Bagram prisoner release heightens US-Afghan tensions

Feb 13, 2014

US officials have strongly criticised the release of 65 'dangerous' detainees from Bagram

AFP/Getty Images

AFGHANISTAN is preparing to release 65 detainees from the Bagram detention centre today in spite of significant pressure from US officials who claim the prisoners are "dangerous insurgents".

The move has heightened tensions between Washington and Afghan president Hamid Karzai and has already led to an unusually firm rebuke from US representatives based in Afghanistan, the BBC reports.

Many of the detainees were captured by Western forces during military operations in the country since 2001.

According to David Loyn of the BBC, the US believes the release violates the terms of a 2012 agreement that handed full control of the prison back to Afghanistan. It claims the evidence against the men has not been scrutinised and the decision to release them is seen as political one.

The US military "expressed strong concern about the potential threats these detainees pose to coalition forces and Afghan security forces and civilians," in a statement released on Wednesday.

"It remains the position of USFOR-A that violent criminals who harm Afghans and threaten the peace and security of Afghanistan should face justice in the Afghan courts, where a fair and transparent trial would determine their guilt or innocence," the statement read.

Kabul said that there was insufficient evidence to continue to hold the prisoners. But US forces countered by releasing information on the detainees, citing "strong evidence" linking the men to roadside bomb attacks and fighting in Helmand, the Daily Mail reports.

The Bagram detention centre was set up by allied forces in 2001 in a former Soviet aircraft hangar. The precise legal status of detainees in the facility was never clear, and there were frequent allegations of abuse by US soldiers.

Afghanistan assumed full control of the 3000 prisoners in the facility in 2012. Since then hundreds have been released after a special court set up in the prison found very little evidence against them.

US attempts to prevent the release of further prisoners this week failed. A US spokesman said that the cases were "never seriously considered, including by the attorney general".

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