Afghanistan’s president has accused US forces of continuing to capture and detain Afghans in violation of an agreement signed earlier this year between the two countries.
Hamid Karzai’s statement on Sunday, which did not include any specific demands for the US, was issued days after the beginning of negotiations on a bilateral security agreement that will govern the US military presence in the country after the majority of troops are withdrawn in 2014.
The Afghan president said some detainees are still being held by US troops even though Afghan judges have ruled that they should be released. He also decried the continued arrest of Afghans by US forces.
The two countries signed the detainee transfer pact in March but the handover of detention facilities has been slowed by the US, which has argued that the Afghans are not ready to take over their management.
The US also insists that the Afghan government agrees to hold without trial some detainees that the US claims too dangerous to release.
“These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the US President,” said the statement, released by Karzai’s office after the president was briefed by judicial authorities on the transfer.
He urged Afghan officials to “take serious measures” to push for taking over all responsibility for the detention center on the edge of the main US base in eastern Afghanistan.
The detainee transfer agreement was one of two pacts that were key to a broad but vague strategic partnership agreement signed by Kabul and Washington in May that set forth an American commitment to Afghanistan for years to come.
The second pact covers “special operations” such as certain American raids and other conduct on the battlefield.
A third detailed pact – dubbed the bilateral security agreement – is now under negotiation, and covers logistical and legal questions such as the size and number of bases and the immunity of US forces from prosecution.
The two countries officially opened negotiations on the bilateral security agreement last week, and have given themselves a year to sign the pact.
It is believed that the US wants to retain up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, reportedly to train and support Afghan forces.
Afghanistan now has about 66,000 US troops and it remains unclear how many will be withdrawn next year as they continue to hand over security to Afghan forces.
The foreign military mission is evolving from combat to advising, assisting and training Afghan forces.
The bilateral security agreement is essentially a status of forces agreement and will set up a legal framework needed to operate military forces in Afghanistan, including taxation, visas and other technical issues.
It does not need to be ratified by the US congress. The US has similar agreements with dozens of countries.
In Iraq, a similar deal fell apart after US officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain there.
Karzai said last month that the issue of soldiers being protected from prosecution in Afghanistan could be a problem in the talks. He has said Afghanistan might demand prosecutions in some cases.
The issue took on new meaning after Arny Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly attacked Afghan civilians in two villages in southern Afghanistan.
The US soldier faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attacks against civilians. A preliminary hearing was held this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.