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Afghans Demand Withdrawal of US Special Forces

Protesters marching on Kabul call for the release of 'disappeared' civilians

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Several hundred demonstrators march to the Afghan parliament building to protest against the continued presence of U.S. commandos in Afghanistan's troubled Wardak province. Saturday, March 16, 2013. (Photo: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)Hundreds of residents of Afghanistan's eastern province of Wardak are marching on Kabul Saturday demanding US special operations forces pull out of their territory.

According to police reports, between 200 and 500 demonstrators have gathered outside of parliament, chanting "U.S. special operations forces out!" and calling for the release of nine local citizens "whom they believe are under the custody of US forces," the chief of Kabul police's Criminal Investigations Department said.

"We have gathered here to protest against the [U.S.] Special Forces in Maidan, Wardak, because they enter people's houses and torture innocent people, they have also detained 10 people and it is not clear what will happen to them," said one protester.

The nine villagers had reportedly "disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force" last October, as cited by a February statement issued by the presidential palace. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The demonstration follows a week after Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's ordered the withdraw of the Special Forces from that province citing mounting allegations of torture and extrajudicial killing, by the US forces and the 'irregular' Afghan Groups working alongside them, Al Jazeera reports. 

They continue:  

"In a separate incident," the statement read, "a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge."

To improve accountability, Karzai has given all irregular Afghan forces established by the NATO coalition three months to fall under government control. The deadline was declared only days after US special forces were told to leave Maidan Wardak. 

Also Saturday, the Karzai-appointed Ulema Council, whose members represent the country’s Islamic clerics, issued a statement seconding the call for withdrawal and demanding the transfer of the American-controlled prison at Bagram to Afghan control, the New York Times reports.

“If the Americans once again do not honor their commitments and keep on disobeying, then this will be considered as an occupation, and they may expect to see a reaction to their action,” they said.