US-backed reconstruction projects—worth upward of $1.5 billion—are grinding to a halt, as firms begin to shutter them over the Afghan government's refusal to lift its ban on the use of private security contractors, reports the Washington Post. An official called the development "catastrophic" to America's effort to stabilize the country. "If these projects grind to a halt, we might as well go home," he says. "They are essential to the counterinsurgency strategy."
The ban, which goes into effect Dec. 17, is seen by Afghan leaders as a way to deal with the limited oversight they have over contractors. The government argues that its soldiers and police officers can provide the necessary safety, but Western officials maintain that those forces are ill-trained, corrupt, and in short supply. "If we don't have private security, we cannot operate in Afghanistan," says an unnamed development executive. Some 20,000 locals may lose their jobs on road-building and energy projects alone, the paper notes.