U.S.-Afghan Special Op pullout deal struck

March 20, 2013 at 9:58 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Special Operations forces will begin leaving Afghanistan's Wardak province to meet President Hamid Karzai's demand that they go, officials said.

Under an agreement reached Wednesday between Karzai and U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force commander, the pullout will begin in Nerkh district, where many residents alleged U.S. Special Operations forces and their Afghan allies tortured and killed locals, which the United States has denied, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Coalition spokesman Thomas Collins said the Afghan government will determine the timing of the U.S. pullout and influx of Afghan troops.

Karzai originally demanded all U.S. special operations forces be withdrawn from Wardak by March 11, a deadline the United States ignored.

U.S. commanders argued that pulling special op forces from Wardak, a Taliban stronghold, would allow the insurgents to infiltrate nearby Kabul.

In a statement, Dunford said Wednesday's agreement "continues the transition of this critical province and meets the security needs of the people and the requirements of our mission."

The deal directs that Afghan forces will deploy into Nerkh district "soon" and the remainder of the province "will transition over time," the coalition said.

"The Special Forces are withdrawing from Nerkh, and the Afghans are taking over," Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said. "Our security forces are fully capable of providing internal security to Afghans throughout the country."

The future of the Afghan Local Police -- village self-defense units trained by the special ops forces -- in the province was unclear, the Journal said. The coalition statement said the regular Afghan security forces' arrival "will preclude the need for ALP and coalition forces in this area," but an Afghan Interior Ministry official said he wasn't aware of any decision to disband the units in Wardak.

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