News Column

US Military Turns Bagram Jail Over to Afghans

March 25, 2013
Bagram Jail. (Photo: U.S. State Dept.)
Bagram Jail. (Photo: U.S. State Dept.)

The US military on Monday handed over a controversial detention centre to the Afghan government, solving an issue that had complicated relations with President Hamid Karzai.

The US military has been criticized for using controversial interrogation methods on prisoners at Bagram north of Kabul, which human rights group class as torture.

Some 3,000 people detained there are accused of having worked for al-Qaeda or with radical Taliban militants.

"We want Afghanistan's sovereignty safe, and the US issues should be observed," US Secretary of State John Kerry, on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, said during a press conference with Karzai.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, US and NATO troops commander and Afghan Defence Minister Bismullah Mohammadi signed the agreement in Bagram military base, one of the biggest-US run military facilities in Afghanistan.

The United States repeatedly postponed the handover over fears Taliban militants could be allowed to return to the battlefield.

"It has been a difficult process but we can smile today we are here," Dunford said, speaking at the handover ceremony.

"Today it represents much more, it represents another milestone in our maturing relationship and it represents the increasing sovereignty of the Afghan people. This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan."

The government has renamed it the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan.

The United States has pledged an additional 39 million dollars to support the jail, according to a NATO statement.

General Ghulam Farooq Barakzai, Afghan commander for the Parwan detention center, said that the US military had transferred 4,000 inmates to their authorities since March 2012.

Of the 3,013 people still at Bagram, 26 were freed on Monday, Barakzai said.

"Some of them have completed the detention period and a number of others were found innocent by the court," he said.

He added that the Afghan army would guard the centre.

Kerry praised the Afghan government's plan to launch "safe, secure and transparent" presidential elections in 2014.

Karzai said: "The elections will be launched with no interference by the government and the politicians, and no interference by the foreigners."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH