US Military Transfers Custody of Last 3 Prisoners in Afghanistan

US Military Transfers Custody of Last 3 Prisoners in Afghanistan

The U.S. military no longer has custody of any detainees in Afghanistan and has shut down operations at the Bagram prison, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed. 

Earlier this week, U.S. officials quietly transferred the custody of the last three prisoners to Afghan authorities, including two Tunisians mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s scathing report condemning the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics (EITs) employed on detainees.   

The three individuals were being held at a detention center inside the U.S. Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. Until Dec. 10, the U.S. was operating a wing of that prison. 

“As of December 10, the Defense Department no longer operates detention facilities in Afghanistan nor maintains custody of any detainees,” said Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins, a Pentagon spokesman for detainee policy, in a written statement in response to questions from Breitbart News. 

There was no official announcement from the Pentagon or NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan led by U.S. Gen. John Campbell. ISAF referred Breitbart News to the Pentagon for questions on the subject.   

“After careful review by the Departments of Defense and State, US Forces-Afghanistan transferred the last third-country nationals held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan,” explained Col. Caggins. 

The Afghan government will take over all detention facilities once a security pact between Kabul and Washington goes into effect on Jan. 1.  

“As the president has said, as we conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of this year, we will end our detention operations, and transition all detention facilities to the Afghans,” noted Col. Caggins.

The two Tunisian nationals were identified as Lutfi al-Arabi al-Gharisi and Ridha Ahmad Najjar. 

They were transferred to Afghan authorities earlier this week for potential prosecution, according to the Pentagon. Najjar was suspected of serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, reports NBC News

Both Tunisians were detained by the U.S. military in 2002 and were subjected to enhanced interrogation tactics by the CIA, according to the Senate report

Tina Foster, Najjar’s attorney, told NBC News that her client “was turned over less than a week before the U.S. government was to have filed a response to the Supreme Court about his treatment.” 

The third prisoner was identified by the Pentagon as a Jordanian man named Taheer Halaf, who was reportedly held for three years. 

He is attempting to be repatriated or resettled in another country and is being assisted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to the Pentagon. A review board determined the Jordanian national was not a threat. 

Officially known as the Afghan National Detention Facility-Parwan, the Bagram prison has been under Afghan control for several months now.    

After the facility was handed over to the Afghans, the U.S. was still in charge of a small wing of the prison until Dec. 10.  

“Thousands of prisoners of Afghan nationality were transferred to Afghanistan’s jurisdiction but those deemed Enduring Security Threats, or ‘ESTs,’ remained under U.S. control along with ‘foreign nationals’ – Pakistanis, Saudis, Yemenis and others – who had been detained by U.S. forces over the course of the war,”  reports Military.Com News.  

The Bagram prison was often compared to the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Foreigners held at Bagram were not given trials, facing a review board manned by U.S. military officers instead, Reuters reports. 

At its peak, the Bagram detention center held hundreds of detainees and was twice the size of the Guantanamo facility.  

Although Congress has prohibited the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for any reason, that ban does not extend to Bagram prisoners.  

Last month, Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, a Russian national who was transferred to the United States from Bagram, made his first appearance in U.S. court on terrorism charges stemming from his alleged participation in a Taliban attack against American forces in Afghanistan back in November 2009. 

He is the only Bagram prisoner to be transferred to U.S. soil.  

In the last few weeks, the U.S. transferred the custody of a few of its Bagram prisoners, including Latif Mehsud, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who was handed over to Pakistan along with two other Pakistanis, BBC reports.   

Reuters contributed to this report.