US signs breakthrough deal to hand over Afghan jail

The United States on Friday signed a deal transferring the controversial Bagram prison to Afghan control, marking a breakthrough in negotiations over a strategic treaty between the two nations.

The handover of the US-run prison -- sometimes called Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay -- has been a key sticking point in talks between Washington and the Afghan government on concluding a long-term partnership pact.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly demanded in the name of Afghan sovereignty that the prison and its 3,000 inmates be transferred before he signs any deal governing Afghan-US relations after NATO combat troops pull out in 2014.

That treaty would likely cover the legal status of US troops remaining in the country to help Kabul with intelligence, air power and logistics in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

In Iraq, Washington abandoned its pursuit of a strategic partnership deal and pulled out all its troops, leaving no residual force, after failing to get Baghdad to grant its soldiers legal immunity.

"This is an important step in the strategic partnership negotiations," the US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said at the signing ceremony on the prison deal.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said the accord would see authority transferred gradually over six months.

"With the handover of the Bagram prison, one of the conditions of the Loya Jirga (grand assembly of Afghan elders) will be implemented. We are feeling very proud about this important step," Wardak said.

The prison, outside the Bagram airbase north of Kabul, holds rebel fighters detained by US-led NATO forces in their 10-year war against the Taliban-led insurgency trying to topple Karzai's government.

Under the agreement, Afghan authorities will need to advise the US of plans to release any prisoners and "consider favourably" objections if the Americans consider such inmates could engage in "terrorist activity".

The US would also maintain a presence at the prison to provide advisory, technical and logistical support for a year.

In turn, the Afghans would give the US and humanitarian bodies access to detainees to monitor their treatment under international humanitarian law.

Human rights campaigners have regularly criticised the prison under US control, saying it fails to comply with international norms as some inmates are detained arbitrarily without trial or knowledge of the charges against them.

The Bagram base was the site of the burning of Korans last month which ignited days of violent anti-US protests in which some 40 people died, plunging relations between foreign forces and their Afghan allies to an all-time low.

The Korans, which were sent to an incinerator pit, had reportedly been seized from prisoners who were suspected of using them to pass secret messages.

A prison was originally built within the sprawling US military base at Bagram after the 2001 US-led invasion toppled the hardline Islamist Taliban regime for sheltering Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The new prison officially called the Parwan Detention Facility was constructed outside the base in 2009, but Afghan authorities usually still use the old name.

One other major condition Karzai has set before signing a treaty on a long-term partnership is an end to night raids by US-led special forces, which target Taliban leaders in their homes.

The United States says they are a vital element in the anti-Taliban campaign, but the Afghan government says they violate the sanctity of families in their own homes and cause civilian casualties.

In an apparent reference to this, Wardak said: "In the next few days we will continue talks with the US side and finalise another important issue which is Afghanisation of special operations."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine, Vietnam troops play sports on disputed island
    Philippine, Vietnam troops play sports on disputed island

    Filipino and Vietnamese troops played football and tug-of-war on a disputed South China Sea island on Wednesday, officials said, closing ranks as their rival China ramps up construction of artificial islands. The games took place on Philippine-held Northeast Cay, just 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) from Southwest Cay which is controlled by Vietnam, where a similar contest was held last year. "It was a navy-to-navy confidence-building engagement," Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, the Philippine …

  • ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’
    ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’

    While strong earthquakes cause tsunamis in coastal areas, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned that inland areas could also be exposed to tsunami-like waves, or seiche, if located near or around bodies of water. In a recent earthquake awareness seminar in Muntinlupa, Phivolcs supervising science research specialist Joan Salcedo explained that a seiche is a large wave similar to a tsunami, triggered by strong ground shaking from an earthquake or volcanic …

  • China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations
    China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations

    China gave the Philippines a “gentle reminder” last Tuesday that Beijing will not bully small countries but warned these nations not to make trouble willfully and endlessly. “Here is a gentle reminder to the Philippines: China will not bully small countries, meanwhile, small countries shall not make trouble willfully and endlessly. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that China would continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features in the disputed Spratly Islands …

  • Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute
    Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute

    The Philippines should consider backchannel diplomacy to prevent its territorial dispute with China from deteriorating further, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said yesterday. There are a lot of Filipino businessmen with businesses in China and they have friends and connections there. Let’s utilize that, ask them to talk to their friends on how we can resolve this matter peacefully,” Marcos said. …

  • Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims
    Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims

    Japan and the Philippines are set to bolster security ties when President Benigno Aquino visits Tokyo next week, the latest move by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to beef up cooperation with Southeast Asian nations facing China’s growing naval ambitions. The two sides will likely agree to start talks on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology and to discuss a possible pact on the status of Japanese military personnel visiting the Philippines to facilitate joint training and …

  • Phl, Vietnam troops play soccer on disputed isle
    Phl, Vietnam troops play soccer on disputed isle

    Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island yesterday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region will allow it to project power deep into …

  • Noy swears in 50 newly appointed AFP officers
    Noy swears in 50 newly appointed AFP officers

    President Aquino administered yesterday the oath taking of 50 newly appointed generals and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a simple ceremony at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace. …

  • Taiwan’s peace call on claimants of disputed territories welcomed
    Taiwan’s peace call on claimants of disputed territories welcomed

    The US on Tuesday welcomed Taiwan’s call on all claimants to disputed shoals, reefs, rocks and islets in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to exercise restraint, refrain from unilateral actions that could escalate tensions, as well as to respect international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “With regard to the maritime claims and the claims to sovereignty over land features in the South China Sea, our position is that maritime claims must …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options