KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military and the Afghan government reached a deal Wednesday on a gradual pullout of American special forces and their Afghan counterparts from a contentious eastern province, officials said.
However, NATO forces said in a statement that commander Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. agreed with Mr. Karzai to remove American troops first from Wardak’s Nerkh district and then later from other parts of the province.
“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,” Gen. Azimi said, adding that there are no other U.S. commando units in the rest of the province.
The deal marked a political win for Mr. Karzai, who long has complained that the U.S. special operations troops and their Afghan allies 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 Mr. Karzai's government had recommended or planned.
U.S. and Afghan officials privately have expressed concern that the inexperienced Afghan security forces are not yet ready to take over in such a key area. Wardak and neighboring Logar province are used as staging grounds for the Taliban and insurgents from the Haqqani network to launch attacks on the capital, Kabul.
Only last Friday, Afghan intelligence seized a truck loaded with almost 8.8 tons of homemade explosives just east of Kabul, which intelligence officials believe could have taken out a square mile of the city.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to recount their disagreement with Mr. Karzai and concerns over the deal.
Speaking ahead of the announcement of the deal, Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizee said the Afghan security forces were going to take control of the province eventually, so the gradual transfer “can be a testing period.”
Mr. Faizee insisted earlier this week that an Afghan American working for the U.S. special operations forces was filmed abusing a suspect, on U.S. orders. The spokesman said the film was obtained during an Afghan defense ministry investigation, which was completed over the weekend.
Gen. Dunford, the U.S. commander of all forces in Afghanistan, rejected the abuse charge in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. He said a recently completed U.S. investigation found the interpreter in question was not working with U.S. forces at the time of the incident.
It was not clear what the agreement would mean for dozens of small U.S. special operations outposts throughout Afghanistan, and the Afghans units partnered with them.
Such Afghan units, known as local police, were started by U.S. forces but have been incorporated into the Afghan Ministry of Interior and answer to the local district police chief, according to an Afghan security official who spoke on condition of anonymity as a condition of discussing the sometimes controversial program.View Entire Story
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