Afghanistan's embattled president Hamid Karzai said on Sunday that U.S. taxpayers were indirectly funding "mafia-like groups" and terrorist activities with the American government's support of private contractors inside his country.
In a rare U.S. media appearance, Karzai continued to press for the removal of the vast majority of U.S. private contractors by the end of this year. He argued that their continued presence inside Afghanistan was "an obstruction and impediment" to the country's growth, a massive waste of money, and a catalyst for corruption among Afghan officials.
"The more we wait the more we lose," Karzai said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "Therefore we have decided as an Afghan government to bring an end to the presence of these security companies... who are not only causing corruption in this country but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people.
"One of the reasons that I want them disbanded and removed by four months from now is exactly because their presence is preventing the growth and development of the Afghan security forces -- especially the police force -- because if 40, 50,000 people are given more salaries than the Afghan police, why would an Afghan ... man come to the police if he can get a job in a security firm, have a lot of leeway without any discipline? So naturally our security forces will find it difficult to grow. In order for our security forces to grow these groups must be disbanded."
Karzai's campaign against U.S. contractors is, undoubtedly, compelled by his own domestic political concerns. The killing of innocent Afghanistan civilians has not only deeply soured the country's view of America's mission, but damaged Karzai's standing as well.
U.S. officials have warned that Afghanistan's army and police are nowhere near close to being ready to fill the void left by private contractors. If anything, the corruption that Karzai ties to the contractor community could be exacerbated if the Afghan army (itself plagued with scandal) were to play a bigger role.
Recognizing the reluctance of U.S. officials to endorse his approach, Karzai openly acknowledged that he was using his ABC sit down to make a direct pitch to the American public.
"I'm appealing to the U.S. taxpayer," he said, "not to allow their hard earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconvenience to the Afghan people but are actually, god knows, in contract with mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants, and insurgents and terrorists with those funds."