Afghanistan has released 65 prisoners in a step towards shuttering a former military prison Afghan leaders believe is stoking conflict with the Taliban -- despite harsh criticism from American leaders, who believe the prisoners to be dangerous. The move highlights increasing tension between Kabul and Washington and threatens to make an already rocky relationship worse.
Earlier this week, Afghan authorities ordered the release of the convicts, held in the former American military prison at Bagram, in a maligned but anticipated decision. Afghan President Hamid Karzai swore to shutter the prison, which he has called a "Taliban-making factory," last month. Twenty-three prisoners now remain at the jail. The U.S. military has been unusually strident in criticizing the move, and has issued a strongly-worded objection to the decision:
The release of 65 detainees is a legitimate force protection concern for the lives of both coalition troops and Afghan National Security Forces... The primary weapon of choice for these individuals is the improvised explosive device, widely recognized as the primary cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for U.S. forces Afghanistan added:
Detainees from this group of 65 are directly linked to attacks killing or wounding 32 U.S. or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians... It remains the position of USFOR-A that violent criminals who harm Afghans and threaten the peace and security of Afghanistan should face justice in the Afghan courts, where a fair and transparent trial would determine their guilt or innocence.