Afghan President Hamid Karzai has leveled serious accusations at U.S. military forces in his nation, claiming they have been involved in the torture and murder of “innocent people.” Karzai ordered U.S. special forces to leave a strategically important province within the next two weeks.
“After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force[s] stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people,” Karzai said in a statement. “A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force.”
In another incident, Karzai said, “A student was taken away at night from his home,” and his “tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge.”
Though some published reports interpreted Karzai’s statement as a direct attack on U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, others implied that his statement was referring to the U.S.-trained Afghan local police.
According to ABC News, Karzai was referring to the Afghan local police that have been directly recruited, trained and supported by U.S. Special Operations.
Karzai has long been perturbed by the operations of these units because they fall outside of his control, separate from the normal Afghan army. Afghans have also complained about harassment and intimidation from these local units, who are seen by many as former criminals and militia members out to settle petty vendettas against tribal enemies.
As President Obama begins to oversee the withdrawal of conventional U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next two years, the role of Special Operations is considered especially critical.
U.S. military officials appeared to be surprised by Karzai’s orders —and weren’t sure whether he would enforce them or if he was engaging in politicking to gain an advantage in negotiations with NATO forces.
The U.S. and its allies are in ongoing discussions about areas of responsibility and cost after conventional forces withdraw and NATO’s mandate for operations in the country expires at the end of 2014.
Karzai had been working well in recent months with the foreign nations on which he relies so heavily for financial and logistical support. Yesterday’s statement was especially aggressive and blunt.
In response to Karzai, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan issued its own statement, saying that it takes abuse allegations seriously.
“This is an important issue that we must discuss with our Afghan counterparts,” the statement said.
A spokesman for Karzai, Amal Faizi, held a news conference in an attempt to clarify the president’s statement. He said the abuse allegations were connected to Afghans working “within these special forces groups.”
“Those Afghans in these armed groups who are working with the U.S. Special Forces, the defense minister asked for an explanation of who they are,” Faizi said. “Those individuals should be handed over to the Afghan side so that we can further investigate.”