Coalition forces deny Afghans' torture allegations

U.S. soldier stands guard at the site of suicide attack in Wardak Province of Kabul Afghanistan, Friday, Nov, 23, 2012. AP Photo/ Mohammed Naser

KABUL, Afghanistan The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan has so far found no evidence to support Afghan allegations of misconduct by American special forces in a strategic eastern province, the alliance's spokesman said on Monday.

German Gen. Gunter Katz said the International Security Assistance Force will work with the government to find a solution to the concerns of Afghans, but could not yet comment on the allegations that Afghans connected with U.S. special forces were involved in abuses that include torture, killings and illegal detentions.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday ordered all U.S. special forces to leave Wardak within two weeks and requested that their operations there cease immediately. The restive province, which neighbors Kabul province and is viewed as a gateway to the capital, has been the focus of counterinsurgency efforts in recent years.

On Sunday, the Afghan defense ministry said in a statement that it had "demanded the special forces evacuate the areas according to the timeline" given by Karzai.

The decision followed a meeting of Karzai's National Security Council during which Wardak provincial governor Abdul Majid Khogyani and local officials said that Afghans working with U.S. special forces were responsible for the disappearance of at least nine men and the murder of an Afghan university student. Khogyani and the other officials also presented allegations that the Afghans working for the American special forces were involved in abusive behavior.

The armed Afghans are not part of the Afghan security forces, the government has said, implying that they are members of secret militias working with the American special forces.

"Those Afghans in these armed groups who are working with the U.S. special forces, the defense minister asked for an explanation of who they are," presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said late Sunday. "Those individuals should be handed over to the Afghan side so that we can further investigate."

Although a presidential statement suggested that U.S. forces could also be involved, the Afghan government said it mostly wanted to know about the armed Afghans -- who have been blamed by local residents for the abuses.

"We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them," Katz told reporters. "Over the past few weeks there have been various allegations of Special Forces conducting themselves in an unprofessional manner" in Wardak.

He added that "so far, we could not find evidence that would support these allegations."

Katz says that ISAF cannot comment until NATO meets to discuss the issue with the Afghan government.

"Until we have had a chance to speak to senior officials in the government of Afghanistan about this issue, I am not in a position to comment further on details regarding what has been said at the National Security Council," Katz said. "We will talk to Afghan officials in due course."

Sunday's order seems to have surprised both NATO and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, which is a separate command.

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