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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Despite U.S. warnings, Afghanistan releases detainees -- By Hamid Shalizi and Abdul Saboor, Reuters

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier stands guard near the Bagram detainee centre gate north of Kabul February 13, 2014. REUTERS-Mohammad Ismail
The Afghan government released 65 detainees on Thursday who the United States has warned pose a serious security threat, a move that further strains already tense U.S.-Afghan ties as the international mission in Afghanistan winds down.

Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said the prisoners had been released from a detention facility near the Afghan capital, Kabul, and would be sent back to their respective home areas throughout Afghanistan.

The U.S. embassy called it a "deeply regrettable" move that ran counter to a 2012 agreement on detainees.

"The Afghan government bears responsibility for the results of its decision," the embassy said in a statement.
Abdul Shakor Dadras, head of the Afghan board charged with reviewing the prisoners' cases, said their detention had been unjustified from the outset, despite information put forward by the United States.

"We could not find any evidence to prove that these 65 people are criminals, according to Afghan law," Dadras told Reuters Television.

"I believe the release of these 65 people will benefit the Afghan nation, and it will benefit the American nation and American government."

The prisoners were transferred to Afghan authority last year as part of the U.S. and NATO transition out of Afghanistan. A coalition of foreign forces has been battling the Taliban since the Islamist group was ousted in 2001.

The fate of another 23 prisoners who the United States contends should not be released is being examined by the Afghan government, the U.S. official said.

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