Afghanistan’s president has ordered all US special forces to leave a strategically important eastern province within two weeks because of allegations that Afghans working with them are torturing and abusing other Afghans.
The decision yesterday seems to have caught the Nato coalition and US Forces Afghanistan, a separate command, by surprise.
“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them,” US forces said in a statement.
Also yesterday, a series of attacks in eastern Afghanistan showed insurgents remain on the offensive even as international forces prepare to end their combat mission by the end of 2014.
Suicide bombers targeted Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and other security forces in four co-ordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and outlying areas in a bloody reminder of the insurgency’s reach nearly 12 years into the war.
Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said the decision to order the American special forces to leave Wardak province was taken during a meeting of the National Security Council because of the alleged actions of Afghans who are considered linked to US special forces.
He said all special forces operations were to cease immediately in the restive province next to Kabul.
The Taleban has staged numerous attacks against coalition forces in the province. In August 2011, insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs, in Wardak. The crash was the single deadliest loss for US forces in the war.
Afghan forces have taken the lead in many such special operations, especially so-called night raids.
Mr Faizi said: “Those Afghans in these armed groups who are working with the US special forces … those individuals should be handed over to the Afghan side so that we can further investigate.”
A statement the security council issued in English said the armed individuals have allegedly been “harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.” Ceasing all such operations could have a negative impact on the coalition’s campaign to go after Taleban leaders and commanders, who are usually the target of such operations.
Mr Faizi said the issue had already been brought up with the coalition.
The US statement said only that the announcement was “an important issue that we intend to fully discuss with our Afghan counterparts. But until we have had a chance to speak with senior government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials about this issue, we are not in a position to comment further.”
The brazen assaults yesterday, which occurred within a three-hour timespan, were the latest to strike Afghan forces, who have suffered higher casualties this year as foreign troops gradually take a back seat and shift responsibility for security to the government.
The deadliest attack occurred just after sunrise – a suicide car bombing at the gate of the National Directorate of Security compound in Jalalabad, 80 miles east of Kabul.
Guards shot and killed the driver but he managed to detonate the explosives-packed vehicle, killing two intelligence agents and wounding three others, according to a statement by the intelligence agency.
A guard also shot and killed a man in an 4x4 filled with dynamite that was targeting an NDS building on a busy street in Kabul, not far from Nato headquarters.
Shortly before the Jalalabad attack, a suicide attacker detonated a van full of explosives at a police checkpoint in Pul-i-Alam on the main highway between Kabul and Logar province.