Report: Suspected Taliban detainees released by Afghan government

More than 80 detainees were set free from facilities across the country Friday, with another 400 to be released by the end of this week, Afghan National Police Maj. Jalal Uddin told The Associated Press on Friday. 

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Afghan officials believe the detainees' release, many of whom were captured by U.S. and NATO forces during combat operations in the country, will be seen as a goodwill gesture toward establishing a peace deal with the Taliban. 

"We are certain they can help bring peace in Afghanistan and will support the government," Uddin told the AP. 

American, Afghan and Pakistani officials in the Safe Passage Working Group have been putting together a transition plan designed to allow top-tier Taliban leaders to participate in upcoming peace talks once U.S. forces leave in 2014.

Members of the Afghan-led Safe Passage Working Group, who helped negotiate Friday's prisoner release, have also been reaching out to Taliban leaders with the goal of setting up a peace plan once U.S. forces depart. 

American and coalition commanders officially handed over control of the detention facilities in Afghanistan to local control last year, including the massive military prison in the central Afghanistan province of Parwan. 

The move was part of the White House's plan to hand over all security operations to the Afghans and pull out all U.S. combat troops from the country by 2014. 

The release of suspected terrorists by Afghan authorities has been a major point of concern among lawmakers, who fear the suspects could return to the battlefield against U.S. and coalition forces. 

“One of the big issues is we have ... is that it’s difficult to determine who has re-engaged,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last March. 

“We can’t always reconfirm who’s out there, who’s back fighting us again. And often we find them when we encounter them, [on] the battlefield or elsewhere ... [and] one terrorist re-engaging is too many,” she said at the time. 

Similar concerns arose among lawmakers regarding the Afghans' ability to adequately secure the prisons, particularly the Parwan facility that has now surpassed the U.S. prison Guantánamo Bay. in Cuba, as the largest American detention center overseas. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long been opposed to U.S. detention practices where terror suspects are held in U.S. custody for indefinite amounts of time, often without being formally charged. 

That said, the Pentagon opted to retain custody of hundreds of high-risk terror detainees as part of the handover deal reached with Kabul.