Afghanistan says prisoners to be freed over US objections

After a review of their cases, Afghanistan still plans to release 88 prisoners over U.S. objections.

The head of a review board appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Reuters that the prisoners would be released because the evidence did not warrant keeping them in custody.

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The Obama administration and lawmakers have urged Afghanistan to keep the prisoners detained, warning they are dangerous and have launched attacks on U.S. and NATO service members as well as Afghans.

"The documents we have seen so far provide no reason to convict them," the head of the review board, Abdul Shakor Dadras, told Reuters late Sunday.

"Our decision is to release them as soon as possible if there is no incriminating evidence against them."

The prisoner dispute threatens to further erode U.S.-Afghan relations, which have been hampered in recent weeks over Karzai’s refusal to sign a security agreement.

The U.S. is threatening to withdraw all troops at the end of 2014 if Karzai does not quickly sign the security pact, but the Afghan president has dismissed the “zero option” as an empty threat.

The Pentagon has raised concerns about the potential for the prisoners held in the Parwan detention facility at Bagram Airfield to be released, and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pressed Karzai on the issue when they met with him last week.

The senators said the release would do irreparable harm to the U.S.-Afghan relationship, but stopped short of saying that it would prompt the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.

The handover of Parwan to the Afghans was one of the key sticking points in negotiations last year to establish a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan after 2014.