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U.S. military denies abducting, killing civilians in Afghan province

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The U.S. military has determined that its forces weren’t involved in the alleged abduction and killing of civilians in a troubled province in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday.

“In recent months, a thorough review has confirmed that no coalition forces have been involved in the alleged misconduct in Wardak province,” Lt. Col. Les Carroll, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

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A day earlier, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused U.S. special forces troops and Afghans working for them of torturing civilians in Wardak, a strategic but violence-wracked province southwest of the capital, Kabul. Karzai ordered the elite U.S. troops to end operations in Wardak and to leave the province within two weeks, dealing a blow to U.S. counterterrorism efforts in an area rife with Taliban and allied insurgents.

Karzai’s office, citing claims by Wardak’s governor and tribal elders, alleged that a university student who was detained during a U.S. operation last year was later found with his head and fingers cut off. In another case, Afghan officials accused U.S. forces of detaining nine villagers who are still missing.

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The Afghan leader offered few additional details and didn’t specify the identities of the Afghans allegedly involved with the Americans. For years, U.S. special forces troops have worked closely with Afghan soldiers and militias in isolated areas of Wardak and other provinces, often raiding the homes of suspected insurgents -- a practice that Karzai says fuels insecurity.

U.S. forces have trained and equipped an array of militias, including the Afghan Local Police, a paramilitary force that the Pentagon hopes will become rural Afghanistan’s main line of defense against the Taliban after most U.S. and coalition troops leave the nation at the end of 2014.

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Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told a news conference Sunday that Afghan authorities had raised the issue with U.S. special forces officials, who rejected the allegations.

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