Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given U.S. special forces two weeks to leave a key battleground province after some U.S. soldiers in the region were found to have tortured or killed innocent people, the president’s spokesman said on Sunday.
The decision by Karzai could further complicate negotiations between the U.S. 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, Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said villagers in Wardak province had lodged a series of complaints about operations conducted by U.S. 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 Karzai, Faizi said.
His spokesman said: ‘The Ministry of Defense was assigned to make sure all U.S. special forces are out of the province within two weeks.
‘After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province were engaging in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.’
One example was cited where a student was kidnapped in the middle of the night before his tortured body was found two days later with his throat slit.
Sunday’s announcement came days after the Afghan leader 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 deaths of ten civilians, including five children, during an air strike.
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.