In a statement from Karzai’s National Security Council, the government said that, “It became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people. A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge. However, Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force.”
The council stated that the Ministry of Defense would be responsible for ensuring that U.S. Special Forces are “out of the province within two weeks,” that Afghan forces would be responsible for “effectively stopping and bringing to justice any groups that enter peoples’ homes in the name of Special Forces” and that NATO would have to stop all its Special Forces operations in Wardak immediately.
In a hurriedly convened press conference after the meeting, government spokesman Aimal Faizi clarified that it was not specifically US Special Forces, saying that, “There are some individuals, some Afghans, who are working within these cells, within these [U.S.] Special Forces groups” in Wardak province. “But they are part of U.S. special forces according to our sources and according to our local officials working in the province,” he said.
The U.S. and NATO have denied any wrongdoing. NATO officials on Monday said they had found “no evidence connecting U.S. troops to allegations of abuse, torture, harassment and murder of innocent Afghans in the region,” while on Tuesday Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said that a joint commission made up of Afghan and NATO officials would be formed to review Kabul’s accusations.
The decree may shed light on the government’s stance toward future counterterrorism operations on its territory after 2014, but with so many uncertainties remaining, the order may prove to be an instance of Karzai forcing General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, into a weaker role, rather than any indication of a future path. “The style in which Karzai has decided to deal with the issue, which has taken the form of a public shaming of NATO, fits in with the way that that relationship has been going in the last year or two. But I don’t think that that is necessarily a reason to discount the possibility that this violence really has happened,” says Barr.
Afghans, too, are worried about the situation – though for different reasons, reasons that could have an impact on security in Kabul, come the summer fighting season. In an upstairs room of the provincial governor’s offices, elders had gathered from Chak, one of the embattled districts who had mobilized to support Karzai’s decree. Holding forth over the rest of the elders, Senator Samir Shirzada, had a warning for NATO. “The Special Forces in Chak district are causing a lot of insecurity. They are causing problems for the people. In the winter there is no insurgency in our area. The insurgents go back to Pakistan or Iran or wherever they come from. But the Special Forces in the winter still arrest people,” says Shirzada. “They cause problems for the families and so the young men go and join the insurgency. Because the Special Forces disturb the people, this causes the people to join the insurgency. They are killing people, they are arresting people, and so the family members get angry and they go and join the insurgents.”
More to follow in this tale of atrocities.