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6 Jan, 2010 04:22

Afghanistan a gold mine for security companies

Private military companies are being criticized for profiteering from the conflict in Afghanistan while the number of deadly attacks keeps rising and the local population remains in an insecure environment.

General Khatool Mohammadzai from the Afghan National Army notes, “This is war. President Karzai says it will take fifteen years for our army to be able to stand on its own. When the President talks, I know he has considered everything, so he must be right.”

But does this mean for the next 15 years the country will be unstable until the government gets it right? That is the reason foreign security companies give to explain why they are in the country. At least 17 of them are operating in Afghanistan, including the infamous Blackwater, which was accused in 2007 of killing civilians in Iraq.

Regardless, not even foreign contractors are still unable to prevent bomb explosions, so the feeling of fear and panic is everywhere. Yama Saifi, former owner of Shield Security Company, says that sentiment wasn’t around when it was his job to provide security for the cabinet.

That was before the Taliban came to power and people then were not afraid of random suicide bombings like they are today.

“I really don’t believe most foreign security companies are actually here to provide security. It is very clear they come here to make money. I am sure Afghan security companies can provide better security than them. And anyway, they use our people; it’s just that all the directors are from abroad,” thinks Yama Saifi.

There are big bucks to be made in Afghanistan. Each of the hundreds of non-governmental organizations working in the country put aside between thirty and forty percent of their budget for security. Even the US army and foreign militaries use private security companies.

“The longevity of instability is good business for security companies. So, security companies working for profit, this brings a lot of questions,” Daoud Sultanzoy, chairman of Economic Committee of the Afghan parliament believes.

No stranger to Afghanistan, former CIA officer Jack Rice believes NATO troops and security services don't know what the country's people really need.

“Afghani people themselves are interested in such things as schools, clean water and hospitals.” Saying that the problem is that the authorities do not pay attention to what people want, he added: “It makes the US military and NATO troops essentially blind and that is a disaster.”

Dr Tajuddin Millatmal from the Afghan Doctors’ Society divides his time between America and Afghanistan. He is a citizen of both countries – and as an American he does not want his tax payer money spent on security he says is not needed; as an Afghan he complains the situation is getting worse.

He thinks that “It is very interesting when you see one man traveling from one place to another how much security arrangements they make for it, for which it does nothing. If bomb goes off there is nothing they can do about it, but they are the things they are charging for.”

American security companies continue to keep silent, so the questions remain unanswered.