Light Footprint Becomes No Footprint

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ISAF photo

U.S. troops hunting for Taliban in Wardak province.

The Afghan government Sunday ordered U.S. Special Forces out of critical Wardak province, southwest of the capital, in two weeks.

Wardak has long been a vital Taliban staging ground for attacks on Kabul.

President Hamid Karzai’s government said it took the action because of reports that “armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people.”

U.S. military officials denied that U.S. forces were involved in any such acts, or approved such actions by their Afghan allies. “We take all allegations of misconduct seriously,” the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement, “and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them.”

The timing couldn’t be worse: regular U.S. troops are slated to pull out of the province this spring, leaving special-operations forces as the only U.S. military presence in the region.

“All the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are obliged to immediately prevent the operations by all the groups under the name of Special Forces, who are going into houses of people, which results in disturbance and killing of our innocent people and bring to justice, in order to safeguard the properties and lives of people in Maidan Wardak province,” Karzai spokesman Aimal FaiziĀ  said.

The presidential statement cited the recent disappearance of nine people at the hands of a “suspicious force,” while a second case allegedly involved a student “taken away at night from his home” and found dead two days later with indications that he had been tortured.

The population of the province is primarily Pashtun, the same ethnicity as most of the Taliban.