Private Security in Afghanistan

(NOTE FROM JOHN: This is part of an ongoing series of articles, exclusive to AMERICAblog, from Citizen Journalist Mark Fonseca Rendeiro in Afghanistan.)

We’ve learned a good amount over the past 7 years or so, about private security companies and their expanding role in military activity, especially the occupation of Iraq. So it should come as no surprise that here in Kabul, where I’m working for a month, there is also a huge presence of private security personnel (local not foreign) throughout the city.

Drive or walk down any street in Kabul and you can’t go more than a block or two before walking past someone dressed in some kind of combat uniform holding an old dusty AK-47. Sometimes it is clear, by the shop or building they are standing in front of, that this is a place that caters to alot of people and therefore has an armed guard. Other times these seemingly uninterested pajama clad gentlemen are just standing by the side of the road or sitting on the the sidewalk, I can only guess they’ve been assigned to these areas. Some wear the olive green of the Kabul police force, others where various shades of brown, green or black; these are the private security personnel.

This weekend I ventured into the highly fortified organization and embassy area, which features massive houses behind giant walls topped with barbed wire and additional metal fences. Each wall features an entrance gate with a guard booth and at least 2 private security guards on post with walkie talkies and AK-47’s. Over and over again this scene is repeated, sometimes with an additional security gate or road block or spiked chain that will destroy the tires of any car that attempts to drive towards the building. Once you get used to seeing these scenes over and over again, it seems impossible to visualize the city without these security guards.

Meanwhile the Afghan President has announced his intent to shut down private security companies in the coming 4 months. He points out the problems private security has created and the threat they have become for pubic safety. Instead alot of the type of work they are doing should be carried about by the Afghan military or the police, both of which are seen by many as not yet ready to meet all the security challenges the country faces.


This leaves me wondering as I enter restaurants and private security search me for weapons on my way in, does this mean these people will be out of a job? Can these places they are guarding survive without them or under the care of the Afghan police? Most likely these type of security workers are not included in the president’s ban. Still it brings it to question, how long will it have to be this way? As I walk the streets and I see a checkpoint, it does seem to slow vehicles down and provide some kind of security. Now the President has said it is time to remove many of these barricades. Is a city like Kabul ready for such a change? As a temporary resident for only 1 month and elections only a few weeks away, I’m of the opinion they should keep them just a little longer. Timetables for when security can be relaxed, in a place like this, are a risk I would be very reluctant to take.

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6 Responses to “Private Security in Afghanistan”

  1. Griffon says:

    “As I walk the streets and I see a checkpoint, it does seem to slow vehicles down and provide some kind of security.”

    KABUL, Afghanistan — American and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, according to military officials in Kabul.“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year….Though fewer in number than deaths from airstrikes and Special Forces operations, such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from General McChrystal seeking to reduce the killing of innocents. The persistence of deadly convoy and checkpoint shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans fearful of Western troops and angry at what they see as the impunity with which the troops operate — a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation.

    “I Heart Kabul Roadblocks.” “Is a city like Kabul ready for such a change? As a temporary resident for only 1 month and elections only a few weeks away, I’m of the opinion they should keep them just a little longer. “

    “You know,” [Blackwater’s Eric Prince said], “people ask me that all the time: ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan?’ And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

    I feel so much safer knowing the high-handed, charnel-house foreign policy practiced in Afghanistan. Citizen Propagandist Mark Fonseca Rendeiro is closer to the mark.

  2. NotTimothyGeithner says:

    The simple problem is that soldiers have an incentive to do the job and leave. Mercenaries have the incentive to create conditions to keep the paychecks coming.

  3. Hatfield says:

    Private security firms in military/conflict areas seem fundamentally wrong. Look at the problems in Iraq. Lack of responsibility, unaccountability, funneling money into far right companies. Just a very bad idea.

  4. Naja pallida says:

    I personally don’t see anything worse for undermining military authority and morale than private security and contractors doing the jobs that the military should be doing, used to do, or in many cases, doing the same jobs – at a much higher pay rate. How many thousands of soldiers have we lost to companies like Blackwater, because the pay is simply thousands of times better (and the oversight is much less)? Yet, our soldiers are at just as much risk, but get the shit end of the stick, and have to live within the military hierarchy. It isn’t just security people either. Food supplies, convoy and transportation, many, many things that should be completely done by the DoD… but instead, we now shell out twice as much money, funding a whole secondary military industrial complex.

  5. Bostonian_Queer_in_Dallas says:

    I knew a couple many years ago who had spent several years in Kabul for the Ford Foundation. Their job was to teach the locals how to build toilets. Incredibly naive of the Ford Foundation. There was no water and certainly no sewage system. This friend, who was a liberal scientist, instead taught them how to build really good sanitary outhouses. The Ford people hauled his ass back to the USA and fired him for doing thus. Americans go barging into a Stone Age culture thinking we can improve their lives by making them just like us. First they bring Jesus and later flush toilets that send sewage into the back yard. We are truly pathetic ignorant low IQ idiots. But man the profits to be had on the American tax payer!

  6. NotTimothyGeithner says:

    “This leaves me wondering as I enter restaurants and private security search me for weapons on my way in, does this mean these people will be out of a job?”

    Who cares? Mercs don’t have any incentive except to create a structure where they are continually paid. That means a terror-stricken society, not a safe and open society. Soldiers have that incentive because they are paid at home or at war. They have an incentive to get home.

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