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Afghan and American Officials Clash Over the Release of Prisoners from Bagram

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, February 28, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 12:02


Last week, sixty five prisoners were freed from the jail at the Bagram base.  Bagram base is located near the Shomali plains of Parwan province outside of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The United States military believes that Bagram houses some of the most dangerous men on earth. The release of prisoners made by the government of Afghanistan has been condemned by United States’ officials as “deeply regrettable.” After the release of the sixty five prisoners from Bagram, the United States embassy in Kabul issued a statement that reads, “The Government of Afghanistan’s decision to release 65 detainees from the Parwan Detention Center is deeply regrettable. Among those released today are individuals who are responsible for, or contributed to, the deaths of Afghan security forces personals, Afghan civilians, and American and other coalition personals.” 

Eliza Griswold, a poet and a reporter said in her article “Black Hole: The Other Guantánamo,” that Bagram is a 6.5 square mile area located on Shomali plains that are engulfed by the snowy mountains of Panjshir valley. Once the Russians entered Afghanistan, they built a two mile run-way and an airbase at Bagram. During the civil war, the Northern Alliance and later Taliban held control of the Bagram facility. In 2001, the United States took over the Bagram base. American military interrogators used the Bagram base to sort out “erroneous and low level captures from those of higher intelligence value.” 

   Earlier in an exclusive interview with the Afghan TV station, Tolo, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I believe that the administrative review board, what Mr. Dadras [Abdul Shakor Dadras is the head of the Afghan government board that was reviewing the detainee cases] is doing, is taking the rule of law backwards in Afghanistan, that the 88 people [at the time of the interview, the Afghan government was thinking of releasing 88 prisoners] have Afghan blood on their hands. What they are proposing is the violation of our agreement that we have with the Afghan government, and it undercuts an independent judiciary… these 88 should have their day in court, they should be judged by the Afghan legal system, and the Afghan people deserve to have their day in court, and to release these people by the actions of one man would be a giant step backwards. It would damage the relationship, it would; people in America would be very upset to hear that someone was released without trial and I think Afghans would like to know that the 88 very dangerous criminals were released without going to trial.”  Senator Graham’s remarks speak to the worries of the American side.

   The Afghan government has constantly argued that there is not enough evidence to hold some of the prisoners in Bagram responsible for their actions. Furthermore, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the releases were of “no concern to the US.” Recently, Hamid Karzai spoke in Turkey in a trilateral summit that the United States needs to stop “harassing” Afghanistan’s judicial system and show respect to the sovereignty of the country. President Karzai has further argued that Bagram is a “Taliban making factory.” 

   The release of sixty five prisoners from Bagram has further strained the relationship between Washington and Kabul. The actions of current Afghan authorities have raised doubts and concerns about Afghanistan’s future both in the United States and in Afghanistan. Afghans fear that the actions of their current President Hamid Karzai might send the country into civil conflicts like the ones after the Soviets withdraw from the country. 

   Yet it is also important to understand that Hamid Karzai is about to leave office. Karzai seems concerned about his future. Afghanistan’s last president before Hamid Karzai, Najibullah was castrated by Taliban in Kabul and put on display for the entire country to witness. Thus it appears that Karzai wants to gain the support of those Pashtuns who feel left out of the reconstruction efforts put into place during his presidency. It seems as though Karzai wants to make Afghan friends and to re-gain the trust of his Afghan countrymen. One way to do that would be to show hostility towards the United States, which Karzai has been doing for the past few months, but the United States has invested in the country in blood and wealth. 

   To make a quick decision about withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan completely based on the actions of President Karzai might not be wise for the interests of both countries and may as well leave the Afghan civilians with an uncertain future.  The United States officials and Americans need to take into account that the Afghan elders in the past Loya Jirga that was held in Kabul have already voted in favor of the Americans to stay in the country after 2014. It is also important to remind ourselves that after the Afghan presidential election in April, there will be a new president and fresh faces in Kabul who should be willing to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States.  

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