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AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan tells US special forces to leave restive Maidan Wardak province

Special forces told to leave restive province after reports of civilians being tortured, disappeared

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2013, 5:18am

The Afghan government has ordered all US special forces to leave one of its country's most restive provinces after receiving reports from local officials claiming that the elite unit is behind several cases of Afghan civilians being tortured or disappeared.

Officials in Maidan Wardak - a province bordering Kabul where security has deteriorated over the past year - had presented evidence to President Hamid Karzai alleging that nine people disappeared after US special forces raided 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," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said.

Senior Afghan security officials made the decision yesterday at their weekly meeting, chaired by Karzai. Faizi said the government had been made aware of the allegations months ago.

The International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said it was aware of the order, but it declined to provide further information. It was also unable to confirm the number of US special forces 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," a spokesman for the Nato-led force 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.

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