Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the United States of "harassing" his country over the decision to release 65 prisoners, adding that Afghanistan's sovereignty must be respected.
The Afghanistan government released the detainees on Thursday despite strong objections from U.S. officials, who believe the prisoners are responsible for the death or injury of coalition and Afghan security forces.
"Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If Afghanistan judiciary authorities decide to release prisoners, it is of no concern to the United States," Karzai said while speaking at a summit in Turkey, the Associated Press reports.
Administration, Defense Department, and congressional officials repeatedly pressed for Afghanistan to keep the detainees in custody. The Pentagon on Wednesday characterized the release as "a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan."
The back-and-forth over the decision by Afghanistan's judicial system to release the detainees has further frayed the already strained U.S.-Afghan relationship. U.S. officials have become increasingly frustrated as Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement — which would dictate a U.S. military presence in the country after the end of the year — until after the upcoming elections.
A State Department spokesman suggested Thursday that the United States was no longer putting a strict timeline on when the the security pact should be signed, except that "it needs to be signed soon." Administration officials have repeatedly said that a pact needs to be inked in weeks.