Karzai Attacks U.S. Officials in Prisoner-Release Fight

The 65 detainees were released over strong objections from U.S. officials.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan speaks during the Opening Ceremony & Leaders Panel at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at ExCel on October 29, 2013 in London, England.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Feb. 13, 2014, 11:13 a.m.

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.

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