Army launches inquiry into alleged civilian killings by US special forces

Gen. Joseph Dunford, head of all U.S. forces in country, ordered the inquiry into whether an Afghan member of the American special forces teams in Wardak province tortured and killed 17 civilians there, according to coalition spokeswoman Col. Jane Crichton.

Prior to Dunford's order, American commanders had denied any wrongdoing by special forces teams in Wardak or their Afghan counterparts in the province.

In February, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered U.S. special forces to leave the province, alleging American troops had committed torture and abducted civilians during their time in the province.

The team's expulsion from Wardak was the result of a lack of control by Kabul over Afghan forces operating in Wardak and a misunderstanding of the political nuances of the hotly contested province, Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, head of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan, said in May.

Afghan officials arrested Zakaria Kandahari, the Afghan interpreter working with U.S. special forces in Wardak, in June on charges he was responsible for the 17 murders in the province.

Kandahari was reportedly caught on tape torturing one of the 17 alleged victims in the Nerkh district of Wardak.

However, Kandahari allegedly told Afghan investigators that he only assisted U.S. special forces teams in capturing civilians, adding that each civilan captured by Kandahari and his team were handed over to American forces alive.

Afghan officials are looking to question three U.S. special forces team members who were stationed in Wardak at the time of the incidents, according to Reuters.

That said, "All of [the accusations] were investigated pretty extensively," Thompson told reporters at the Pentagon in May.

"None were found to be substantiated," he said at the time, adding, "there are no unilateral coalition and [special operations forces] maneuver operations on the ground."