KABUL — The Afghan government on Sunday banned elite US forces from operating in a strategic province adjoining Kabul, citing complaints that Afghans working for the troops have tortured and killed villagers.
The ban is scheduled to go into effect in two weeks in the province, Maidan Wardak, which has long been seen as a key link in the defense of the capital against the Taliban.
If fully implemented, it would effectively remove the US military’s main source of offensive firepower from the area, which lies southwest of Kabul and is used by the Taliban as a staging ground for attacks on the capital.
The order takes on greater potential significance with the scheduled withdrawal of regular US combat forces in the province. By late spring, US officials have said, they expect almost all the conventional troops in eastern Afghanistan to be focused on advising Afghan forces, leaving special operations units as the only offensive troops in the region.
Also Sunday, a series of attacks in eastern Afghanistan showed that insurgents remain on the offensive as US and other international forces prepare to end their combat mission by the end of 2014.
Looking for answers
Suicide bombers targeted Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and other security forces in four coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and outlying areas in a bloody reminder of the insurgency’s reach nearly 12 years into the war.
The deadliest attack occurred just after sunrise — a suicide car bombing at the gate of the National Directorate of Security compound in Jalalabad, 78 miles east of Kabul. Guards shot and killed the driver but he managed to detonate the explosives-packed vehicle, killing two intelligence agents and wounding three others, the Associated Press reported. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the bombing.
A guard also shot and killed a man in an SUV filled with dynamite that was targeting a security building on a busy street in Kabul, near NATO headquarters. The explosives in the back of the vehicle were defused. Shortly before the Jalalabad attack, a suicide attacker detonated a minivan full of explosives at a police checkpoint in Puli Alam, on the main highway between Kabul and Logar Province.
Coalition officials said they were alerted Sunday afternoon to the Afghan government’s decision on deployments in Wardak Province. But they were still seeking to clarify what it actually entailed and the accusations that had prompted it, the officials said, declining to comment further.
Afghan officials described the ban as a measure of last resort. Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said Afghanistan’s National Security Council decided to impose the ban after weeks of trying to get answers from the coalition about accusations that people in the province were being killed or tortured or had disappeared.
While the officials emphasized that they preferred to work with the international forces, the move appeared to signal an increasing willingness by Afghans to publicly confront and limit the work of the coalition forces.
The attacks were believed to have been attributed to either Afghans or Afghan-Americans working with US special operation forces, Faizi said, adding that Afghan defense officials have provided pictures and videos to the coalition.
After first seeing the evidence a few weeks ago, coalition officers seemed ready to cooperate, Faizi said, citing a briefing that Afghan defense officials had given to the Afghan National Security Council.
But soon after, the coalition’s position shifted, according to Faizi. It said the men in question had disappeared or had never worked with US forces. Some coalition officers also questioned whether there had been any killings or torture and whether anyone tied to the Americans was responsible.
Faizi, though, expressed little doubt that someone or some group was killing and torturing innocents in Wardak.
‘‘People from the province, elders from villages, have come to Kabul so many times and they have brought photographs and videos of their family members who have been tortured,’’ he said.
Faizi said the Afghan government simply wanted to investigate the allegations. It was certainly possible that people not connected to the coalition could be responsible, he said.