KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Afghanistan's president announced Wednesday he was extending the deadline for the shutdown of private security forces guarding foreign companies.
The Afghan government had set a Dec. 17 deadline for ending the private security forces. However, President Hamid Karzai said he would establish a new timetable through a committee that would make its recommendations in mid-November.
Karzai had been under pressure from foreign aid agencies to extend the deadline because the private guards are vital to protecting various development projects across Afghanistan.
The Washington Post reported scores of projects likely would have had to shut down without the security personnel protecting workers.
"We were on the ropes," a U.S. Agency for International Development official in Kabul told the newspaper. "It would have devastated us."
The Los Angeles Times reported that while the United States and other western governments have praised the shutdown in general, diplomats including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had personally pressed Karzi in recent days to extend the December deadline.
Disbanding private security forces is an idea that is popular among the Afghan population who see it as a gesture of national sovereignty, the Times said.