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U.S., Karzai deal leaves most U.S. commandos in Wardak

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's president on Wednesday relented in his demand for all U.S. special operations forces to withdraw from a strategic province east of the capital, agreeing to a compromise calling for the pullout of one team implicated in abuse allegations that the Americans have rejected.

The dispute underscores the fragile negotiations under way as Hamid Karzai seeks to redefine and expand control of his country, and the United States and its allies prepare to end their combat missions by the end of 2014.

Wardak province is viewed as a gateway to Kabul and has been the focus of counterinsurgency efforts in recent years. But Karzai last month ordered all U.S. special operations forces out after local villagers accused Afghan troops working with the Americans there of torture, illegal detentions and other abuses.

The U.S.-led coalition denied the allegations. But NATO said Karzai and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the U.S. commander of all allied forces, agreed Wednesday to remove a team of commandos and turn over security to government forces in Wardak's Nirkh district, the center of the allegations.

British Army Lt. Gen. Nick Carter, deputy commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said it will be "business as usual" for U.S. special operations forces elsewhere in the restive province.

In an interview from Kabul with Pentagon reporters, Carter also described a somewhat vague timeline for the Nirkh transition, saying it will come "once the plan has been put together and there is confidence on all sides that it is possible" for the Afghans to take over security there.

The compromise came after a string of anti-American rhetoric from the Afghan leader that appears aimed at gaining favor with the Afghan public.

U.S., Karzai deal leaves most U.S. commandos in Wardak 03/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 11:22pm]
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