Kabul closes private security firms

The Afghan government said yesterday it has started dissolving private security firms in the country, taking steps to end the operations of eight companies, including the US firm formerly known as Blackwater and three other international contractors.

"We have very good news for the Afghan people today," presidential spokesman Waheed Omar told reporters in the capital. "The disbanding of eight private security firms has started."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced in August that private security contractors would have to cease operations by the end of the year – wiping out an industry that supplies tens of thousands of guards to protect military convoys, government officials and businesspeople.

Some security contractors have been criticised for acting more like private militias, and the government said it could not have armed groups operating independently of the police or military forces.

The eight companies include Xe Services, the North Carolina-based contractor formerly called Black-water. Omar said many of the firms had turned in weapons, some voluntarily. He did not say why the eight firms had been chosen as the first to be closed down, nor whether any international firms had actually left the country. A statement from the President's office was more strongly worded, saying the process of closing down the eight companies was "almost complete".

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