The US has handed over the prison at Bagram Air Force base to Afghanistan, in the latest in a series of transitions to have the Afghans take control of their own security. The prison transfer was part of a bargain won months ago by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. However, hundreds of prisoners at the facility remain under US control.
The U.S. has since the signing of the March 9 handover agreement gradually handed over responsibility for most of the 3,000 detainees held at the prison. As some may have been released or others brought in, the prison’s current detainee population under U.S. control is not known but is thought to number in the hundreds.
The U.S. recently suspended the transfer of new detainees apparently because of disagreements with Kabul, which has questioned the long-term detention of suspects without charge after their capture.
The U.S. reportedly fears that Afghan authorities may simply let some detainees go, and appears reluctant to turn over all the suspects it holds.
So this is a “handover” without handing over, you know, the prisoners. And the US still resists letting Afghanistan take control of its security, even while Afghanistan marks the event allowing them to take control of their security. This leaves about 600 detainees captured after the agreement in March in limbo. And there are 50 non-Afghans held at the facility that, even if the post-March detainee situation gets dealt with, the US will continue to administer. These include the detainees transferred from other wars and facilities to Bagram, to avoid any habeas corpus writs or disputes around indefinite detention. This pretty much confirms that a subset of the prisoners at Bagram are slated to remain there forever.
Even if they figure all this out, there’s an associated dispute over prisoners captured by US forces. The Afghans want those prisoners turned over to their custody within 72 hours. The US wants to hold them for indeterminately longer. In other words, Afghanistan has higher standards around detention policy and holding detainees without charges than the US.
Meanwhile, a prisoner on a hunger strike at Guantanamo was found dead in his cell, which is the only way those 50 Bagram prisoners will die, under the current standard.
More from the New York Times. This is kind of a metaphor for the entire US engagement in Afghanistan, simultaneously wanting to leave yet unable to let go. And of course, indefinitely detaining prisoners along the way.