By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 17, 2010 - Pentagon officials are working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to disband private security contractors in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today.
"We share a common goal with President Karzai, and that is the elimination of the need for private security contractors in Afghanistan," Whitman told reporters. "But while we share that goal, we also recognize that Afghanistan presents a daunting security challenge."
Karzai issued a decree today in which he urged the disbanding of all international and national private security companies within four months.
But U.S. officials believe such a timeline is "very challenging," Whitman said.
"With respect to a timeline of four months, obviously that's a very aggressive timeline, and it's one that our forces, our commanders, as well as the State Department and ambassador, will be working with the government of Afghanistan to achieve what we believe is a common goal," he said.
Whitman said there's strong desire among the international community for Afghanistan's government to reach the point of managing security in its own country.
"Ultimately, we all look forward to the day that the security environment is such when you don't need private security contractors, that the security of the country can be secured by the armed forces and police forces of Afghanistan," he said.
Karzai's decree targets the conduct and function of private contractors who guard embassies and investment companies. The contractors also provide training as well as escort services for travel through unsafe areas.
However, this is a role that may be taken on by Afghan forces because of the NATO initiative in training those forces, Whitman said.
"That's why [NATO forces] have a very aggressive training program for both the police and the military, to march towards that day when private security contractors are not needed," he added. "We are working with the government of Afghanistan to improve oversight and management as well as develop a plan to aggressively reduce them as the security conditions permit."