By Jeremy Herb
The U.S. military said the Afghan government had taken a “major step backward” on Sunday by ordering the release of 37 prisoners whom the U.S. considers “legitimate threats to security.”
The military said the Afghan Review Board (ARB) had ordered the release of 37 of the 88 prisoners in Parwan Detention Facility at Bagram Airfield, calling it a “major step backward in further developing the rule of law in Afghanistan.”
The prisoner release threatens to further erode relations between the United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a time when the two sides are at odds over a long-term bilateral security agreement.
The Obama administration has threatened to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, if the agreement is not signed soon, something Karzai has refused to do until after the country’s April presidential elections.
The U.S. has urged Karzai to keep the 88 detainees at Parwan, which has been under Afghan control since last year.
Of the 88 detainees, the U.S. says 40 percent have participated in attacks against Afghan citizens or security force members, and 30 percent participated in attacks against U.S. or NATO troops.
The Afghan review board said that the detainees could not be held because there was no evidence against them, which the U.S. military disputes.
The U.S. military said of the 37 released, 17 are linked to attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), three were tied to attacks wounding or killing 11 Afghan soldiers and four participated in or had knowledge of attacks wounding or killing 42 U.S. and NATO troops.