U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai speak to the media during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House January 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
(TheBlaze/AP) -- Afghanistan's president ordered all U.S. special forces to leave a strategically important eastern province within two weeks because of allegations that they, and Afghans working with them, are torturing and abusing other Afghans.
"After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as US special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people," a statement released by the office of President Hamid Karzai reads. "A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge."
They do, however, note that "Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force."
The decision Sunday seems to have surprised the coalition and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, a separate command.
"We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them," the U.S. forces said in a statement.
A series of attacks in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday showed that insurgents remain on the offensive even as U.S. and other international forces prepare to end their combat mission by the end of 2014. Though the restive province near Kabul is viewed as a gateway to the capital and has been the focus of counterinsurgency efforts in recent years, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said all special forces operations are to cease immediately.
Afghan forces have taken the lead in many special operations in the area in recent years, especially so-called night raids.
"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," Faizi added. "Those individuals should be handed over to the Afghan side so that we can further investigate."
Ceasing all such operations could have a negative impact on the coalition's campaign to go after Taliban leaders and commanders, who are usually the target of such operations.
Moreover, the announcement comes roughly a week after Karzai issued a presidential declaration banning all Afghan security forces from using NATO air strikes in residential areas. The move sparked concern about Afghanistan's ability to hold the line when they take full responsibility.
The U.S. statement said only that the announcement was "an important issue that we intend to fully discuss with our Afghan counterparts. But until we have had a chance to speak with senior Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials about this issue, we are not in a position to comment further."