Afghanistan's release of 65 "dangerous" prisoners draws fierce criticism from the U.S.
This file picture taken on November 15, 2009 shows a US captain silhouetted as he looks on during a media tour of Bagram prison, north of Kabul. (AFP)
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The Afghan government Thursday prepared to release 65 prisoners from the former Bagram prison against U.S. warnings the detainees are dangerous.
The Khaama Press quoted Afghan officials as saying they had not received any satisfactory evidence to link the prisoners to insurgency.
The prisoner release threatened to further worsen relations between the United States and the government of President Hamid Karzai, who has already caused much frustration in Washington by refusing to sign the bilateral security agreement, already approved by the Loya Jirga last November. The agreement is needed by the Obama administration to plan how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan after the coalition forces complete their withdrawal by the end of this year.
The 65 prisoners are from a group of 88 detainees the Afghan government had decided to release. Afghan authorities have already released hundreds of prisoners since the Bagram prison near Kabul, once a U.S. prison, was handed over to Afghanistan in March of last year. The facility is now called the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan.
The United States Forces-Afghanistan, however, said in a statement the 65 prisoners are "dangerous individuals" and the United States has on several occasions provided extensive information and evidence on each of them to the Afghan review board, the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the attorney general's office.
"This release violates agreements between the U.S. and Afghanistan," the statement said, adding their release "is a legitimate force protection concern for the lives of both coalition troops and Afghan National Security Forces."
The statement said the primary weapon of choice for the prisoners is the improvised explosive device, which is widely recognized as the primary cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
The statement said some of the previously-released detainees "have already returned to the fight, and this subsequent release will allow dangerous insurgents back into Afghan cities and villages."
Separately, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, in her media briefing Wednesday, also said the 65 detainees are "dangerous" and pose threats to the safety and security of the Afghan people and the Afghan state.
"There is information linking each of them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices," she said.
Harf said the United States has been concerned because of how the prisoners' cases were considered by the Afghan criminal justice system.
The New York Times said the detainees issue would only make it more difficult to get the security agreement signed by the Afghan government before new elections are held in April to pick a successor to Karzai.
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