Afghanistan shuts down privatized security firms

Javed, an Afghan boy, waits for customers to sell candies as an Afghan private security man stands guard outside a shopping mall in Kabul, Afghanistan Thursday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, RAFIQ MAQBOOL

AP

Javed, an Afghan boy, waits for customers to sell candies as an Afghan private security man stands guard outside a shopping mall in Kabul, Afghanistan Thursday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, RAFIQ MAQBOOL

By Jason Straziuso

KABUL, Afghanistan – Echoing a growing problem in Iraq, Afghan authorities are cracking down on lucrative, unregulated security firms, some of which are suspected of murder.

Two private Afghan security companies were raided and shut down this week, and a dozen or so more contractors – including some protecting embassies – would be closed soon, police and Western officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The government is proposing new rules to tighten control over such firms, including some Western companies, amid concerns they intimidate Afghans, show disrespect to local security forces and don’t cooperate with authorities, according to a draft policy document obtained by the AP.

The crackdown echoes efforts by authorities in Iraq to rein in private security contractors often accused of acting with impunity. Blackwater USA guards protecting a U.S. Embassy convoy in Baghdad allegedly killed 17 civilians last month in an incident that enraged Iraqi leaders, who are demanding millions in compensation for victims’ families and the removal of Blackwater in six months.

That shooting – and another this week in which private security contractors killed two women in Baghdad – focused attention on the regulation of private guards and added to the Bush administration’s problems in managing the Iraq war.

Dozens of security companies also operate in Afghanistan, some of them well-known U.S. firms such as Blackwater and Dyncorp, but also many others that may not be known even to Afghan government.

Authorities on Tuesday closed the Afghan-run security firms Watan and Caps, where 82 illegal weapons were found during the two raids in Kabul, police Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal said.

More companies – “maybe 13, maybe 14” – will be closed next week, including some whose employees may have committed murder or robberies, he said.

Security companies that guard Western embassies are among those firms, a Western security official said on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. He would not identify the companies.

Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Liz Austin Peterson in Houston contributed to this report