US warns Kabul over release of prisoners

January 29, 2014 - 6:59:03 am
KABUL: The United States warned the Afghan government against releasing prisoners that Washington says should be tried as dangerous militants, the latest dispute to inflame US-Afghan relations.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Afghan government had directed the Afghan Review Board, a government body, to release 37 detainees.

Warren said some were linked to production of improvised bombs or attacks using them, while others were believed to have been involved in assaults on Afghan or foreign soldiers

“These are bad guys. These are individuals with blood on their hands, both US, coalition and Afghan blood on their hands,” Warren said. The prisoners, he  added, were “in the release process” despite “strong evidence” that would support prosecution of some prisoners and leads on other prisoners that justified further investigation.

The detainees are among 650 held at Bagram prison north of Kabul which Afghan authorities have marked for release on grounds of insufficient proof to prosecute them. Washington objects to freeing a total of 88 prisoners it regards as a threat to security.

The dispute over the prisoners is one of a series of incidents marking a deterioration in ties.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security pact that would enable US troops, in the country since 2001, to remain beyond the end of the year. He says the accord can wait until after a presidential election in April.

US Ambassador James Cunningham said he hoped relations could be repaired quickly as most foreign troops prepare to leave, and as Afghanistan prepares for an April presidential election.

“I would hope that we can get back to relationship that’s based on fact,” Cunningham said. “We’ve had strong disagreements and we’ve always found a way to deal with them.”

“The reality is the security transition. Whether we sign an agreement that cements our security cooperation and the elections - and those are coming up in the next couple of months - and we need to find a way to deal with that.”