Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, pledged to disband private security firms in his country within four months in an exclusive interview on "This Week." Karzai insisted having those companies operate in Afghanistan undermined the country's security forces and were a source of corruption, thievery and harassment. He also alleged that some private security firms engaged in terrorist activity.
In an interview with anchor Christiane Amanpour, Karzai said the quick deadline for their disbandment was necessary. "The more we wait, the more we lose," he said from Kabul.
He insisted the companies were "running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government."
"One of the reasons that I want them disbanded and removed by four months from now is exactly because that their presence is preventing the growth and the development of the Afghan Security Forces, especially the police force because 40,000, 50,000 people are given more salaries than the Afghan police," he said.
"Why would an Afghan young man come to the police if he can get a job in a security firm, have a lot of leeway and without any discipline?" the president of Afghanistan asked.
"In order for security forces to grow, these groups must be disbanded," Karzai said.
He then spoke directly to Americans with a pitch that sounded almost Washingtonesque. "I am appealing to the U.S. taxpayer not allow their hard-earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconveniences to the Afghan people, but actually are, God knows, in contract with Mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants and insurgents and terrorists through those firms," he said.
Amanpour pressed the president on whether he would get rid of all private security forces. "Do you mean even the ones who protect you, who protect military bases, who protect diplomats as well and aid convoys?" she asked.
Karzai conceded that there would be some exceptions for security contractors that are working for foreign governments or aid organizations, but, he said, after the deadline, the rules "will definitely not allow them to be on the roads, in the bazaars, in the streets, on the highways, and we will not allow them to provide protection to supply lines."
"That," Karzai said, "is the job of the Afghan government and the Afghan police."
Amanpour pressed the Afghan president to respond to comments from his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, that the battle for Afghan hearts and minds was lost. Karzai didn't directly address Zardari's claim but said the war on terror was winnable.
"I believe the campaign against terrorism is absolutely winnable," he said. "We have to win, but in order for us to do that, we must end the business as usual and we must begin to reexamine whether we are doing everything correctly."
Karzai said Afghan and foreign forces need to work to increase protection of Afghans, reduce civilians deaths and end corruption.
In an extraordinary admission, the President of Afghanistan admitted he had directly intervened to get a close aide out of prison after the aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi, was arrested on extensive corruption charges. Salehi was arrested after specific approval from the attorney general of Afghanistan, according to The Washington Post.