The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has ordered U.S. special forces to leave the Maidan Wardak province following reports from local officials claiming that the elite forces had been involved in the torture and disappearance of nine Afghan civilians.
U.S. military officials are rejecting the allegations of torture and involvement in the disappearances, but President Karzai, who convened a meeting of the Afghan national security council on Sunday, seems to believe that the evidence was strong enough to demand that the forces leave the province within two weeks.
Over the past year, security in the province bordering the capital city of Kabul has deteriorated and has become a focus of American-led efforts to prevent insurgents from reaching the capital.
Afghanistan's decision to disallow U.S. special forces in Maidan Wardak province could have serious implications for the nation's relations with Washington, as well as for U.S. plans to maintain a counter-terrorist force in Afghanistan even after NATO combat troops leave in 2014.
At the national security council meeting, the provincial governor and other officials from Maidan Wardak presented evidence against U.S. forces. Later on, the presidential palace issued a statement, which said:
"After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.
A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge. However, Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force."
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Karzai, said that the decision came following months of reports of abuse, stating:
"People have been complaining about US special forces units torturing people, killing people in that province, and nine individuals were taken from their homes recently and they have just disappeared and no one knows where they have gone. These individuals in the US special forces, who are behind these crimes like murdering and torturing people and harassing people, this is in itself an elemental factor in the deteriorating security situation."
Afghanistans own elite forces also operate in Maidan Wardark, often alongside U.S. special forces. According to Faizi, this association fueled negative feelings towards the Afghan government in the province, which is something officials hoped to stem.