The government of Afghanistan has banned elite American forces from operating in the province of Maidan Wardak, claiming that Afghans working with US special forces have been involved with the torture and killing of villagers in the area. The province, which is adjacent to the Afghan capital of Kabul, has been a strategic buffer against the Taliban and key to the defense of the capital.

US officials were told on Sunday afternoon of the Afghan government's decision, which it reached after trying to get answers from the US about the torture and killing accusations. Afghan defense officials provided the US with photographs and video of the alleged perpetrators, but did not receive any immediate response or action from US forces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office released a statement saying that during a meeting of Afghanistan's National Security Council, "It became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people."

The banning is being viewed as a serious signal that Afghan officials are willing to confront and assert authority over US special forces as conventional combat troops begin to take on only an advisory role. Afghanistan claims it had been trying for weeks to get answers and believed that there had been some headway until American officials denied that the men in question had ever worked with or for US forces.

Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Karzai, told the Times, "Let's imagine that the U.S. Special Forces are not involved, then how come they have not once heard about this? How come they do not know who is doing this?"

Because most of the work done by US special forces in Afghanistan is classified, it was not clear whether they were ever operating in the area and if so, to what extent. The ban of special forces is scheduled to go into effect in two weeks.