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Kabul demands control of Afghan militia in three months



Kabul: President Hamid Karzai on Thursday gave US-led foreign forces three months to transfer control over armed Afghan militias to his government, following allegations of abuses by the militiamen.

The move appeared to be a further sign of Kabul's determination to take control of the 11-year war against the Taliban, and in particular of militias reportedly trained by the Americans and operating without Kabul's control.

With the bulk of NATO's 100,000 combat soldiers due to leave next year, Karzai has several times sought to set the pace of the transition to full Afghan government control, scheduled by the end of 2014.

A presidential order released by the Afghan council of ministers said Karzai had appointed a delegation assigned "to ask coalition forces to hand over within three months the mentioned armed groups to Afghan security institutions".

It said security chiefs decided on February 17 "to identify and merge those armed groups which have been established by international coalition forces and are operating out of the structure of Afghanistan's national security institutions".

On Sunday Karzai ordered US special forces to pull out of Wardak, a strategic province on the doorstep of Kabul troubled by Taliban violence, in two weeks after accusing the Afghan militias they work with of torture and murder.

An Afghan official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Thursday's move was precipitated by the allegations of abuses.

"Today's order was definitely influenced and expedited by the allegations and accusations that these coalition-made armed groups have been involved in torture and mistreating Afghans, in particular in Wardak," he said.

US officials have said they were unaware of any incident that could have precipitated the order. A spokesman for the US-led NATO mission said that while the allegations were being investigated, no evidence had yet been found.

On February 16 Karzai restricted Afghan forces from calling in NATO air strikes -- an important weapon in the fight against insurgents -- amid concern over civilian casualties.


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