Karzai orders special US forces out of Wardak
KABUL, Feb 24: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given US special forces two weeks to leave a key battleground province after some US soldiers there were found to have tortured or even killed innocent people, the president’s spokesman said on Sunday.
The decision by Mr Karzai could further complicate negotiations between the United States and Afghanistan over the presence of Americans troops in the country once most Nato forces leave by the end of 2014.
Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Mr Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said villagers in Wardak province had lodged a series of complaints about operations conducted by US special forces and a group of Afghans working with them.
The decision was reached at a Sunday meeting of the Afghan National Security Council, chaired by President Karzai, Mr Faizi said.
“The Ministry of Defence was assigned to make sure all US special forces are out of the province within two weeks,” he said.
“After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special forces stationed in Wardak province were engaging in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people,” he added.
A US Forces Afghanistan spokesman said he was aware of the reported comments by Mr Faizi.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them,” he said.
“Until we have had a chance to speak with senior (Afghan) officials about this issue we are not in a position to comment further.
This is an important issue that we intend to fully discuss with our Afghan counterparts.”
Sunday’s announcement came days after Mr Karzai issued a decree banning all Afghan security forces from using Nato air strikes in residential areas, in a bid to curb civilian casualties.
That was in response to an operation in Kunar targeting four Taliban members which resulted in the death of 10 civilians, including five children, during an air strike.
Mr Karzai has long warned his western backers that the killing of civilians could sap support for the foreign troops in the country and fuel the insurgency.—Reuters/AFP