The U.S. formally transferred control of its largest prison to the Afghans in a ceremony Monday at Bagram airbase north of Kabul.
The Obama Administration agreed in March to cede control of Bagram, also known as the Parwan Detention Facility, well ahead of the 2014 deadline, at the insistence of President Hamid Karzai, in a deal to help our “partner in peace” politically.
"We are telling the Afghan president and the Afghan people that today is a proud day," said Afghan army Gen. Ghulam Farouk, who now heads the prison.
General John Allen, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan wasn’t quite as jubilant, skipping Monday’s ceremony, and the Pentagon has hit the brakes on continuing implementation of the deal.
While the U.S. has already given the Afghanis authority over most of the 3,000 detainees, they won’t transfer 34 of the most dangerous Taliban fighters, along with about 50 foreign fighters, mostly Pakistanis, who aren’t covered by the agreement.
The Pentagon doesn’t believe it can trust the Karzai government to detain prisoners known as “enduring security threats,” many of whom have American blood on their hands.
Taliban fighters somehow have a habit of escaping from Afghan prisons in a country where graft and corruption are pervasive, and those implicated include Kaarzai’s family and inner circle.
Another issue is the status of new detainees captured after the official transfer of control to Kabul authorities. Afghan officials want the U.S. to hand over anyone captured within 72 hours, a ridiculous standard in a war zone.
All of this calls to mind last year’s Daqduq fiasco in Iraq, when the Pentagon was forced by the Obama Administration as part of an agreement on detainees to hand over a senior Hezbollah terrorist who confessed to the murder and torture of American soldiers.
Rather than taking Ali Musa Daqduq out of Iraq and putting him before a U.S. military court, he stood trial before an Iraqi court, which in May ordered him freed.
The dispute also calls into question the resolve of the Obama Administration to ensure the best possible U.S. position as the drawdown continues.
The White House is thrilled to trumpet Obama’s Afghanistan campaign pledge but doesn’t seem to be doing much to ensure the safety of the American soldiers who remain there.