The Afghan government has ordered all US special forces to leave one of Afghanistan‘s most restive provinces, after receiving reports from local officials claiming the elite force is behind several cases of Afghan civilians being tortured or disappeared.
Officials in Maidan Wardak, a province which borders Kabul and where security has deteriorated over the past year, had presented evidence to President Hamid Karzai and other security officials alleging that nine people had disappeared after being seized by US special forces in raids on their homes.
US special forces were also accused of involvement in the death of a university student whose tortured remains were found days after he went missing.
“People have been complaining about US special forces units torturing and 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,” said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for the president.
Senior Afghan security officials made the decision at their weekly meeting on Sunday morning, chaired by Karzai. Faizi said the government had been made aware of the allegations months earlier.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul said it was aware of the order, but declined to provide further information. It was also unable to confirm the number of US special forces currently in Maidan Wardak.
“We take allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them, but until we’ve had a chance to talk to senior government of Afghanistan officials, we’re not in a position to comment further,” an Isaf spokesman said.
Officials from the Ministry of Defence and National Directorate of Security in Kabul recently travelled to Maidan Wardak to meet its governor and discuss new plans to improve security, Faizi said. Those discussions included the conduct of US special forces in the area.
“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,” Faizi said.
Afghanistan’s own elite commando forces, including the 1st, 2nd and 6th Special Operations Kandak, also operate in Maidan Wardak, often working alongside US special forces. Faizi said that this association had also fuelled negative feeling towards the Afghan government in the area, something officials wanted to stem.
Sunday’s decision comes as Afghan forces face mounting pressure to show they are fit to fully inherit Afghanistan’s security from their foreign backers in 2014. Tensions between Karzai’s government and the alliance also hit a new low last week after he condemned a Nato airstrike that killed nine civilians.
The incident prompted Karzai to issue a decree, banning Afghan security forces from summoning Nato aerial bombardments during operations.
Faizi said that security in Maidan Wardak, and nearby Logar province, which also borders Pakistan, has been of particular concern to the Afghan government because of heightened violence and Taliban activity there.
Maidan Wardak currently hosts mainly US troops. A brigade of 3,000 to 4,000 Afghan soldiers is also deployed in the province, according to Isaf.