decision."