Karzai, The Melodrama: Act II

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is an enigma. He seems a man desperate to maintain power regardless of cost. He is willing to dismantle efforts to rebuild his country (or build it in the first place), a strategy crucial to the U.S.-allied counterinsurgency.

On Dec. 17, Karzai’s ban on private security personnel takes effect. From large corporation to nongovernmental organization, if you use private security, you’re done in Afghanistan.

Some U.S. officials call the move catastrophic to allied efforts.

Karzai maintains that private gun-toters have too little oversight. (This is a long-standing allegation and may be accurate in some cases.) Afghan officials also allege the private security firms act as private militias. Afghan police and the nation’s “army” cannot touch these guys. What Karzai and his followers don’t highlight is many international security firms employ Afghan guards and a number of companies are Afghan-owned. (Maybe they are not owned by the right Afghans.)

Shutdowns are scheduled to begin Nov. 1 to meet the December deadline. It is estimated $1.5 billion in projects will be halted. Thousands of Afghans will lose their jobs. As reported by The Washington Post, it is estimated 20,000 Afghans will lose their positions in road building and energy projects. More than 300 U.S. Agency for International Development projects totaling over $20 million will cease. One company working on agricultural projects worth $431 million is still seeking a solution with the Karzai officials so work may continue.

U.S. and NATO negotiated for exemptions for U.S. bases and diplomatic needs.

It appears Karzai believes this ban serves the greater good because of the dangers posed by the gun-toters. It is believed he wants all private security positions filled by Afghans. The U.S. and international firms there are not up for this deal.

One U.S. official may have summed it up when he said we might as well all go home.

With a large military force in the middle of his struggling nation what does the well-dressed Karzai want from U.S. forces and the international community as a whole as his decree hobbles their efforts? Does this sanction against private gun-toters satisfy some deal struck with insurgent leaders? What about those allegations of bags o’ cash from Iran to a top Karzai official to buy favor for Iran with the fledgling nation?

Given the gun-toter ban and infusion of Iranian cash, what does the U.S. want from this awkward and tenuous relationship? Is this a game of Afghan chicken?

Ironically, don’t the looming Karzai ban and his apparent distrust of private security firms mirror the stand of the U.S. leaders on this very topic not long ago?

Afghanistan may be open to a gun-toter extension. Big deal.

What do you think about Karzai’s move against private security firms?

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