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Updated: March 20, 2013 22:24 IST

U.S. agrees to leave key Afghan province

AP
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Top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford, gestures during an interview with the Associated Press at his headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 18, 2013.
AP
Top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford, gestures during an interview with the Associated Press at his headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 18, 2013.

The U.S. military and the Afghan government reached a deal on Wednesday on a gradual pullout of American Special Forces and their Afghan counterparts from a contentious eastern province, officials said.

President Hamid Karzai has blamed the troops for egregious human rights abuses in Wardak province, allegations which U.S. military officials have steadfastly denied.

Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi confirmed there has been a deal in a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday.

“The international forces are ready to withdraw the Special Forces from Nirkh district of Maidan Wardak province and Afghan army units are going to replace them in the coming days,” General Azimi said, adding that there are no other U.S. commando units in the rest of the province.

A U.S. military official explained that a small, mostly U.S. army special operations team would withdraw from Nirkh, as would the Afghan local police force that works alongside the Americans.

The deal marked a political win for Mr. Karzai, who has long complained the U.S. special operations troops and their Afghan allies were outside his control.

It will also speed the handover of security in the troubled province, faster than U.S. officials and some members of Mr. Karzai’s own government had recommended or planned.

U.S. and Afghan officials have privately expressed concern that the inexperienced Afghan security forces are not yet ready to take over in such a key area.

Wardak and neighbouring Logar province are used staging grounds for the Taliban and insurgents from the Haqqani network to launch attacks on Kabul.

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