U.S. officials handed over formal control of Afghanistan’s only large-scale U.S.-run prison to Kabul on Monday, even as disagreements between the two countries over the Taliban and terror suspects held there marred the transfer.
Control of the jail has been hailed by Kabul as a victory for sovereignty, but analysts said it was largely a symbolic measure, as Nato prepares to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade fighting an insurgency.
Major questions remain over the immediate and long-term fate of Bagram prison’s more than 3,000 inmates, which include Taliban fighters and terror suspects.
The handover ceremony took place at the prison next to a sprawling U.S. airfield in Bagram, just north of Kabul. President Hamid Karzai has hailed the transfer as a victory for Afghan sovereignty.
“I’m happy that today we are witnessing a glorious ceremony that marks the handing over of responsibilities of Afghan prisoners to Afghans themselves,” acting defence minister Enayatullah Nazari said.
In the meantime Afghan presidential palace spokesman Aimal Faizi, says disagreements remain over the interpretation of the MoU and over more than 600 people detained since March 9 who have not yet been transferred.
He told AFP that talks on Saturday between Karzai and the US ambassador, and the US commander in Afghanistan had been “tough” and said the 600 yet to be transferred were being held illegally in contradiction of the MoU.
Jamie Graybeal, a NATO spokesman, says 99 percent of detainees held before March 9 are under Afghan authority and that the transfer of the rest has been put on hold, pending concerns about the intentions of the government to fulfil terms of the MoU.