Mar 20, 2013 / 7:13 am
The U.S. military and the Afghan government reached a deal Wednesday on the pullout of American special operations forces and their Afghan counterparts from a strategic eastern province after complaints that they were involved in human rights abuses.
American military officials have steadfastly denied the Afghan abuse allegations, which led President Hamid Karzai to demand the withdrawal of the U.S. commandos from Wardak province despite fears the decision could leave the area and the neighbouring capital of Kabul more vulnerable to al-Qaida and other insurgents.
The agreement calls for the U.S.-led coalition to pull the special operations forces from Wardak's Nirkh district, the area where the abuses allegedly occurred, along with the Afghan forces who work with them, as they are replaced by Afghan army or national police. The rest of the province would "transition over time," according to a statement.
It was a symbolic victory for Karzai, who has long complained the U.S. special operations forces and their Afghan partners were outside his control. It will also speed the handover of security in the troubled province, faster than U.S. officials and some members of Karzai's own government had recommended or planned.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said Afghan forces were ready to fill the gap.
"The international forces are ready to withdraw the special forces from Nirkh district of Maidan Wardak province, and Afghan army units are going to replace them in the coming days," Azimi said at a news conference in Kabul.
He said there are no other U.S. commando units elsewhere in the province.
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