President Hamid Karzai has promised to end the activities of a protection racket that guarantees passage for NATO convoys. His deadline for closing down the activities of the hired guns of warlords and gangsters was December 17th. There are reported to be 40,000 armed men whose allegiance is often to the Taliban. The going rate for safe passage on each lorry is £1,500. The funding is thought to be vital for the Taliban.
The international community supports the idea of getting rid of the guns-for-hire but not by the Dec. 17 deadline. International officials spent several days in intense negotiations with the president, and even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in with a phone call asking him to reconsider.
Some security contractors still could be barred from working in Afghanistan by Dec. 17 under Karzai's revised plan, but others will get extensions until at least February.
Karzai has complained for years that many private guards commit human rights abuses, pay protection money to the Taliban and undercut the country's national security forces by offering higher wages and better living conditions. Nations providing aid to Afghanistan, however, question whether Afghan security forces — poorly trained, rife with corruption and stretched thin fighting insurgents — will be able to take on the work of the private guards.
Contractors say they will not be able to find insurers if they are forced to give up private security. Some have already been winding down projects early because they feared they would not be able to protect their workers.
Depending on when Karzai makes his decision, the 90-day extension could expire as early as February. Then, the Afghan government will assume responsibility for providing security for the projects. Then the sago will hit the fan.
It's yet another under-reported weakness in our fragile supply lines. Our troops could be isolated at a moments' notice. But our Government today remain buoyantly optimistic.
Remembering Tony Bevins
A wonderful event tonight celebrated the memory of independent journalist Tony Bevins. His final illness was a week long. The shock remains. He was great anarchic journalist who challenged the establishment. There were two prizes tonight. The rat up a drainpipe award went to the News of the World.
It was in gratitude to their purity in publishing news in the name of one member of the staff, who was imprisoned, without anyone else on the paper realising that the story was about to be published.
The Editor explained to the select committee that he had no recollection of the story on his front page about the royal family. As Bob Marshall Andrews said tonight, no member of the select committee asked him how distressed he felt on that Sunday morning when he saw the story for the first time on the front page of the paper that he edited. What a terrible shock it must have been for Mr Coulson. No wonder he looks so worried these days. The prize will cheer him up.
The main prize was won by Clare Sambrook, for her opendemocracy.net reporting on the detention of children in the immigration system. She blogs and writes from her home in Cumbria.