The US military gave control of its last detention facility in Afghanistan to Kabul yesterday, a year after the two sides initially agreed on the transfer.
The handover of Parwan Detention Facility ends a bitter chapter in US relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who demanded control of the prison as a matter of national sovereignty.
The dispute threw a pall over negotiations for a bilateral security agreement that would govern the presence of US forces in Afghanistan after next year.
US General Joseph Dunford handed over Parwan, located near the Bagram military base north of Kabul, after signing an agreement with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi.
“The transfer of the detention facility is an important part of the overall transition of security lead to Afghan National Security Forces. This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan,” Dunford said.
An initial agreement to hand over Parwan was signed a year ago, but efforts to follow through on it constantly stumbled over US concerns that the Afghan government would release prisoners that it considered dangerous.
A key point was Afghanistan’s contention that administrative detention, the practice of holding someone without formal charges, violated the country’s laws. The US argued that international law allowed administrative detentions and also argued that it could not risk the passage of some high-value detainees to the notoriously corrupt Afghan court system.
As part of the deal, the Afghan government can invoke a procedure that ensures prisoners considered dangerous will not be released from the detention center. A senior US official in Washington said the deal also allows the US and Kabul to work together to resolve differences. The official lacked authorization to discuss the details of the agreement publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.