ISLAMABAD — The U.S. military in Afghanistan is condemning an Afghan government order to release 37 prisoners from Bagram prison, saying they pose a threat to security; there are signs of worsening relations between Washington and Kabul.
A special Afghan government panel called the Afghan Review Board, or ARB, recently announced it had evaluated the cases of 88 suspected Taliban fighters being held at an Afghan-supervised detention facility on the U.S.-run Bagram airfield north of Kabul. It said 37 of the inmates are innocent. The board also said there is insufficient evidence against most of the remaining prisoners.
Monday, the U.S. military said it had learned that the review board has ordered the release of 37 of the 88 individuals.
In a statement U.S. officials described those being released as “dangerous individuals” and insisted they are legitimate threats to security. A spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, Lt. Col. Will Griffin, said there is strong evidence supporting prosecution or further investigation.
“The ARB is releasing back to society dangerous insurgents who have Afghan blood on their hands. The 37 being released include 17 who are linked to the production of attacks using improvised explosive devices; three who participated in or had knowledge of direct attacks wounding or killing 11 ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) members; and four who participated in and or had knowledge of direct attacks wounding or killing 42 US or Coalition Force members,” warned Griffin.
He added the United States, under an agreement it signed last year with the Afghan government is seeking a bilateral exchange of views on all 88 disputed cases and is opposed to releasing the prisoners in question without putting them on trial in Afghan courts.
“This extra-judicial release of detainees is a major step backward in further developing rule of law in Afghanistan. The ARB is releasing these individuals without referral to an investigative body or the Afghan justice system despite the fact that the U.S. has disputed these 88 cases,” said Griffin.
The spokesman said that the U.S. has provided extensive information and strong evidence on each of the disputed cases linking them to attacks that killed or wounded nearly 120 Afghan and American or coalition soldiers.
On Saturday, President Karzai rejected U.S. allegations that hundreds of suspected Taliban members his government has recently released have rejoined the insurgency. He went on to condemn the Bagram detention center as a so-called “Taliban producing factory,” where he alleged innocent Afghans are tortured. The prison was set up by the United States after it launched the military action in 2001 to dislodge the Taliban from power and eliminate al-Qaida network in the country.
Relations between President Karzai and the Obama administration have been rocky ever since the Afghan leader refused to sign a bilateral security deal that would allow a smaller American military force to remain in Afghanistan to continue a counterterrorism mission in addition to advising the Afghan security forces.
The NATO-led military mission is due to end in December and Washington insists it would not be able to allocate troops and future funds without the security deal in place. But Karzai wants the U.S. to help his government open peace talks with the Taliban and end military raids against Afghan homes before he signs the pact.