Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Obama will have to face the indefinite detention of prisoners at the Bagram Air Base as he prepares for withdrawal of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. (Photo: Unarmed Civilian)

As Endless War Drags On, US Has No Plans to Release Secret Prisoners Kept in Afghanistan

New President Ashraf Ghani set to endorse Bilateral Security Agreement, paving way for thousands of U.S. troops to maintain presence for another decade

Lauren McCauley

As the U.S. cements a pact to maintain troops in Afghanistan following their reported withdrawal at the end of the year, a top U.S. official has admitted that the military also has no set plan to release the secret prisoners held captive in that country.

Brigadier General Patrick J. Reinert told Reuters that the unknown number of foreign nationals who were abducted and held in captivity near the Bagram Airbase may be sent to their country of origin but will more likely be transferred to the U.S. court system or to Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

"If someone has committed a crime overseas that could be a crime also in the United States, a detainee could be transferred back to the United States," Reinert said.

"We've got to resolve their fate by either returning them to their home country or turning them over to the Afghans for prosecution or any other number of ways that the Department of Defense has to resolve," Reinert continued. Unless the new Afghan leadership carves out an exception, NATO states will no longer be allowed to hold wartime captives in that country after 2014.

Reinert's statement comes the same day that Afghanistan swore in their newly elected President Ashraf Ghani. Ghani will head the country's new unity government along with chief rival Abdullah Abdullah, who was sworn in shortly after Ghani to the newly created post of chief executive. On Tuesday, the new leader is expected to endorse the long-awaited Bilateral Security Agreement, which permits the occupation of 8,000-12,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for another decade. The agreement further allows that U.S. troops not be subject to Afghan law for criminal acts—even war crimes.

The U.S. military refuses to disclose the number, names or home country of the Bagram captives though advocates for the prisoners say that they have been held without charge and are victims of rendition, practiced by the U.S. military under President George Bush.

Calling the U.S. military's plan—or lack thereof—to continue the indefinite detention of these detainees an "absolute nightmare," Maryam Haq, a lawyer with the human rights group Justice Project Pakistan said, "We don't even know who they are."

According to Justice Project Pakistan, most of those held at Bagram are Pakistani, though others are from Yemen, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. On September 20th, 14 Pakistan detainees were quietly released from U.S. custody and handed over to Pakistani authorities in the largest transfer from Bagram yet.

Following that release, the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman estimated that there are now 13 non-Afghans still held at the secret detention center. Ackerman spoke with Abdul Sattar, a Pakistani man recently released from Bagram detention, who confirmed that the captives "often go on hunger strike to protest their confinement and its terms."

Unlike captives held at Guantanamo, Bagram detainees are not permitted access to lawyers, and their only outside contact is with representatives from the Red Cross.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Khanna Tells Biden to Cut Off Weapons to Saudis as OPEC Agrees to Slash Oil Supply

"President Biden should make it clear that we will stop supplying the Saudis with weapons and air parts if they fleece the American people and strengthen Putin by making drastic production cuts."

Jake Johnson ·

'Absolutely Shameful': Michigan Judge Drops Flint Water Crisis Charges Against 7 Officials

"This means there are currently no criminal charges over 8 years later," lamented one journalist.

Jake Johnson ·

Trump Turns to SCOTUS Over Mar-a-Lago Docs, But 'It Won't Stop DOJ'

"This is a very specific and narrow request by Trump the merits of which turn on a technical jurisdictional question, but which runs into fatal procedural obstacles long before that," said one analyst. "It's not laughable, but only because it's small."

Jessica Corbett ·

Despite Calls for Diplomacy to End War, US Confirms More Weapons Headed to Ukraine

"Are there still negotiation possibilities?" asked Noam Chomsky. "There's only one way to find out. That's to try. If you refuse to try, of course, there's no option, no possibilities."

Brett Wilkins ·

Groups Warn SCOTUS May Gut 'Foundational' Digital Rights Law

"Weakening Section 230 would be catastrophic—disproportionately silencing and endangering marginalized communities," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo