The U.S. released 14 Pakistanis from the Bagram military prison in Afghanistan on Saturday and transferred their custody to the government of their home country.
An intelligence official within Pakistan’s government, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details surrounding the release have not been officially released by Pakistan, indicated that some of the 14 prisoners may be released. The Pentagon and the U.S.-led international coalition in Afghanistan have confirmed release.
In a statement to Breitbart News, Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman for detainee policy, acknowledged the risk that the individuals may return to the battlefield. “In the rare circumstance a former detainee returns to the fight they do so at their own potential peril,” Caggins told Breitbart News. He went on to explain, “The Department of Defense transferred 14 detainees on Sept. 20 to Pakistan from U.S. custody in Afghanistan.”
“These detainees were transferred to Pakistani custody with appropriate security assurances, which includes a criminal investigation, and assurances of humane treatment,” added Caggins.
A spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul told Breitbart News that the 14 prisoners were jailed within the confines of the laws of war.
“These 14 detainees met the U.S. criteria for internment under the Law of Armed Conflict and received periodic administrative status reviews at least twice a year in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense procedures,” said U.S. Lt. Mike Fallon, an ISAF spokesman. “We conduct a thorough case-by-case review to ensure every detainee is safely and humanely transferred in compliance with U.S. law and applicable international standards.”
“In making a decision to transfer a detainee, we take into account the totality of relevant factors relating to the individual and the government that may receive him, including, but not limited to, any diplomatic assurances that have been provided,” he continued. “In this case the U.S. government has worked closely with the government of Pakistan on the transfer.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has also confirmed the release, according to various media accounts from inside Pakistan. The Ministry did not provide any details on whether the detainees will be kept in custody or prosecuted. However, an intelligence official from Pakistan’s government indicated that some of the 14 detainees may be released after they are vetted.
“I cannot go into the specific details but there is a whole procedure in place. We do not believe in unjustly keeping someone in our custody,” the Pakistani official said. “We vet the suspects and decide whether they pose a threat to our national security. Some people who were taken prisoners by the U.S. or Afghan authorities may not pose a threat as severe as was claimed.”
“We realize there may have been exaggerated claims by some authorities to cover up their incompetence and wrongdoing. But we need to watch out for the ideologically motivated ones who may still pose a threat to us and may rejoin militant groups,” added the official. “So there would be a whole procedure of vetting, de-radicalization where possible, monitoring and so on. We will make sure that those released do not pose a threat to us or our allies.”
According to The Guardian, the detainees were never charged.
Lt. Col. Caggins told The Guardian that the release took time and was “part of our ongoing efforts to draw down all our facilities in Afghanistan.”
As reported by the British outlet, the Pentagon failed to concede that the 14 Pakistanis were never a threat to the United States.
The 14 Pakistanis were being held in the Bagram detention center north of Kabul where the United States holds prisoners from its war on terrorism. The Justice Project Pakistan, a legal firm that is representing some of the prisoners in Bagram, first announced their release.
Caggins told The Guardian that “less than 15” non-Afghan detainees were currently being held at Bagram. Most of the non-Afghans held at the prison are Pakistanis, but individuals from Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, and Russia are also incarcerated there, the article revealed.
According to The Justice Project Pakistan, 39 Pakistanis have been released in the last ten months. The recent release of 14 Pakistanis marks the largest. Two Yemenis were also released last month.
On June 9, The Daily Beast reported that Robert Cardillo, a deputy director for national intelligence, told senators in a classified briefing that four out of the five Taliban leaders Obama released in exchange for U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl would return to the battlefield.
Islamabad-based reporter Sib Kaifee contributed to this report.