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US may use troops to replace banned private guards in Afghanistan

From Larry Shaughnessy, CNN
  • The Karzai government is moving toward a ban on private security contractors
  • Without protection, development activities would have to be curtailed, a U.S. official says
  • Using U.S. troops is "certainly one of the possibilities," Col. Dave Lapan says

Washington (CNN) -- The United States is looking at the possibility of shifting some U.S. forces from combat roles to security roles if President Hamid Karzai's effort to force out private contractors succeeds, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

So far, the military has not seen any disruption of development activities, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters at the Pentagon.

"But we would be looking ahead to see, if they could no longer have private security, how we would either continue those using other means, or those activities would have to be either stopped or curtailed," Lapan said.

Asked about using U.S. troops in place of private security contractors, Lapan replied, "That's certainly one of the possibilities."

The move could involve troops protecting infrastructure near military bases, a U.S. official said.

The Afghan government's plan to ban most private security contractors has been a matter of concern between the U.S. and Afghan governments.

The ban could jeopardize millions of dollars of U.S.-funded aid projects that are part of the American strategy to degrade the Taliban influence not just through military means but also by strengthening the Afghan government's ability to provide infrastructure and services to its citizens.

The move could leave groups operating U.S.-funded aid projects exposed. One group, Maryland-based DAI, has said it is in the process of shutting down more than 300 projects around Afghanistan because of concern over how it would handle security without private security guards.

While the Obama administration has backed the Karzai move to regulate private security contractors, it is trying to get the Afghan government to carve out exceptions to help development groups. So far, the Karzai government has not relented.

This weekend, a tense meeting on the private security issue between the top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, and Karzai ended with the Afghan president storming out, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

"We have to have a path forward that gains greater visibility (and) regulation over these contractors, effects a transition from reliance on contractors to a reliance on indigenous security forces, but at the same time allows ... important operations to continue," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday. "That is something we're trying to do.

"We think that there is a solution that is achievable that can balance these requirements, and that's what we're working with the government on."

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.