U.S. military forces on Monday slammed Afghanistan's decision to release from the notorious Bagram prison 37 prisoners for whom there is "no incriminating evidence" as a "major step backward in... the rule of law."
The head of the Afghan Review Board (ARB) previously denied the U.S. assessment that the 88 men were dangerous threats. "In many cases, detainees were wrongly linked to certain incidents they were not involved in," said ARB head Abdul Shakor Dadras. Investigations led by the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai found evidence against just 16 of the men.
"We cannot allow innocent Afghan citizens to be kept in detention for months and years without a trial, for no reason at all," said Aimal Faizi, Karzai's spokesman. "We know that unfortunately this has been happening at Bagram, but it is illegal and a violation of Afghan sovereignty."
A statement released Monday by United States Forces-Afghanistan condemned the decision to release the men, saying they are "dangerous insurgents who have Afghan blood on their hands" and "legitimate threats to security and for whom there is strong evidence or investigative leads supporting prosecution or further investigation."
USFOR-A's statement specifies: "Of the 88 detainees under dispute, 40 percent have participated in direct attacks wounding or killing 57 Afghan citizens and security force members and 30 percent participated in direct attacks wounding or killing 60 U.S. or coalition force members."
"This extra-judicial release of detainees is a major step backward in further developing the rule of law in Afghanistan," the statement continued.
In response, Karzai's office said, "Foreign forces do not have the right to condemn the decision of the judicial authorities of an independent and sovereign country."
"This is acting like an occupying force, not an ally or partner," spokesman Faizi said.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Karzai called Bagram "a place where innocent people are tortured and insulted and made [into] dangerous criminals."
The U.S. reportedly handed control over the prison to Afghanistan in March 2013, yet the U.S. still exerts a powerful role at the prison.
Contributing to tensions between the two countries is the bilateral security agreement the U.S. continues to push Afghanistan to sign, which would continue the occupation for years to come, as well as ongoing U.S.-led attacks that have left civilian casualties.