Up to 50 Afghan Security Guards Killed a Month
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 17, 2010
KABUL — The Watan Group’s trained fighting force of 2,000 men, armed with rifles and rockets, battles daily to secure the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan so that critical supply convoys can reach U.S. and NATO troops across the country.
Up to 50 guards, paid about $600 monthly, are killed in Taliban ambushes each month, during fighting so fierce that the Afghan army and police often refuse to help, said brothers Ahmad and Rashid Popal, who own the company.
Now, Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to do away with Watan Group and 51 similar firms, both foreign and domestic, which employ more than 30,000 guards working mostly for Western entities. Karzai, who calls the independent fighting forces “thieves by day, terrorists by night,” has set a four-month deadline to dissolve the companies and bring their work portfolio under his government’s control.
What will happen if Karzai gets his way? Transit routes will be impassable, foreign companies will leave Afghanistan, the economy will suffer, and — perhaps most ominously — the unemployed security guards will turn to the insurgency, the Popal brothers predicted.
“If you get rid of the guards, 60 to 65 percent of them will join the Taliban,” said Rashid Popal, Watan’s deputy chairman. “They won’t join the government [forces]. If you go and die for the government, they don’t take care of your family like we do. Their only alternative is the Taliban.”