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US, Afghanistan Agree on US Exit from Wardak

VOA News
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.

U.S. official General Joseph Dunford announced Wednesday that departing troops in Wardak will be replaced with Afghan army and police officers.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the expulsion of U.S. troops from the province after villagers alleged the troops were responsible for torturing and killing civilians -- an allegation strongly denied by the United States.

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.

Karzai has also 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."

Meanwhile, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) spokesman Günter Katz said Monday that NATO will eventually hand over security responsibilities for Wardak province, but that the alliance's "Afghan partners" must take the lead on developing a transition plan.

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