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Afghan officials say NATO ignored complaints of abuses by U.S. Special Operations forces

by Richard Leiby, Washington Post

KABUL — Afghan officials said Monday they demanded the pullout of U.S. Special Operations forces from an insurgency-wracked province because the U.S.-backed NATO command here for months has ignored residents’ allegations of severe abuses committed by the elite American troops and armed Afghan irregulars working with them.

A joint commission of inquiry composed of Afghan and NATO coalition officials will explore in coming days the claims raised over the weekend by President Hamid Karzai’s administration — including allegations of the arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians.

But NATO said its past inquiries found no evidence to support allegations of misconduct by U.S. Special Operations forces in Wardak province, southwest of KabulResidents in the province have complained to human rights groups and provincial leaders of being terrorized in recent months by an Afghan militia that works with U.S. commandos and calls itself “special forces” or “campaign forces.”

Karzai on Sunday stunned the International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition of foreign forces is known, by ordering all U.S. Special Operations forces to leave Wardak in two weeks, based on allegations that they had been involved in the torture and murder of “innocent people.”

It was one of the the Afghan president’s more strident attacks on his Western allies as U.S. and other foreign troops exit the country they have supported for more than a decade. Karzai has long complained about violations of Afghan sovereignty by international troops, although some U.S. observers say his rhetoric is deliberately overheated to play to a domestic audience.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, asked a news conference Monday in London about Karzai’s demand, said any concerns the Afghan government has will be “appropriately evaluated” by the international coalition.

Because Special Operations troops carry out classified missions, it is difficult to independently confirm their activities or links to local groups.

“The U.S. has had a long history in Afghanistan of working with some of these irregular militias that are not accountable to anyone,” said Sahr Muhammedally, legal adviser for the Center for Civilians in Conflict, who has studied such groups.

“A lot of villagers talk about these campaign forces,” she said. “It is not the first time I have heard the name.... But the U.S. Special Operations forces don’t confirm or deny anything.”

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