March 20 - NATO forces agree to leave key Afghan province in next few days. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO-led forces have reached an agreement on the departure of foreign troops from a strategically key province near the capital, coalition forces said, but it was unclear if U.S. special forces would leave. An Afghan defense ministry spokesman told reporters in Kabul that the elite American force would quit Wardak within a few days, despite earlier U.S. concerns that their departure would leave a security vacuum. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said in a statement Afghan security forces would take over security from coalition forces in Wardak, but did specifically mention the withdrawal of U.S. special forces. The expulsion of U.S. special forces has raised fears that Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami militants might use Wardak, just a 40-minute drive from Kabul, as a launch pad for attacks on the capital. Karzai first ordered their expulsion last month, after villagers accused them of torturing and killing civilians, an allegation the U.S. special forces denied. Despite the deadline for their departure expiring over a week ago, U.S. special forces tasked with fighting the Taliban are still operating there, U.S. and Afghan officials say.