The U.S. forces in Afghanistan are set to hand over control of the controversial Bagram prison to the Afghan government on Monday in line with an earlier reached deal that requires the transfer of all prisons to Afghan authorities ahead of the planned withdrawal of NATO forces by the end of 2014.
The Bagram prison, known as the Parwan Detention Center, is located about 25 miles north of the Afghan capital Kabul. It is inside one of the largest military bases of the NATO-led international coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The prison currently houses about 3,000 inmates, including about 50 foreigners who are not covered by the handover agreement signed in March to begin a six-month process for transferring control of the jail to Afghan authorities. Incidentally, the U.S. military has been accused in the past of abusing and torturing detainees at the facility.
Control of the Bagram prison will be formally transferred to Afghan authorities at a ceremony planned for Monday as per the earlier agreed deal, which reportedly allows the U.S. military to retain control over a portion of the facility and authorizes it to capture and detain suspects in Afghanistan.
Notably, the Afghan government has ruled out any delay in the handover of the prison by the U.S. military. Earlier, Afghan president Hamid Karzai had kept transfer of the prison as a pre-condition for negotiating a legal immunity clause for U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 pullout.
Nevertheless, differences still remain between the U.S. and Afghan government over the interpretation of a memorandum of understanding reached between the two, mostly over the fate of more than 600 suspects who are yet to be transferred to Afghan authorities since their detention by the U.S. military after the deal was signed on March 9.
U.S. says almost 99 percent of the detainees have already been transferred to Afghan authorities, while admitting that the transfer of the rest had been put on hold. Nevertheless, U.S. officials have indicated plans to continue handing over of more detainees to the Afghan government once Washington feels assured that Kabul will fulfill the MoU terms.
The U.S. remains concerned that the Afghan government may not comply with some of the restrictions outlined in the MoU on detainees, particularity with a U.S. demand for not putting some of the most dangerous detainees on trial under any circumstances.
Currently, there are over 130,000 foreign troops from more than 42 countries under the joint command of the NATO and the United States in Afghanistan to contain a resurgent Taliban in the war-torn country. The United States remains the largest contributor to the coalition force, with some 100,000 American soldiers on the ground.
The U.S. and other allied nations involved in the Afghan mission are currently making serious efforts to get the Afghan security forces ready and capable of handling the country's security before the 2014 withdrawal of coalition troops.
by RTT Staff Writer
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