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Karzai stands by ban on private security firms

By the CNN Wire Staff
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says private security firms will have to stop operating in his country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says private security firms will have to stop operating in his country.
  • NEW: Afghan, international officials meet to discuss implentation of ban
  • Afghanistan is banning all private security firms
  • President Karzai stands by the decision
  • The U.S. is concerned about the ramifications for development organizations

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday stoody by a decree to disband private security firms operating in his country, despite objections from the United States and other countries that the move would leave international development organizations without adequate protection to do their work.

Karzai said that he has wanted to disband the organizations for some time and had warned about security for development organizations before, but that his words went unheeded.

"I mentioned that problem five years ago but international friends called it impossible and threatened to close the development projects at that time," Karzai said. "Again, I mentioned that problem three years ago and I requested the international community to help us in implementing it but they asked me to give them time more two years. Now the Afghanistan government is committed in its decision to disband the private security companies."

Karzai believes that the private security companies are creating a parallel security system that challenges the Afghan security forces, his office said.

Regarding protection for the development organizations, Karzai asked other countries to present a list of security requirements for large national projects and that the Afghan government would take decisions on whether and how to safeguard them.

The only exception to the closure of private security firms is their work protecting embassies and diplomats.

Meanwhile, some U.S.-funded development organizations have begun implementing contingency plans that could result in those organizations pulling out of the country.

The U.S. government and NATO have been talking to the Afghan government about the ramifications of the measure.

The most recent meeting was Sunday, when Karzai and members of his government met with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Gen. David Petraeus -- top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan -- and others.

All the participants at the meeting reiterated their support for the decree and agreed to continue working together on implementing the ban in a way that doesn't leave development agencies in a lurch, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

"As a matter of priority, the United States will continue to work with the Afghan government and international community to fully implement the decree over a period of time to ensure the protection of our development implementing partners as they continue their operations," Hayden said.

One day earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Karzai to offer ideas on how to implement the ban on private security firms, according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley in a Twitter message.

Crowley said the Clinton suggested building a joint plan to steadily replace contractors while managing the impact on existing operations.

Clinton also pledged to work cooperatively with Karzai to support a smooth transition to full Afghan security responsibility, he said.

CNN's Barbara Starr, Jill Dougherty and Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.