KABUL – The U.S. military on Monday slammed a move by Afghanistan’s government to release 37 “dangerous” prisoners who it says pose security threats, calling the decision a “major step backward.”
The release of prisoners has been a sticking point in Afghan-U.S. relations as the two sides struggle over a deal allowing U.S. and allied troops to remain in the country past the end of this year.
The simmering debate has involved a group of 88 detainees at the Parwan Detention Facility that the U.S. says pose a threat to the country and region.
Earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the release of all but 16 prisoners from that group. The U.S. has stressed it wants all 88 group to face trial in Afghanistan.
On Monday, the U.S. military said it had learned that orders had been given for the release of 37 of the prisoners in question. It said the detainees are “dangerous insurgents who have Afghan blood on their hands” and are linked to terror activities, such as roadside bombings and attacks on foreign and government troops.
“This extra-judicial release of detainees is a major step backward in further developing the rule of law in Afghanistan,” it said in a statement.
Afghan officials did not return repeated calls for comment Monday and it was not immediately clear when the detainees would be freed.
A senior U.S. military official said the release orders were communicated to the U.S. over the weekend and that Afghan officials indicated the prisoners were being moved to a building used to house those preparing to released and reintegrated into society.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said that indicated a release was “more imminent.”
Meanwhile, Afghan authorities said a border police officer opened fire on fellow officers, killing five and wounding two at a checkpoint in western Afghanistan. Herat Province Police Gen. Mohammad Juma Adeel said Monday that the officer managed to escape after the shooting at the checkpoint in the Rubati Sangin district of the province. Adeel did not elaborate.