US State Department to protect Karzai
By ANWAR IQBAL, UPI South Asia Analyst
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service is to take over Afghan President Hamid Karzai's security detail next month, officials said Saturday.
Karzai, who was elected president of Afghanistan in June this year, is currently protected by a team of 60 U.S. troops who took over his personal security after the assassination of one of his three vice presidents in Kabul on July 6. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry arrested, though later released, several bodyguards of Vice President Hadid Abdul Qadir for possibly being involved in his assassination.
The department will use its own security personnel and will seek support from the military and private contractors to accomplish this mission, said State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz.
"It is rare but not unprecedented to provide security to a foreign head of state," she noted. "We provided similar protection to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide" when he returned to Haiti in October 1994 after two and a half years of exile in Washington.
Karzai has not had any Afghan bodyguards since the turnover to the U.S. military, and Prokopowicz did not indicate when they might return. Instead, the decision to protect Karzai was taken after "high-level discussions" with the Afghan government and between the Department of Defense and the State Department in Washington, Prokopowicz said.
DSS is now discussing modalities with the Afghan authorities to assume this responsibility.
Explaining the reasons for taking over this task, Prokopowicz described Afghanistan as "a dangerous and unstable place" and said one of the key objectives of the international community is to "improve security for the whole nation."
One part of this mission, she said, was to provide presidential protection. "If we are to build and enhance the authority of the central government that government must be in a position to operate without the fear of terrorist retaliation."