In very much the same way that private US security firms is providing additional security to private and government organizations operating in high-risk areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, native Afghan security organizations are proliferating in Afghanistan. These private Afghan security forces usually cater to local Afghan companies working on US-funded projects such as road construction as well as the Afghan elite.
The existence of these organizations, while benefiting to local Afghan companies, is also beginning to be a source of confusion. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the US Armed Forces to identify which armed groups are legitimate Afghan security forces, drug traffickers or members of militant organizations who are constantly battling US troops. The question now stands, is it a good idea to have more people walking around with AK47s as private citizens who do not have to answer to the government?
This can be a tough draw, since security in Afghanistan is admittedly poor. Local security firms actually offer a way to increase this security, as it is practically impossible nowadays for a legitimate firm – Afghan, US or other foreign companies – to operate in Afghanistan without being threatened by extremist groups.
The downside, though, is that this has also given militant groups more opportunities to “hide in the open”. There were incidents last year when contraband weapons were actually found among the possessions of legitimate private Afghan security groups. The security situation in Afghanistan has prompted President Barack Obama to tag the country as a priority over Iraq, and plans are under way to double US military presence in the country by summer 2009.
An additional cause for concern is that while private US security forces are composed of trained personnel such as former Navy SEALs, local security groups may not have the same caliber of manpower. The local Afghan armed forces are also not strong enough to control an increasing population of private armed groups.
For now, US Armed Forces and Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan such as the Navy SEALs and the Army Rangers are constantly on their toes, careful about discerning which armed groups are legitimate so as not to stir up controversy.