August 17th, 2010
03:51 PM ET

Karzai to Afghan contractors: Join us or leave

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is upping the ante, if you will, by declaring that within four months, security firms operating in his country either become part of the Afghan National Police force or find something else to do.

It's a tough card to play in an environment where even the president is protected by private security firms and the Afghan National Police are trained by them.

The use of private security firms has mushroomed since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, and now, more than seven years later, the U.S. is still struggling with ways to manage and oversee the use of the thousands of contractors it employs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are about 110,000 private contractors working for the Department of Defense alone in Afghanistan, and that doesn't include the thousands more working for the Department of State or USAID. More than 24,000 of those contractors are armed and are providing security for convoys moving supplies throughout the country, protecting diplomats and even securing bases.

What we're seeing now is the political collision of U.S. needs in completing its objectives in Afghanistan and the Afghan president's needs in making clear that he has control of his own country.

The U.S. knows it has an impossible situation on its hands. The State Department wasn't meant to operate in war zones, which is effectively what Afghanistan still is. Neither the U.S. nor NATO has enough skilled bodies to complete the Afghanistan mission, so the contractors fill those logistical gaps and, sometimes, those security gaps.

Coverage on Afghanistan Crossroads blog

Experts and officials will now whisper that it's not the concept of transitioning out security contractors, but the timeline in which Karzai is proposing doing it that is so unrealistic.

So let's just imagine for a minute that he sticks to it. That means by the end of December, the U.S. diplomats, bases and convoy missions will be protected by Afghan National Police or will operate with no protection at all.

Karzai has said that some private security can remain on some compounds used by international groups, but that's where they have to stay. If you live in a bubble in Afghanistan, that might work, but I don't know many people who live in a bubble in Afghanistan.

Michael Thibault, the co-chair of the congressionally appointed Wartime Contracting Commission, which was brought together for the sole purpose of looking at how the U.S. can better manage its contracted workforce, sees a disconnect between what the Afghan government wants and what the U.S. government needs.

"If President Karzai sticks with this timeline, the U.S. mission and objectives will suffer," Thibault says. "The U.S. military would have to take over those roles, and the mission we have laid out never allowed for this."

Suzanne Simons is the author of "Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War"

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. rpb

    God, I thought chicago democrats were idiots, this clown must have a death wish. As it is quite obvious that the only thing holding this country together is the U S Military. If the Chinese want the resources let them take a whack at this cesspool of a country.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • George

      In defense of Afghanistan and America- in the defense of the two nation's friendship and mutual respect.

      Afghanistan was organized as a nation-state in 1747, more than 30 years before the American colonies won their independence from Great Britain; and 200 years prior to the establishment of Pakistan (by Great Britain)...Afghanistan's neighbors purposely twist the truth that Afghanistan can not be governed so it can be left to them to control, look at its history. So Mr. Republican, Afghanistan has been a reality the imperialist minded white men can not accept, that "cesspool of a country" defeated every empire, all they have is their word and their balls- their independence is most important to them, they do not tolerate dictation well. So Afghanistan is been holding together for centuries, through 30 years of war. Sorry to burst your bubble but our proud military is confined to a few bases and daylight patrols of certain central areas of Afghanistan. It seems like you are the real idiot, go read some books on Afghanistan, you will learn how we were/are part of the problem.

      August 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Amir Dread

    Karzai will continue to school us until we assassinate him. Either way, the Afghan people will get rid of us like the vermin that we are.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stefaan De Wasch

    Lets call a spade a spade shall we and using dissembled tearm and call them what them... Mercenaries...

    Would "you" want 110,000 mercenaries running through your country that aren't accountable to anyone ? I'm sorry, but I can see his point. If they have to join the police force atleast they can be held accountable if they break what little laws that country has.

    August 22, 2010 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3