KABUL and ISLAMABAD, Feb. 24, 2013 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered all U.S. Special Forces out of two key provinces within two weeks, accusing Afghan units under their jurisdiction of being responsible for the torture, abuse, and disappearance of Afghan civilians.
The deadline was announced today by Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi at a hastily convened press conference, and later repeated in a statement from the Presidential Palace.
The decision came after Karzai met Sunday with his National Security Council. According to the statement, during the meeting "it became clear that armed individuals belonging to US Special Forces engaged in harassing, annoying, torturing, and even murdering innocent people."
A NATO spokesperson says they are aware of the allegations, but would not provide further comment.
U.S. Special forces are known to conduct operations with Afghan units that are separate from the normal Afghan Army. Because these units are often directly recruited, trained and supported by U.S. special forces, they fall outside of Karzai's control.
Afghans have long complained of harassment and intimidation at the hands of these forces, some of whom are seen as former criminals and militia members out to settle petty vendettas against tribal enemies.
Karzai's allegations refer to two specific incidents: The disappearance of nine Afghan civilians following a special forces operation, and the death of a student who was taken away during a night raid and whose body was found two days later under a bridge with torture marks and his throat cut. The incidents are believed to have occurred recently.
Wardak lies just to the west of Kabul and Logar to the south. Both provinces are considered key gateways to the city of Kabul.
In addition to the two-week deadline for all U.S. Special Forces to leave the two provinces, Karzai also ordered an immediate halt to all U.S. Special Operations activities in Wardak province.
The move comes a week after Karzai lashed out at coalition forces, ordering a ban on all airstrikes in residential areas. The ban came after several civilians were reportedly killed in an airstrike requested by Afghan forces.