Private security firms in Afghanistan have been given more time before having to suspend operations, the Afghan interior ministry said Monday.
Most of the companies will now be dissolved in the coming weeks, ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AFP. The majority had been due to close by Tuesday.
There are about 50 security companies operating in Afghanistan, down from more than a hundred in 2007, providing services for foreign troops, diplomatic missions and aid organisations.
But relations with the authorities have deteriorated and Karzai has accused the firms of breaking the law and taking business away from Afghans.
According to the manager of one medium-sized firm — employing 1,200 people — companies providing security to military and diplomatic institutions will escape the ban.
Customers of other companies who want to continue using armed guards will have to turn to the APPF (Afghan Public Protect Force), a for-profit force created by Kabul to take the place of private firms.
“Most of our clients simply do not want to go to APPF because of the trust. They don’t trust its reliability, its management,” said the security firm manager, who did not want to be named.
One of the concerns is that without sufficient vetting of personnel, insurgents or criminals may enter the APPF’s ranks.
“We are not concerned about the quality of our guards but of our quality in general, so that we can satisfy our clients,” Sediqqi said, adding that just under 2,000 men had been recruited.
After announcing the closure of private security firms, the Afghan government has repeatedly rolled back on its plans and extended the deadline.
Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in a US-led invasion in 2001 private security firms rushed in to fill a vacuum created by a lack of adequately trained police and army forces.
But perceptions that personnel were little more than gun-toting mercenaries, roaming the countryside with impunity, made them deeply unpopular among Afghans.
There are about 130,000 US-led NATO forces fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in defence of the Afghan government, and all combat troops are due to leave by the end of 2014.