US to hand over Bagram prison to Afghan government
US officials have handed over control of Afghanistan’s US-run prison to Kabul, even as disagreements between the two countries over terror suspects imprisoned marred the transfer.
The ceremony took place at the prison next to a US airfield in Bagram, north of Kabul. President Hamid Karzai has hailed the transfer as a victory for Afghan sovereignty.
Bagram, also known as the Parwan Detention Facility, has been the focus of controversy but never had the notoriety of prisons like Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
Earlier this year, the prison stirred further controversy when hundreds of Qurans were sent to be burned in a pit. The event triggered protests resulting in the death of six US soldiers.
“We are telling the Afghan president and the Afghan people that today is a proud day”, said General Ghulam Farouk of the Afghanistan army, who now heads the prison.
The US had already given Afghanistan authority over most of the 3,000 detainees held at the prison before 9th March, when the countries signed a handover agreement.
As some may have been released or others brought in, the prison’s current detainee population under US control is not known but is thought to number in the hundreds.
The US recently suspended the transfer of new detainees because of disagreements with Kabul, who has questioned the long-term detention of suspects without charge after capture.
It will also continue to hold about 50 non-Afghan prisoners who are not covered by the agreement on a small part of the facility that they will still administer.
The disagreement is not expected to impact military operations, but it is an indication of the tense relations between the US-led NATO military coalition and President Hamid Karzai.
The US and its allies are drawing down military forces in Afghanistan and are to fully hand over control to the Afghans by 2014, when most foreign troops are to leave the country.
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister, Enayatullah Nazary, said that “very few prisoners” remained with the US military. He blamed the delay in handing over the rest on “technical issues”.