KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. military leaders reached a deal with Afghan officials that calls for a gradual transition of security responsibilities in a volatile eastern province from American special operations forces to Afghan troops, officials for both sides announced Wednesday.
The arrangement aims to defuse a dispute triggered by accusations from Afghan President Hamid Karzai that U.S. special operations forces were responsible for abductions and human rights abuses in Wardak province.
U.S. military leaders vehemently denied the allegations and, in recent interviews, local Afghan law enforcement and provincial officials in Wardak said there was no basis for Karzai’s claims.
Nevertheless, on Feb. 24 Karzai demanded that American special operations forces leave Wardak within two weeks. They did not do so.
On Wednesday, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said he had met with Karzai and reached an agreement that paves the way for Afghan soldiers to replace U.S. troops and U.S.-trained Afghan local police in Nerkh district.
Afghan officials will determine when the transfer is to take place, Dunford said in a prepared statement.
U.S. troops deployed in the rest of Wardak province would be replaced by Afghan soldiers “over time,” Dunford said.
“This plan meets (Karzai’s) intent and leverages the growing capacity and capability of the Afghan security forces to meet the security needs of this country,” Dunford said.
Wardak is a key region because it serves as a gateway to Kabul.