US Confused by Afghan Mercenaries

Blackwater-style private security guards may answer to militants
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2009 8:36 AM CST
Paramilitary soldiers guard trailers parked on a road, leading to Afghanistan after it was closed by authorities Dec. 31, 2008, in Peshawar, Pakistan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – It’s becoming harder to keep gun-wielding men straight in Afghanistan. Private security firms have cropped up all over, the Wall Street Journal reports, hired to protect businesses, particularly those doing work for the US. But coalition troops often can’t tell such groups apart from militants, and have been in at least three significant firefights with them in recent months.

“We authorize these guys to carry weapons in areas that need more security,” says one US commander. “But the risk is that you’re allowing more people to walk around with guns who aren’t part of the government and don’t answer to it.” The firms often hire ex-Taliban fighters who, officials fear, still take orders from the mullahs.