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.
Military contractors are a fact of life in Iraq - doing everything from protecting diplomats and those involved in the reconstruction process to delivering supplies.Â
In September of 2008, there were some 160,000 of them working for the Department of Defense alone, today that number is closer to 100.000. Just over 50,000 are Iraqi nationals - but nearly 28,000 are U.S. citizens. And their service comes at a high price.Â
I'm not talking about the monetary cost of contracting out, (on which there has been a protracted debate over whether hiring them is more cost efficient than having troops do the same work.) I'm talking about the price that's paid in blood.Â