Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out yesterday, calling for the US to live up to the agreement signed last March that hands over complete control of the prison at Parwan to Afghanistan. As I pointed out while Lindsey Graham was throwing a tantrum over the prospect of this agreement (and a simultaneous one on night raids), the agreement called for a phased process, handing over control over a six month time frame. The agreement was signed a short time later and it did indeed call for a six month process. It also, at least according to the New York Times article on the agreement, allows the US to veto any decision by the Afghans on release of a prisoner. The six month process for the handover was set to end in September, but the US did not live up to its obligations under the agreement and still held a significant number of prisoners. At the same time, the US was urging Afghanistan to create, contrary to its constitution (and international law), a system for indefinite detention of prisoners without trial. Remarkably, the US also began at that time to argue that the agreement only held for prisoners in custody as of the time of signing and that the US retained control of those the US arrested after the agreement was put into place.
Now, after two months of wrangling over finalizing the handoff, Karzai has had enough. From the New York Times:
President Hamid Karzai ordered Afghan forces to take control of the American-built Bagram Prison and accused American officials of violating an agreement to fully transfer the facility to the Afghans, according to a statement from his office on Monday.
The move came after what Mr. Karzai said was the expiration of a two-month grace period, agreed to by President Obama, to complete the transfer of the prison at Bagram Air Base.
At issue in particular are 57 prisoners held there who had been acquitted by the Afghan courts but who have been held by American officials at the prison for more than a month in defiance of release orders, Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for President Karzai, said in an interview.
Similar language opens the Washington Post story on Karzai’s orders:
President Hamid Karzai has ordered his aides to institute the “full Afghanization” of the U.S.-run prison at Bagram air base, charging that American forces are continuing to detain Afghans despite a bilateral agreement in March to transfer all prisoners to Afghan authorities.
In a Pashto-language statement tweeted from the presidential palace late Sunday after Karzai met with his top security officials, the president complained that some prisoners ordered released by Afghan courts are still being held by U.S. forces.
“These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the U.S. president,” the statement said.
It said the Afghan defense minister, the attorney general and the national police general in charge of the Bagram prison should “take all required actions for full Afghanization of Bagram prison affairs and its complete transfer of authority to Afghans.”
I want to return now to the convergence of two details mentioned above. Continue reading