Despite NATO Pledges of ‘Handover,’ US Troops Still in Afghan Province

Villagers Demand Ouster of Special Forces, Citing Beatings, Detentions

by Jason Ditz, March 11, 2013

NATO forces have announced a transfer of “security” control over the Wardak Province in central Afghanistan to Afghan government forces, a move that was supposed to be the response to government demands to remove US special forces from the area.

The transfer appears to actually be an attempt to dodge the issue, however, as US special forces remain in the province, and NATO has been pushing them off with calls for more “negotiations” on the matter.

The US continues to downplay the situation, insisting they have seen “no evidence” of the various crimes. Don’t tell that to locals, however, who continue to protest en masse demanding the US respect the government’s call to leave.

The dispute is because a key highway to the capital runs through Wardak, and the US insists ending its own role in the province would amount to handing that highway to the Taliban.

Locals have been complaining the US troops have been engaged in a campaign of violent intimidation against them, regularly attacking villages, beating locals and detaining them without charges. US troops in Wardak were also behind a recent attack on a hospital.

Ignoring the protests doesn’t seem to be an option either, with locals threatening to launch an uprising in their village if the US doesn’t respect the demand. With security already worsening in Wardak, the US military’s impulse is to keep the troops there, but they may be serving as such a destabilizing influence in their own right that they will eventually have no choice but to withdraw.

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