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Prison Transferred, Kerry Undoing the Damages

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After intensified rounds of talks between Kabul and Washington, the Bagram prison was officially handed to the government of Afghanistan during a ceremony held at the detention center north of Kabul. The transfer ended heated debates between the US and the government of Afghanistan, which strained bilateral relations between the two countries. Bismillah Mohammadi, the Minister of Defence, said in the ceremony that handover of the Bagram prison was an important demand and a major goal for the government of Afghanistan.

The handover of the Bagram prison was halted after Karzai’s remarks over his intention for releasing the prisoners prompted fears among US officials. Washington has been concerned that if Karzai’s administration frees the prisoners arbitrarily, release of ‘dangerous elements’ of the militants would be probable, risking lives of US forces and the Afghans. Visibly, the US has now received assurances from the Afghan government that the dangerous individuals would be kept in secure and humane manner and won’t be released in hazardous way.

Transfer of the Bagram prison to Afghan control is considered as a success for the government of Afghanistan as it is struggling to have something important for making overtures to the Taliban, luring them to negotiate with the Afghan government. The government of Afghanistan needs to efficiently manage the prison and proceed carefully with releasing the prisoners to avoid freeing dangerous elements of the Taliban and other insurgent groups detained in Bagram detention center. In addition to US concerns, the issue is crucial for national security of Afghanistan and success of the ongoing war against insurgency.

As the transfer event was being hold in Kabul, the US Secretary of State John Kerry unexpectedly arrived in Kabul on Monday and met with President Karzai. US officials say the talks between President Karzai and US Secretary of State was aimed at reaffirming US commitment to the strategic partnership with Kabul, supporting the security and political transitions and the peace efforts. Before flying to Kabul, John Kerry met Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discussed the ongoing peace efforts aimed at bringing the insurgent leaders to negotiation table. The peace efforts are high on US Secretary of State agenda as Washington is trying to broker a deal before the NATO forces leave Afghanistan by 2014.

Also, the visit of US Secretary of State to Kabul, at this particular time when the two countries have just finalized the transfer of Bagram detention center, is indicating efforts for mending the strained ties between Kabul and Washington. After President Karzai’s anti-US remarks, the mutual confidence and relations were seriously strained, potentially damaging partnership at this critical time when the NATO forces are withdrawing from the country.

The differences between the Afghan government and United States over Maidan Wardak and Bagram prison handover marred the talks for securing a security pact between the two countries which is expected to be signed within months. In his Kabul visit, Kerry aims to undo the recent harms and revitalize the talks for the crucial security pact.

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