Afghanistan, US clash over release of 65 Afghan prisoners accused of killing Americans
By End the Lie
The U.S. and Afghanistan are clashing over the Afghan government’s move to release 65 prisoners the U.S. has accused of killing both Americans and Afghanis, leading Afghan President Hamid Karzai to tell the U.S. to “stop harassing” Afghanistan.
While Washington maintains that they are dangerous Taliban fighters, Kabul argues that they are actually innocent men who had been imprisoned for years by foreign soldiers, according to the Guardian.
The relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan has become increasingly strained.
Late last year, Karzai stepped away from plans to create a long-term security deal that would allow U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after their mission officially ends by the end of this year.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Karzai has been secretly contacting Taliban militants about reaching a peace agreement.
These contacts have reportedly occurred outside of any involvement on the part of the U.S. or any other Western nation and are “further corroding already strained relations with the United States.”
The latest incident has sparked some heated comments by both Afghan and American officials.
“Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release the prisoners, it is of no concern to the US and should be of no concern to the US,” Karzai said to reporters in Turkey, according to AFP.
“I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan’s procedures and judicial authority,” Karzai said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has historically been a supporter of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, called for a halt to all aid to Afghanistan in response to the release of the prisoners.
“I will be urging my colleagues to cut off all developmental aid to Afghanistan as a response until after the next election,” Graham said earlier this week.
The U.S. command said that over 24 of those released have been directly linked to the killing of 32 U.S. and allied troops, according to USA Today. They have also been linked to the killing of 23 Afghan security forces and civilians, according to The Washington Post.
Furthermore, the U.S. stated in documents obtained by USA Today that the released prisoners were caught with weapons and materials for producing improvised explosive devices.
“The release of these dangerous individuals poses a threat to U.S. coalition and Afghan national security forces as well as the Afghan population,” the U.S. command in Kabul stated.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, head of NATO, also criticized the release of the prisoners, saying it was a setback to both security and the rule of law in Afghanistan.
The prisoners were being held at the Afghan National Detention Facility-Parwan, located next to the Bagram Airfield.
Karzai is apparently not stopping at the release of the 65 prisoners. Indeed, he has criticized the very existence of the prison.
In the past, Karzai claimed that some detainees at the Bagram prison were tortured into hating their country, according to AFP, and even called the facility a “Taliban-producing factory.”
“The very presence of the Bagram prison is against the Afghan law and Afghan sovereignty,” Karzai said after a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“My government has been trying since then to remove this prison from US control and to turn it into an Afghan facility in accordance with Afghan laws and in accordance with Afghan sovereignty,” he said.
The U.S. embassy in Afghanistan issued what that The Washington Post called “an uncharacteristically sternly worded statement.”
“The Afghan government bears responsibility for the results of its decision,” the embassy said. “We urge it to make every effort to ensure that those released do not commit new acts of violence and terror.”
The military called on the Afghan courts to charge the released prisoners.
“Violent criminals who harm Afghans and who 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 U.S. military said.
However, the Afghan government stated that they are not able to hold the prisoners they released.
“Legally, we have no right to hold these people,” said Abdul Shokoor Dadras, a senior member of the review board that studied the cases. “We are studying the cases of the rest of the prisoners to see which one deserves to be punished and which one needs to be freed.”
This release very well might lead to an even greater rift between the U.S. and Afghanistan in the coming months.
“President Karzai, in my view, is single-handedly destroying this relationship,” Graham said. “I look forward to developing a bipartisan plan to push back as hard as possible.”
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