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He has good reason to be fearful. Only the day before, two died in a roadside bomb blast. Mohammed does not belong to any military or police organization. To satisfy the voracious appetite of thousands of NATO troops for food, fuel and other supplies, hundreds of trucks a week must traverse highways that more and more are rife with insurgents.
Afghans, often unable to make a decent living any other way, are paying a hefty price to try to ensure the goods arrive intact, regularly living out scenes straight out of a Mad Max movie. Before a partial government crackdown a year or so ago, private soldiers were often involved in kidnappings and robberies, said a Kandahar-based security expert with an international agency.
This August, a detail of guards with a logistics convoy started shooting wildly when they came under Taliban fire west of Kandahar city, and a Canadian soldier on patrol in between was killed. The Canadian Forces, which hires private security to guard some of its own bases, later cleared the contractors of any blame in the death, saying the fatal shot was from the Taliban. Private guards are a necessity of life here, a spokesman says.
Jay Janzen, a Forces spokesman. But Ruhullah Khan, a senior manager of Commando Security who was present during the August incident, said he remains unsure of who shot whom. It was members of another firm also protecting the convoy who were firing, he maintained.
Janzen said the foreign forces would be unable to function without the help of private troops, noting that Canada employs them to handle perimeter security at some of its bases. The Foreign Affairs Department also hires a security company to patrol outside its embassy in Kabul, but does not use private bodyguards, said a department spokesman. The local security expert, who asked not to be named, said only a small handful of companies are properly licensed by the Afghan government, despite the crackdown, and regulation is minimal.