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Karzai accuses U.S. military of atrocities, in front of Kerry

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Politics Digest

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a joint press briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry, reiterated his accusation that U.S. special forces have been committing atrocities in Wardak province. Kerry did not contradict Karzai, though U.S. officials have denied the charges.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript of Karzai’s comments today, during a joint briefing with Kerry:

On the Special Forces and Wardak, ma’am, we received complaints from citizens of Wardak, residents of Wardak, about six months ago, that certain forces employed by the Special Forces were very heavy-handed with the local population. We investigated that. We found out that there was a person called Zikriya, an Afghan name, who apparently is an Afghan American, hailing originally from Kandahar province, who was part of this force and who, together with his team in Wardak, was violating the rights of the Afghan people massively. And we took up this issue with the Special Forces, with the military. At that time, General Allen was here in charge. We investigated. Much of what was said turned out to be true, on evidence, that this man and the militias with him were abusing the rights of the Afghan people – torture, including killing. And we used all of the ways to correct the situation.

But then in the past five, six weeks, we received more complaints of a student who was taken out of his home at night, and two days later his dead body was found under a bridge. And the local people said this was done by the Special Forces. We took up the issue and we launched our investigation. The U.S. Government did its own part.

Now, when I say something publicly to this effect, this is not meant to offend our allies, but to correct the situation. I’m responsible for the protection of the Afghan people.

Kerry’s next comment was, “Well, if I can get away without – (laughter.)” Then Karzai and reporters continued their conversation about other topics. By the time Kerry spoke again, the conversation had moved on; he did not directly address the accusation.

Other officials have been more voluble. “Each of those accusations has been answered, and we’re not involved,” NATO deputy chief of staff Adam Findlay, an Australian brigadier general, said earlier this month. “There are obviously atrocities occurring there, but it’s not linked to us, and the kind of atrocities we are seeing, fingers cut off, other mutilations to bodies, is just not the way we work.”

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