The U.S. military condemned the Afghan government for overriding its objections and moving forward with plans to free 65 detainees it believes are dangerous and pose a serious threat to the lives of coalition and local Afghan troops.
Detainees from this group of 65, currently being held at an Afghan detention facility in Parwan, are expected to be released Thursday, the U.S. military in Afghanistan said in a statement.
Some of these detainees, the military said, are directly linked to attacks that have killed or wounded U.S. or coalition personnel, Afghan security personnel, or local civilians, and are considered quite dangerous. One is a suspected Taliban explosives expert; another is a commander from the Haqqani network who is accused of planning attacks. "It remains the position of [the U.S. military] that violent criminals who harm Afghans and 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 military's statement said.
The U.S. military says it provided, on several occasions, extensive information and evidence on each detainee to Afghanistan's review board — which has previously said there was not enough evidence against a total group of 88 detainees to continue holding them. In a separate statement Tuesday, the U.S. military said the impending release would violate agreements between the two countries — and that the evidence against these detainees "was never seriously considered, including by the Attorney General." Freeing these detainees, the military said, "is a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan."
The defiance of Washington on this issue is yet another sign of tensions between the two countries, since Afghan President Hamid Karzai backed away from signing a security pact with the U.S. late last year that would clear the way to leave a contingent of U.S. troops in the country past the 2014 deadline for the conclusion of combat operations.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the Senate on Tuesday he does not believe Karzai is not going to sign that pact. Instead, it appears the U.S. is going to wait for his successor to be elected in the spring. The comments came as news broke that the U.S. military is revising its plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan until after Karzai leaves office — a reflection of a need to be pragmatic as hopes wane to finalize an agreement.