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Originally published Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM

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U.S. commandos transfer troubled area to Afghans

The transfer of control in Nirkh district of Wardak province ends a rocky episode in the strained relationship between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The Associated Press

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan special forces took control of part of a troubled province bordering Kabul from U.S. troops Saturday, ending a weeks-long dispute over abuse allegations that prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to order all American forces out of the area.

The handover highlighted the Karzai government’s struggle to assert its authority over security matters on an accelerated timetable ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of most of coalition forces by December 2014.

The transfer of control in Nirkh district of Wardak province — a gateway and staging area for militant attacks on the capital — ends a rocky episode in the strained relationship between the U.S. and Karzai. The Afghan president had angrily insisted U.S. forces leave Nirkh over the alleged torture, kidnapping and summary execution of militant suspects there — charges U.S. officials denied.

“As we pledged, our forces have transitioned Nirkh district to Afghan national-security forces and they have now assumed full responsibility for security,” said U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the top commander of American and NATO forces. He said the rest of Wardak would transition “over time.”

U.S. special-operations forces will continue to visit the Afghan team in Nirkh, and work throughout the rest of the province, said Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, top U.S. special-operations commander in Afghanistan, said Saturday.

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