Kabul: Afghanistan's President has ordered US special forces to leave a strategic province as he seeks tighter control over Afghan militia, exacerbating tensions before the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops. (Agencies)
Hamid Karzai on Sunday gave American special forces two weeks to pull out of Wardak, a hotbed of Taliban activity on the doorstep of Kabul, accusing Afghans they work with of torture and murder that has incited local hatred. NATO and the US military have said it will discuss the issue with Afghan officials and takes all allegations of misconduct seriously. "We're looking at those allegations, we didn't find any evidence and we will talk to our colleagues and Afghan partners to find a solution," Brigadier General Gunter Katz, spokesman for the US-led NATO mission, told a news conference.
Wardak is a deeply troubled flashpoint where a Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban in August 2011, killing eight Afghans and 30 Americans, in the deadliest single incident for American troops in the entire war. Analysts said the order underscored Kabul's growing distrust of international troops and their desire to control local militia, who are trained by the Americans but operate without government control in the war against the Taliban.
Relations between Karzai and Washington have long been troubled, and with the bulk of NATO's 100,000 combat soldiers due to leave and the Afghan president to step down next year, there is huge uncertainty about the future. "It appears to be an on-the-spot, emotional decision, based on a long-standing frustration that there are forces... Afghan and international, that are uncontrollable," said Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Karzai's demand takes US military by surprise
Meanwhile, Afghan President’s demand has come as a surprise to American commanders, who had no advance warning of the order, officials said.
It remained unclear what led Karzai to issue a blunt announcement that US special operations force would have two weeks to withdraw from the strategic Wardak province, southwest of the capital Kabul, two US officials said. "We're not aware of any incident that would have generated this kind of response," one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. In a statement on Monday, Karzai charged that Afghans working with US forces had carried out torture and murder that had triggered local outrage.
The Pentagon confirmed that a special panel of Afghan officials and officers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Fore (ISAF) were looking into Karzai's allegations. Asked if the US would pull out its elite special operations units from the province, a spokesman said: "It's premature to speculate on what the outcome of our discussions would be." Analysts said Karzai's move conveyed Kabul's growing distrust of the NATO-led troops and their desire to impose their authority over local militia, who are trained by the Americans but operate without government control in the war against the Taliban.
Kabul: Afghanistan's President has ordered US special forces to leave a strategic province as he seeks tighter control over Afghan militia, exacerbating tensions before the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops.