Afghanistan releases detainees linked to American troop deaths

Afghanistan released 65 detainees on Thursday despite evidence that they killed or wounded Afghan and coalition troops, the U.S. military command there announced.

"The release of these dangerous individuals poses a threat to U.S., Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces as well as the Afghan population. Insurgents in the group released today have killed Coalition and Afghan Forces," U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.

"They have killed Afghan men, women and children. More than two dozen of the individuals released were linked to the production or emplacement of improvised explosive devices, the number one killer of Afghan civilians," it said. 

The Afghan Review Board announced it would release 88 detainees, and issued release orders for 37 of them last month, but had not actually released any of the detainees until today. The United States had appealed the decision, to no avail. 

Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted the decision on Wednesday, saying he was "appalled by the Karzai government's complete lack of respect for our troops, men and women who are fighting to keep Afghanistan standing." 

Military officials warned that those released could return to the fight against troops, and that they could be targeted on the battlefield. On Wednesday, officials released the names and evidence against four of the detainees who were released today. 

The release worsens relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan, as both sides pursue an agreement that would allow U.S. troops and military assistance to continue after their combat mission ends this December. 

U.S. officials had pressed President Karzai to sign an agreement by the end of last year, but the Afghan president said he would wait until after the April elections for the incoming president to sign it. 

While presidential candidates support signing the agreement, U.S. officials are uncertain this will happen. In 2011, the U.S. was unable to ink a deal with Iraq that would have allowed U.S. forces to stay and continue assisting Iraqi forces. 

"All of the detainees are associated with groups with whom the U.S. is at war, including the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Haqqani network," McKeon said. "Their release is in direct contravention of an agreement signed between U.S. and Afghan governments."