By ROD NORDLANDFEB
American military officials in Afghanistan complained on Tuesday that Afghan authorities had ordered the release of more prisoners whom the Americans consider to be dangerous insurgents, and said their release would violate agreements between the Afghan and American governments.
The contentious releases, and the unusually public campaign being waged against them by the American military, are indications that the two countries have concluded that they cannot quietly resolve their major differences over the issue.
Sixty-five detainees now have release orders, out of a group of 88 still held at the former American military prison at Bagram, the American military said it had learned, according to a statement sent to reporters.
Mr. Karzai, in Kabul last month, has balked at a security agreement with the United States.
None of the 65 had been released by Tuesday evening, but Abdul Shakor Dadras, who signed the release orders, said that all 65 were ready to be freed “within a couple of days.” Mr. Dadras is the head of an Afghan government board examining the detainees’ cases.
An American military spokesman, Lt. Col. William Griffin, said “there certainly is a possibility” that the 65 would be released soon. “It could happen at any time. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case.”
The dispute over the detainees has made it even more unlikely that President Hamid Karzai’s government will sign a long-term security agreement with the United States before his term ends this spring. Mr. Karzai has imposed new conditions for signing, which the American side has rejected, while the Americans have always seen reaching an agreement on the detainees as a necessary precursor to the broader accord on long-term security.
The Americans say there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the 65 detainees, many of whom are accused of planting bombs that have killed soldiers and civilians. The board headed by Mr. Dadras decides which detainees should be tried; to the surprise of the Americans, the board has released 560 of the 760 cases it has reviewed and sent only 112 to trial, a much lower proportion than expected.
The remaining 88 detainees are cases in which the evidence of serious insurgent activity is particularly strong, according to American authorities, who say it is dangerous to let 65 of them go now.
“The release of 65 detainees is a legitimate force protection concern for the lives of both coalition troops and Afghan National Security Forces,” the American military statement said. “The primary weapon of choice for these individuals is the improvised explosive device, widely recognized as the primary cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.”
The Americans complained last month when Mr. Dadras approved 37 of the 88 prisoners for release, after Mr. Karzai vowed publicly to close the Bagram prison soon because it was a “Taliban-making factory.” Since then he has approved 28 more releases, bringing the total to 65.
Although the American military said there was now nothing stopping the releases from taking place, Mr. Dadras noted that American soldiers were still present at the Bagram prison. “Both Afghans and Americans are providing security for Bagram prison,” he said. “There are Americans inside and outside.” Still, he said, “the delay is not because we are scared of the Americans.”
The transfer of the prison to Afghan control has been a contentious issue for years. The Americans say the memorandum of understanding signed with the Afghans gives the United States an effective veto over releases so it can stop dangerous insurgents from returning to the battlefield, but the Afghans dispute that.
The American military’s statement on Tuesday was strongly worded, reflecting exasperation at the Afghan side’s apparent determination to release the remaining prisoners and growing concern over the consequences. American officials who have long expressed anger with Mr. Dadras, saying he ignores serious evidence, say their worst fears about the prison handover have been realized.
The military statement on Tuesday called the release orders “a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan” and noted that “some previously released individuals have already returned to the fight.”
Mr. Dadras, in a telephone interview, disputed that view. “Our review board, after a thorough study and investigation of the files of Bagram prisoners who the Americans called dangerous, decided that 65 of them are innocent and that there is not enough evidence to try them,” he said. “Therefore the review board, as well as the attorney general’s office, have approved the release of these prisoners.”
Officials of the International Security Assistance Force, as the American-led coalition is called, compiled a dossier about the first 37 prisoners and sent it to reporters. According to the file, the detainees to be released include a builder of improvised explosive devices who was biometrically matched to an arrest in which bomb components were seized and a suspected Taliban commander who failed a polygraph test when asked if he had met Al Qaeda members.
The entry on Abdul Ghaffar, a “Taliban I.E.D. specialist,” was one of the more detailed in the dossier. “Evidence: Captured with pressure plates, homemade explosives and other I.E.D. components,” the dossier entry read. “His fingerprint was matched to tape holding a nine-volt battery to a pressure plate recovered at the capture site in Helmand Province. A sawed-off shotgun, submachine gun and 10g of opium were recovered at the Ghaffar family’s compound.”
Mr. Dadras said he had reviewed those files and had not found the evidence persuasive. He said the Afghan attorney general’s office agreed with his board’s decisions in the cases, but the American military statement said the attorney general had never seriously considered the evidence. “We would like the Afghan people to get their day in court,” said Colonel Griffin, the American spokesman.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/world/asia/us-military-denounces-afghanistans-planned-release-of-more-prisoners.html?src=recg