Afghanistan Frees Detainees in Show of Sovereignty Before Karzai Visits U.S.
Just ahead of a trip to Washington by President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan government released 80 detainees on Friday, part of a continuing effort to assert its sovereignty over the contentious issue of how prisoners are handled.
American officials have long complained that the Afghans release prisoners too soon, raising the risk that many will return to the battlefield. Afghan officials counter that they are not legally allowed to detain people suspected of being insurgents without enough evidence to prosecute them, even if the Americans say they are too dangerous to release.
The releases stem from an agreement the Americans made to eventually transfer control of the Parwan Detention Facility, located at Bagram Air Base, to the Afghan government last March. Of the thousands of prisoners captured by American forces who have come under Afghan control, close to 1,000 have been released over the last year.
But Friday was a rare instance when the government made a public spectacle of releasing a large number together. A large group of local television journalists lined up to film the ceremony, during which the prisoners, dressed in new brown, yellow and blue shalwars, embraced family members most had not seen in more than a year.