US, Afghanistan clinch Bagram prison transfer deal

WASHINGTON: The United States has reached an agreement on a deal that will see Bagram military prison handed over to Afghan authorities next week, the Pentagon announced Saturday.

The accord to transfer total responsibility for the facility was reached following discussions between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Secretary Hagel spoke with Afghan President Karzai this morning about an agreement reached today to transfer (the facility) to the sovereign control of Afghanistan on Monday," a statement said.

The agreement followed intense discussions between US and Afghan officials, according to the statement.

Bagram prison was originally due to be turned over to Afghan forces on March 9, but the transfer was postponed at the last minute after comments from Karzai that "innocent" prisoners held at the facility would be released.

In September, the United States gave Afghan authorities control of more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, a sprawling detention center north of Kabul once dubbed the Guantanamo Bay of Afghanistan.

But the Americans continued to guard 50 foreigners not covered by the agreement as well as hundreds of Afghans arrested since the transfer deal was signed in March 2012.

In November, Karzai accused the United States of breaching the deal, saying prisoners found innocent by courts were still being held and more people had been captured by American forces against the provisions of the agreement.

Karzai and President Barack Obama pledged in January to place all detainees under the "sovereignty and control of Afghanistan, while ensuring that dangerous fighters remain off the battlefield."

Human rights campaigners have regularly criticized Bagram, saying it fails to comply with international norms because some inmates are detained without trial or knowledge of the charges against them.



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