KABUL — The U.S. military on Tuesday slammed Afghanistan for continuing to order the release of prisoners who the United States believes are dangerous, but who Afghan officials say cannot be prosecuted because authorities lack evidence.
The dispute over the prisoners at the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan, north of Kabul, is the latest spat between the United States and Afghanistan as the U.S.-led military coalition tries to wind down its presence here by the end of the year.
The United States has contended that of 650 prisoners still in custody at Parwan, 88 are a threat to security and should not be released. Afghanistan has decided to release 65 despite “extensive information and evidence” against them, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
“The release of these detainees is a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan,” the U.S. military said in a statement. “Some previously released individuals have already returned to the fight, and this subsequent release will allow dangerous insurgents back into Afghan cities and villages.”
The prisoner dispute has escalated in the past year, since the U.S. military handed control over the detention center at Parwan to Afghan authorities. Last month, the United States protested Afghanistan’s decision to release some of the 88 detainees, citing evidence that 30 percent of them had wounded or killed 60 international-coalition troops and that more had been responsible for Afghan civilian casualties.
Afghan officials issued a sharp rebuttal, saying the Afghan attorney general’s office and the National Directorate of Security — Afghanistan’s CIA — had reviewed the U.S. information and found insufficient evidence to continue to hold the prisoners.
“According to Afghan laws there is no information gathered about these detainees to prove them guilty, so they were ordered released,” Abdul Shakoor Dadras, head of the Afghan government committee responsible for the prisoner issue, said Tuesday night.
The dispute comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to delay signing a security agreement that could provide for several thousand U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond this year to conduct counterterrorism and training operations. Karzai has indicated that he would not sign the agreement before the April 5 election to pick his successor, which could complicate the plans of the United States.
James R. Clapper Jr., the U.S. director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel Tuesday that he doesn’t think Karzai will sign the deal, the first such statement from a senior Obama administration official.