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The Disagreements over Prison Handover


A planned program for handing over of the Bagram prison from US control to Afghan government has been cancelled. US officials has said that the plan was cancelled because the agreements between the government of Afghanistan and the US has not been finalized. The delay occurs when the US defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the new US defense chief who is going to oversee the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, is visiting Kabul. In recent months, the Afghan and the US officials made progresses for transferring control of the prison to the Afghans and it was partially handed over to the Afghans last year. As the final stage of the process, it was set that the US forces completely handover the prison to the Afghan government.

The prison handover to Afghan control have always been a bone of contention between Kabul and Washington which time and again strained relations between the two capitals. The Afghan government has insisted that the US should transfer the prisoners to the government of Afghanistan as it is a matter of national sovereignty for the country.

But the US officials are concerned that the Afghan security and intelligence agencies may not be fully capable of handling the prisons as there are dangerous elements which are considered potential threats. The US fears that the Afghan government may release such elements which would be back in frontline of the ongoing insurgency across the country.

The delay indicates that there are still serious differences among US and Afghan officials over the conditions and details of the agreement for transferring control of the notorious prison. One of the disagreements is the authority and decision-making process for releasing prisoners. In his parliament address on March 6, President Karzai said he would free the innocent citizens prisoned in Bagram after the handover of the Prison set for this week. US officials are bargaining to keep authority for blocking release of the prisoners who are considered as potential threat, something that is very difficult for the government of Afghanistan to accept it.

Another issue that the two sides have disagreements on is detaining enemy combatants and suspects by the US forces in the ongoing war. The government of Afghanistan of Afghanistan believes the US will have no right to detain Afghans and to put them in jails without trial. On the other hand, US military considers detaining suspects and terrorist suspects and putting them behind the bars the right thing in the midst of the ongoing anti-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan.

The ongoing bargaining over control of the prisoners is in some way related to the security agreement which the two countries are going to reach in next months. Considering the significance of US security role in post-2014 Afghanistan, any deal on control of the prisoners would affect the security cooperation between the two countries. Thus it is crucial for Kabul and Washington to reach an agreement that cements future partnership. As US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is visiting Kabul, it is hoped that the top-level negotiations would pay off for ending the disagreements and strengthening future partnerships.

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