- Special Pages
WASHINGTON: Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s order that US special forces leave a flashpoint province came as a surprise to American commanders, who had no advance warning of the order, officials said yesterday.
It is unclear what led Karzai to issue a blunt announcement that US special operations force would have two weeks to withdraw from Wardak, a key province southwest of the capital Kabul, US officials said. “We’re not aware of any incident that would have generated this kind of response,” one official said.
On Sunday, Karzai alleged that Afghans working with US forces had tortured and murdered people in Wardak, triggering local outrage. Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said it was aware of the allegations of misconduct but would not comment further until it had spoken to Afghan officials.
The Pentagon confirmed that a special panel of Afghan officials and officers from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Fore (ISAF) is looking into Karzai’s allegations.
“There has been a joint commission established by ISAF and the government of Afghanistan to look into the issues that surfaced over the weekend,” spokesman George Little said. “We’re trying to seek clarity from the government of Afghanistan.”
Asked if the US would withdraw its elite special operations units from the province, Little said: “It’s premature to speculate on what the outcome of our discussions would be.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a joint press conference with his British counterpart William Hague in London, said he had taken “appropriate note” of Afghan complaints which would be “evaluated” by ISAF.
Karzai “had many legitimate evaluations of how sometimes some things have gone or might be changed and be done better. We’re working on that.
“I can assure you we are finely tuned to the needs of the Afghan people and to the most effective ways to make this transition together,” Kerry added.
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. It was the deadliest single incident for American troops in the entire war.
Karzai has had a troubled relationship with Washington for years and in the past he has often publicly expressed anger after errant US air strikes killed Afghan civilians.
Analysts said Karzai’s move conveyed Kabul’s growing distrust of Nato and ita desire to impose their authority over local militia, who are trained by US forces but operate independently in the war against the Taliban. afp