Afghans Close 2 Security Firms; More Likely

By Fisnik Abrashi and Jason Straziuso
Associated Press
Friday, October 12, 2007

KABUL, Oct. 11 -- Afghan authorities this week shut down two private security companies and said more than 10 others -- some suspected of murder and robbery -- would soon be closed, Afghan and Western officials said Thursday.

During raids, authorities found 82 illegal weapons being held by Watan and Caps, two Afghan security companies, according to police Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal. Those firms were shut down Tuesday.

A Western security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said some major Western companies were on the list of at least 10 others tapped for closure. He would not identify them.

The crackdown echoes efforts by authorities in Iraq to rein in private security contractors accused of acting with impunity. Dozens of security companies operate in Afghanistan, some of them well-known U.S. firms such as Blackwater and DynCorp International, but also many others that may not be known even to the Afghan government.

The U.S. military employs about 29,000 private contractors in Afghanistan for a variety of goods and services. About 1,000 of those are security contractors, said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.

The Afghan government's main complaints against the companies concern a lack of accountability, intimidation of citizens, disrespect of local security forces and a failure to cooperate with authorities, according to a set of draft rules being debated by the Afghan government and obtained by the Associated Press.

As many as 10,000 private security guards are estimated to operate in the capital, Kabul, but the Interior Ministry -- which is responsible for the Afghan police and domestic security -- has little idea who some of the guards are, the Western official said.

Paktiawal said more than 10 companies would be targeted for closure in raids police planned to carry out next week. Some of the firms are suspected of involvement in criminal activity such as killing and robbery, and the police were investigating those cases as well, Paktiawal said. He could not provide a breakdown of how many of the companies are Afghan and how many are foreign.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company