Private security companies will leave Afghanistan within two years

President Karzai told private security companies that they would have to cease operating in Afghanistan within the next two years.

In a move that will be hugely popular with ordinary Afghans who resent the presence of thousands of heavily armed private security guards in their country, Mr Karzai said that their operations would be taken over by the army and police.

“The goal of a powerful national government can be realised by the stronger presence of national security forces in all parts of the country,” he told dignitaries in his inauguration speech. “Within the next two years we want operations by all private national and international security firms to be ended and their duties delegated to the Afghan security forces.”

He added that pressure on Nato to reduce its use of air power had led to a reduction in civilian casualties, but he said that more needed to be done to stop ordinary Afghans being injured and killed in the fighting.

He also raised the issue of America’s controversial prison at Bagram airport, where hundreds of security detainees are held. He said that as Afghanistan’s own prison system improved, “detention and legal prosecution of suspects will be the responsibility of the Government of Afghanistan alone”.