Afghanistan to release detainees despite US objections

Afghan detainees wait to be released during a ceremony to hand over Bagram prison to the Afghanistan government at Bagram Prison facilities on 25 March 2013. The issues of detainees at Bagram has strained ties between Afghanistan and the US

Afghanistan is preparing to release 65 detainees from Bagram detention centre despite the US condemning the decision and insisting they are "dangerous".

US officials say they have evidence the men were responsible for carrying out attacks on Nato and Afghan troops.

But the Afghan authorities say there is not enough evidence against them and that their release will go ahead.

Hundreds of prisoners at Bagram jail have been freed since it was put under Afghan control in March last year.

The issue of the detention centre, now renamed the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan, has put Afghan-US ties under further strain, as US-led international troops prepare to withdraw fully from the country.

The facility, which housed mainly Taliban and other insurgents captured by Western military forces, was also at the centre of a number of prisoner abuse allegations.

Afghan government officials suggest the prisoners could be released in a few days, but the US says it expects the release to take place on Thursday.

'New low'

In a statement released on Wednesday, the US military "expressed strong concern about the potential threats these detainees pose to coalition forces and Afghan security forces and civilians".

It detailed four of the 65 individuals' cases, all of whom are accused of involvement in planned IED attacks against coalition forces.

US officials say they have provided extensive information to the Afghan government on the 65 men, including direct evidence of connection to making bombs.

Afghanistan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard during a ceremony to hand over Bagram prison to the Afghanistan government at Bagram Prison facilities on 25 March 2013. US-led forces are to hand over all security duties to Afghan troops by the end of 2014

But, they say, the evidence was never seriously considered.

This incident marks a new low in the relationship between US forces and the Afghan government, says the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul.

The decision to release the men is a political one, our correspondent adds, taken personally by President Hamid Karzai, who has long campaigned against Bagram detention centre.

Afghanistan and the US have also been at loggerheads over President Karzai's refusal to sign a security deal with Washington that would set the final framework for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

According to the UN Security Council's mandate, the US-led international military force in Afghanistan is scheduled to hand over all security duties to Afghan forces before its full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

But if a "Security and Defence Co-operation Agreement" is signed between the two countries, about 10,000 US troops could stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

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