Afghan President Hamid Karzai scrapped on Sunday a March 2012 deadline he had set for the closure of private security firms, giving them until September 2013 to operate in the country.
Karzai, a frequent critic of private security companies, has previously set dates for the cessation of their work in Afghanistan, but each time the deadline has been extended.
He did not say why he was giving the firms an extra 18 months, but the second half of this year has seen some of the bloodiest attacks on civilians and soldiers in the past decade.
“We give permission for them (to carry on working) for one and a half years more, and one and a half years later (in September 2013) our minister … will close them all,” Karzai said.
Karzai, speaking at an anti-corruption event in the capital Kabul, said the prevalence of security contractors weakened the state by providing many of the services that the public sector otherwise would.
“Another reason why the Afghan government is not able to tackle corruption is a parallel administration to the Afghan government,” he said.
“Private security companies are the biggest barriers to law enforcement, and development of the interior ministry and police,” the president said.
In August 2010, Karzai said he wanted private security firms — with the exemption of firms whose guards work inside compounds used by foreign embassies, international businesses and aid and charitable organisations — to close by the end of that year. The deadline was later pushed back to March 2012.
His government tried unsuccessfully in 2009 to register the firms, find out the amount of arms they had and where they came from, and how much money the industry was worth, an Afghan security source said.