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March 20, 2013

US, Afghanistan Agree on US Exit from Wardak

An American military official says Afghanistan and the United States have reached agreement on pulling U.S. troops out of the eastern province of Wardak and replacing them with Afghan security forces.

General Joseph Dunford made the announcement Wednesday. While there was no definite timeline for what is expected to be a phased transfer, an Afghan defense ministry spokesman told reporters that he expected it to happen within a few days.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai had ordered the expulsion of U.S. troops from the province after villagers alleged the troops were responsible for torturing and killing civilians -- an allegation Washington strongly denies.

The U.S. has been reluctant to pull troops from the area because of fears that an abrupt exit could allow insurgents to strengthen their presence in the area and use it as a base to attack Kabul, only 25 kilometers away.

Mr. Karzai also has accused the U.S. and NATO of trying to forge an agreement between the Taliban and his political opponents.

The escalating tensions reached Brussels Monday, when NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the charges that international forces are colluding with the Taliban "an absolutely ridiculous idea."