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US condemns Afghan move to release detainees

US military says planned release of '65 dangerous individuals' is 'major step backward for rule of law in Afghanistan'.

Last updated: 11 Feb 2014 16:53
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President Obama administration has been pressing Afghan President Karzai to sign a bilateral security pact [Reuters]

US forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday condemned a decision by the Afghan government to move forward with plans to release additional detainees that the US believes pose a continuing threat to security.

The detainees in question are among 650 held at Bagram prison north of Kabul, whom Afghan authorities have marked for release on grounds of insufficient proof to prosecute them.

"United States Forces-Afghanistan has learned that 65 dangerous individuals from a group of 88 detainees under dispute have been ordered released from the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan," the US military force said in a statement.

"The release of these detainees is a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan," it said.

"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 detainees have become another issue fueling tension in US-Afghan ties, as foreign troops present in Afghanistan since 2001 steadily withdraw.

Washington objects to freeing a total of 88 prisoners it regards as a threat to security.

Security pact

President Barack Obama's administration has been pressing President Hamid Karzai to sign a bilateral security pact that would allow some US forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond a deadline at the end of this year. But there has been little sign of him complying.

James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, has said that he did not expect the Afghan President to sign the much-delayed deal.

Last month, US officials objected to Afghanistan after the government directed the Afghan Review Board, a government body, to release 37 of the 88 detainees.

Tuesday's development appears to put those prisoners, and 28 others, closer to release, according to Reuters news agency.

An Afghan government official said that the prisoners could be released in a few days. A US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the prisoners could be set free very soon.

Basir Azizi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general, said that 65 prisoners were ordered to be released because "there was no incriminating evidence against them" and added that the fate of the remaining prisoners was being reviewed.

Meanwhile, two NATO civilian contractors were killed after a convoy of foreign military vehicles was attacked by a suicide bombed. Hezb-e-Islami, an armed group tied with the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. 

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