U.S. Transfers Control of Bagram

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 10 2012 2:44 PM

U.S. Transfers Control of Bagram to Afghanistan Amid Detainee Controversy

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Afghan National Army soldiers march during a ceremony handing over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities

Photo by SHAH MARAI/AFP/GettyImages

The U.S. military prison known as Bagram, long a source of controversy, has officially been transferred to Afghanistan. But what should have been a joyous diplomatic ceremony was marred by controversy as Afghan officials accused the United States of not living up to their end of a deal that had been reached six months ago. The handoff of the Parwan detention center, as its officially known, took place amid tension over around three dozen prisoners whom the United States has refused to transfer to Afghan control, reports the Washington Post. The U.S.-led military coalition has also failed to transfer 600 recently captured detainees, but that process should begin next week.

Although Afghan officials have qualified the transfer as a sign of increased sovereignty, the fact that around 35 prisoners were not transferred puts on display the tensions that remain between American and Afghan authorities. The United States doesn’t believe Afghan officials would continue to hold the prisoners without trial, as the U.S. government had demanded as part of the deal to hand over the detention center, points out the New York Times.

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This ongoing dispute “bodes ill” for the relationship between the two countries in the coming year, when more responsibility is set to transfer to local authorities as NATO ends its combat role in the country, notes the Los Angeles Times.

Still, all the tension didn’t prevent an elaborately planned handover ceremony from taking place at the prison, which is located next to the huge U.S. airfield in Bagram, north of Kabul. Shortly after the ceremony, a suicide bomber in the northern city of Kunduz killed 15 people, in what was a stark reminder of the continuing insurgency threat, points out the Associated Press.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.