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Karzai offers ultimatum to US over Afghan prison

Published time: January 06, 2012 20:09
Edited time: January 07, 2012 00:09
Afghans demand to hand over notorious prisons to local authorities. US mumbles

Afghans demand to hand over notorious prisons to local authorities. US mumbles

Afghanistan’s President Karzai has given Washington one month to transfer control of US military prisons in Bahrain where Afghan men are suspected of being held in torturous conditions.

The White House has responded by saying sure, but it looks as if Obama is in no hurry to act.

Karzai is allegedly angry at both his country’s Taliban regime and US authorities for not giving him enough say in the talks that stand to help the insurgents establish a political office to begin policy negotiations. Under a compromise between the Taliban and the Obama administration, the US is expected to release several high-risk detainees from American prisons if the Taliban begins the process of reconciliation with the Afghan government. On Tuesday, the Taliban said they were prepared to go ahead with such plans so that the group can begin talks “with the international community” at large.

Furious that he has been discounted from such talks, Karzai is demanding that Washington transfer control of a military prison in Bahrain north of Kabul to his control immediately. The president says Obama has one month to make the deal, but the White House might be hesitant to act swiftly.

''We have been working … for some time with the Afghan government on appropriate timing and pace for transfer of the detention facilities,'' US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a press briefing this week. ''We need to do this in a manner that is maximally responsible. That's what we want to do. And we're going to … keep working on it.''

The White House’s definition of “responsible” is inarguably different than what wordsmiths might determine, however. President Obama had campaigned on closing the military prison in Guantanamo Bay over three years ago, but as his administration starts the last year of his first and perhaps only term, Gimo still holds many alleged terrorists who have not been offered trials.

According to President Karzai, the Afghan men imprisoned in Bahrain are subject to Gitmo-like conditions, and says that ''many cases of violation of Afghan constitution and other applicable laws of the conventions and human rights.” The US denies such allegations.

Although the United States insists that they are working on plans to remove American forces fully from Afghanistan during the next two years, such a move could come at a date much deeper into the future. As it currently stands, occupation in Afghanistan has extended past the 10-year mark and has made the operation the longest American wartime mission ever.

When prompted for a timeline of the proposed one-month transfer of the Bahrain institute, Victoria Nuland of the US State Department said in her briefing, “It’s a matter that we have to work on with the Afghan government as appropriate mechanisms are put in place for the transfer.”

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