Afghan Security Companies to Disband in Stages

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Officials say foreign diplomats and Afghan officials agree that the disbanding of private security companies ordered by Afghan President Hamid Karzai should be done in several stages.

Karzai backed away from a Dec. 17 deadline to shut down the companies after diplomats said the move threatened billions of dollars worth of reconstruction projects. Up to 40,000 private guards work in Afghanistan.

An Afghan and a foreign official familiar with the negotiations say the government and the companies now agree the shutdown should be gradual.

The officials said Wednesday sticking points remain. The government must come up with a proposal in five days on the phased shutdown.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.