Agreement in Principle Signed on Handover of Afghan Prisons, Night Raid Agreement to be Separate

Creating conditions dangerously close to those under which we have been warned that Lindsey Graham’s head will explode, the US and Afghanistan have signed an agreement in principle on the handover of prisons to Afghan control. The negotiations were carried out under the pressure of dual deadlines, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai having put today as his deadline for insisting on an agreement and President Obama declaring that an agreement had to be in place before the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

The agreement appears to use semantics to say that the prisons are being handed over today, but with the reality being that there will be a gradual process taking six months. From the New York Times:

The memorandum of understanding would officially hand over control of detainees to an Afghan official as of Friday, but would also allow for a six-month period of transition to full Afghan control of the American-held detainees, American officials said.

As a practical matter, American officials are expected to maintain day-to-day control over the 3,200 detainees, most of them suspected Taliban insurgents.

During the six months, custody of the American-held prisoners would gradually transfer to Afghan authority, with the first 500 prisoners to be transferred within 45 days, according to American military and diplomatic officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as a matter of policy.

The move is a major concession to the Afghans, but the Americans will retain ultimate veto authority over releases of any insurgent detainees as long as American troops are in Afghanistan, and will continue to monitor humane treatment of the prisoners, the American officials said.

With the US maintaining veto power over release of any prisoners, perhaps Senator Graham will have to hold off on throwing his next tantrum, as his major objection to the handover had been that the Afghans would release prisoners who would immediately attack US troops. It’s not clear how the US will be monitoring humane treatment of the prisoners, since it is US training that put the torture methods in place to begin with.

There is no indication in this Times article, or in articles from AP carried in the Washington Post or the Reuters article about the signing of the prison agreement on when an agreement on night raids is expected. The night raid issue appears to be the one remaining sticking point that needs to be addressed before the long term status of forces agreement can be established for laying out the ground rules after the expected US withdrawal from Afghanistan late next year. Presumably, the Obama administration will be pushing to have both the night raid agreement and status of forces agreement in place before the May NATO summit.

Oh, and those non-Afghan prisoners we’re holding at Bagram that the US wants us all to forget about? They stay under US control, of course.

7 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Like the ubiquitous non-denial denial so fashionable throughout the US government, so too it seems has arisen the US government non-transfer transfer.

    Can non-prosecution prosecutions from the DOJ be far behind? Oh, wait…

  2. ryanwc says:

    OT, a month later, Zardari and Gilani still control the Pakistani government, Senate elections solidified their hold, Pasha has been ousted from ISI, the SC case facing Gilani has been postponed while the SC takes up a case involving vote-rigging by ISI from 1990, a case in which a general has been forced to abject apology, and Musharraf is under indictment.

    I had said I’d come back and admit it if my sense of the situation was wildly astray. But instead, I think someone else has a plate of steaming crow on the table. Sen. Graham may not be the only one whose head is in danger of exploding.

  3. Jim White says:

    @ryanwc: Zardari’s government is showing a lot more staying power than I expected. I wouldn’t put much on Pasha moving on, though. The reports I’ve seen so far don’t seem to think that his replacement will differ in any substantial regard.

  4. ryanwc says:

    To focus on the fact that ul-Islam is not so different from Pasha is to miss almost everything that’s happened.

    Two months ago, back when Gilani picked the fight, some essentially called him an amateur at politics in his own country for doing so. I thought that was foolish and arrogant, and argued that he’d chosen his moment well, and it was a turning point for Pakistani Democracy.

    He ousted the Defense Secretary. Pasha and Kayani screamed bloody murder that this was undue interference with the military by civilians. They refused to meet with Sethi and sent a letter of protest to the SC.

    What’s happened? Gilani won at every turn. He let it be known he wouldn’t accept Pasha’s continuance. He didn’t ask for a list of generals as candidates for Pasha’s spot. Instead, he had Sethi submit the request. Kayani was forced to accept this. He didn’t ask for a list of Kayani’s preferred candidates. He asked for a list of 3-star generals. He chose. Even if the choice was pre-ordained behind the scenes through an agreement between Kayani and Zardari, the form is very important, because it creates expectations for everyone in the military and for civilians.

    Since the moment that some here were cackling about an imminent coup, Gilani and Zardari have struck enormous blows for civilian control of the military. They’ve not only avoided a coup. They’ve made it much less likely that a coup could ever take place again in Pakistan. That needs to be acknowledged.

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