Afghan President Hamid Karzai enraged the US and his other NATO allies today by ordering all private security contractors to leave the country within four months. Though NATO had been working on its own plan to register and regulate the mercenaries, they weren’t prepared for the move, or the relatively imminent deadline. The LA Times speculates that Karzai intends to use that deadline as a bargaining chip as the West pushes him to reform his corrupt government.
Karzai promised that Afghan security forces would pick up the slack, but the West doubts that those forces are ready. There are roughly 40,000 private security contractors in Afghanistan, protecting everything from diplomatic missions to hotels and restaurants. But they’re extremely unpopular, having been linked to civilian deaths in numerous incidents.