A joint commission of inquiry composed of Afghan and NATO coalition officials will explore in coming days the claims raised over the weekend by President Hamid Karzai’s administration — including allegations of the arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing of civilians.
Residents in the province have complained to human rights groups and provincial leaders of being terrorized in recent months by an Afghan militia that works with U.S. commandos and calls itself “special forces” or “campaign forces.”
Karzai on Sunday stunned the International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition of foreign forces is known, by ordering all U.S. Special Operations forces to leave Wardak in two weeks, based on allegations that they had been involved in the torture and murder of “innocent people.”
It was one of the the Afghan president’s more strident attacks on his Western allies as U.S. and other foreign troops exit the country they have supported for more than a decade. Karzai has long complained about violations of Afghan sovereignty by international troops, although some U.S. observers say his rhetoric is deliberately overheated to play to a domestic audience.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, asked a news conference Monday in London about Karzai’s demand, said any concerns the Afghan government has will be “appropriately evaluated” by the international coalition.
Because Special Operations troops carry out classified missions, it is difficult to independently confirm their activities or links to local groups.
“The U.S. has had a long history in Afghanistan of working with some of these irregular militias that are not accountable to anyone,” said Sahr Muhammedally, legal adviser for the Center for Civilians in Conflict, who has studied such groups.
“A lot of villagers talk about these campaign forces,” she said. “It is not the first time I have heard the name.... But the U.S. Special Operations forces don’t confirm or deny anything.”
Several angry residents in Maidan Shahr, the small provincial capital 30 miles south of Kabul, told a Washington Post reporter in early December about a truck driver they said had just been beaten to death by an Afghan campaign militia working for the Americans. The residents said they feared the forces because of alleged abuses that its members committed during raids and at checkpoints.
“The situation is so bad that even farmers cannot go to their fields,” a Kabul resident named Zalmai said Monday.
He said that as a union representative for bus and taxi drivers in Wardak, he speaks regularly with drivers and passengers from the province. “The tyranny is very widespread,” Zalmai said.