US army hands over Bagram prison to Afghanistan

Bagram prison ceremony September 2012 Although a handover ceremony took place last September, US forces remained at the prison pending a deal over the fate of certain prisoners

The US has handed over to Afghanistan the only prison still under American control, resolving an issue that has strained ties between the countries.

A transfer ceremony took place at Bagram jail, now renamed the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan.

The handover came as US Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit for talks with President Karzai.

Mr Kerry told a press conference they were both "on the same page" regarding peace talks with the Taliban.

President Hamid Karzai recently angered Washington by accusing the US and the Taliban of colluding to prolong the conflict.

But Mr Kerry told reporters: "I am confident (Mr Karzai) does not believe the US has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace.''


Many analysts believe Hamid Karzai was using the issue of Bagram and Wardak - where he recently ordered US troops to leave the province - as a tool to prove his mettle as a national figure committed to Afghanistan's national sovereignty.

But President Karzai is also calculating that he may be able to use some of the Taliban detainees as part of any future national reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Many of these fighters are from his home province Kandahar and he has said in the past that he will release "innocents" once the prison is handed over.

"So we're on the same page. I don't think there is any disagreement between us.''

Referring to the handover of Bagram prison, Mr Karzai said: "Today was a very good day.''

'Afghanistan's Guantanamo'

The handover had been delayed while the two sides finalised a deal over the fate of prisoners considered dangerous.

Bagram has a chequered reputation, having been at the centre of a number of prisoner abuse allegations.

It was once located in Bagram air base, one of the largest military bases for Nato-led forces in Afghanistan, about 40km (25 miles) north of the capital, Kabul. The new Parwan facility was constructed a few miles away and populated with inmates in 2010.

"The transfer of the detention facility is an important part of the overall transition of security lead to Afghan National Security Forces. This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable and sovereign Afghanistan," said Gen Dunford, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

Last March the US agreed to hand over responsibility for the majority of the detainees, thought to number more than 3,000, and actually held a transfer ceremony last September.

Bagram timeline

  • 1979-88: Key base for troops and supplies during Soviet occupation
  • 2001: Air base taken over by coalition forces following fall of Taliban regime, also becomes the main US detention facility in Afghanistan
  • July 2005: Escape by four "dangerous enemy combatants", the first by any prisoners
  • February 2007: Suicide attack outside base during visit by US Vice President Dick Cheney kills more than 20 people
  • 2010: Thousands of prisoners moved to Parwan Detention Centre, built outside base with extra capacity to replace old prison
  • April 2010: Allegations surface of prisoner abuse at a hidden facility at Bagram
  • February 2012: Violent protests erupt after US troops inadvertently burn copies of the Koran at Bagram - at least 30 are killed
  • March 2012: Agreement to hand over jail to Afghan control
  • September 2012: Handover ceremony held but US forces remain to guard a core of "dangerous" prisoners
  • March 2013: Final handover ceremony on 9 March cancelled by US over concerns over fate of those prisoners. Transfer of jail to Afghan control eventually held on 25 March

But the full transfer was held up over a disagreement about the fate of inmates whom the US feared could be released if the prison was handed over.

A senior official at the facility told reporters: " Since March 2012, the Americans have handed over to us 4,000 prisoners. We have freed 1,350 of them. The Americans have given us 26 more prisoners today, and they still have more prisoners which they will hand over to us soon.''

According to the latest deal Afghanistan will not release "dangerous" inmates without review, and about 50 foreign inmates will remain in US hands.

If the US captures fighters, they must be turned over to the Afghan authorities within 96 hours.

Earlier this month a ceremony transferring the final prisoners to Afghan custody was called off at the last minute because President Karzai reportedly rejected part of the deal.

The Pentagon said over the weekend that an agreement had been reached.

The prison been described as "Afghanistan's Guantanamo".

In January 2012, Afghan investigators accused the US Army of abusing detainees at Bagram. The investigators said prisoners had reported being tortured, held without evidence and subjected to humiliating body searches.

Nato and the US have rejected allegations of abuse as untrue and pointed to the fact that they have given the Afghan Human Rights commission access to check them independently.

In February 2012, US soldiers unwittingly burned Korans confiscated from prisoners at Bagram, leading to days of protests and targeted killings across Afghanistan.

A US investigation said there was no malicious intent to insult Islam.

But the future of the US-run prison had become a thorn in the side of US-Afghan relations ahead of the planned withdrawal of these forces in 2014.

Many Nato forces have already begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan ahead of the complete transfer of power to Afghan security forces.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    In any counter insurgency war, there can be no military victory, the only thing any military can do is try and supress insurgents to allow a political solution to be found - thats what we have totally failed to do in Afghanitan, we have not engaged with the Taliban, only the Kharsi side, so when the troops leave guess whats going to happen - sad really, but if you dont win hearts and minds........

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    80.V Siva
    3 Hours ago
    "The US war on terror has destroyed one time beautiful Iraq, its landscape, infrastructure, its people and appointed a puppet regime."

    Yes, it was a veritable Garden of Eden under Sadaam Hussein.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    A Taliban commander has famously said his country did not have a pilot training school nor a high rise building. 16/19 pilots involved in Sept 11 were from Saudi Arabia not from Afghanistan.I think the US has made a colossal mistake in going into Afghanistan on fabricated evidences. Sorry for the lives of thousands innocent people perish on both sides. History remembers Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    101. Aych Key - What native residents are you referring to on the Falklands, the penguins? Can't be the sheep, they are immigrants too, and the Argies who lay claim, have no legal claim. The current residents are the only ones with anything near to being a legal claim. They voted, accept the vote, and let them get on with their lives, without the threats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Afghanistan did wonders for suppliers and provided tens of thousands of no failure....also had the advantage of being a live proving and training ground...its a rotten world...isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    It almost beggars belief there are some people out there who think this whole thing has been about democracy. With the US, it's always about imposing regimes that do exactly what the US demands. Occasionally they get lucky & they get nominally democratic poodle states like the UK & Australia, but generally, they need to impose some form of right-wing dictatorship in order to meet their objectives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Ed80, I agree 100%. The rules that apply to the immigrants of Falkland Islands, apply to the native residents of Diego Garcia. British immigrants cannot claim the Falklands, we have no business there and nor do we have any business in DG. We should hand back these Islands to the locals now

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    People are saying this has been yet another US military flop, but I think they're misunderstanding the real issue here. Alot of connected people made alot of money out of this. All those billions spent didn't just disappear, they went into the pockets of those running the US military industrial complex, and, ultimately, isn't that what it's really all about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Lets clear things out, you are not leaving, you have been BOOTED OUT! LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Being from the USA I would love to pull out and save all that money that we spend over there and all other parts of the world. It would make our lives better here if we saved that money. We could use that money to find a way to not use one drop of the middle east oil and I bet our problems go away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Bring everyone home and pretend it never happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    95. A White - Not a case of understanding Democracy or its basic concepts. they are just not interested plain and simple. Societies such as Afghanistan, Iraq and their ilk have been built on the tribal/family system, it has always worked for them until we in our arrogance try to impose a different system. Interference has always got our backs up why should it be different for others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The US is the worlds only super power and thats fine because thats what they wanted as history always has a superpower right from the Roman empire problem is they take too much on and we let them instead now because they are on the decline they are extracating themselves from an environment that does not understand the basic concepts of democracy or fair play.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    You forgot to add and then turn and run like hell for the border!. Odd but the US has a habbit of invading then legging it when it all goes Pete Tong, it's just sad Bliar followed them in like some lost puppy dog looking for a pat on the head.

    Churchill for all his faults once said & I quote, "jaw jaw rather than war war". and this is from a man who liked to get shot at,

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    84. Timtj1 - Actually mate you bring it on yourselves. For a so-called civilised Country, does it not strike you as strange that you travel round the World protecting the American way of life, when that way of life has only just stopped oppressing its own people through racial prejudice. Can you honestly deny that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    The sooner we're out of there the better.We in the UK need to understand, and quickly,that we DON'T have the money for these types of Long-Term escapedes.FGS, the thing has lasted longer than the 1st,2nd WW's and the Falklands combined!FOR WHAT!?America is busted and we're in hot persuit.We've got the World at OUR doorstep now, but they're not carrying Guns,they're carrying Job Application forms.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    i wonder how many innocent women and children the terrorist American army murdered there just for their kicks

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Afghanistan has yet again proven to be unconquerable, even news of the Taliban atrocities was only of that carried out in the Cities. The wider areas are ruled by heads of families then heads of sub-clan and then clans, how the heck in our arrogance we thought we could impose Democracy is beyond me. Now watch Karzai order the mass release of all the Bagram prisoners. You couldn't make it up.


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