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Bagram Prison: Struggle for Veto Power

With the looming American troop withdrawal in 2014, the issue of prisoner custody has been a persistent issue. Bagram Prison is the only American run prison for the long-term detention of suspected insurgents in Afghanistan, housing both Afghan and non-Afghan citizens in American custody. NYT; LawFare. The transfer to Afghan control hinges on a list of contentious, but important, provisions. Consequently, the transfer of control on Bagram Prison has failed to be finalized, and the outlook is poor.

The most recent date set for the handover of Bagram control was March 9, 2013, but in a press conference, General Dunford and President Karzai issued a statement claiming that the transfer would take place in the coming week, after some technical details were resolved. NYT. There is doubt, however, that these issues would be so easily worked out.

The Americans want to retain veto power over whom the Afghans release in an attempt to prevent the release of the more dangerous insurgents. This veto power would entail the continued detention by the Afghan-run prison of some prisoners, even if they could not be tried by a court on a specific offense.

Concerns over an American veto power have grown as a result from Afghan disapproval. There has been debate over if the Afghan Constitution would allow for the holding of wartime prisoners under administrative detention. NYT. Consequently, American soldiers have maintained a presence in Afghan run prisons after the turnover of prisoners and prisoners which deemed to be of a substantial risk have been excluded from transfer agreements.

The negotiations for veto power have failed to reach a satisfactory end for either party. President Karzai has expressed his plans to release prisoners which he deems to be innocent, CNN, and Afghan officials have only promised to “look favorably” on the American view. The U.S., however, wants a “dual-key arrangement” where and American veto would prevent the release of a prisoner. NYT.

Additionally, officials on both sides have grown more steadfast in their views on a veto power. President Karzai still rejects an American veto power and claims that this was not what was envisioned by previous agreements. Some U.S. officials continue to express concern that the Afghans refuse to treat the wartime prisoners with the care necessary in an armed conflict and are worried that the prisoners would be released and soon try and kill Americans. Howard P. McKeon. U.S. officials continue to refuse that any prisoners deemed a threat will be released. CNN.

The transfer of Bagram Prison control to the Afghans does not seem to have an end in sight. Unwavering views on both sides are only complicated by the constant intake of approximately 100 suspected insurgents every month. NYT. Additionally, with the new requirements that a notice to Congress be filed before the transfer of any detainee and that the Department of Defense produce a threat assessment for each of the transferred detainees, it is unlikely that Afghan officials would be willing to deal with the potential slow, and unforgiving process of transfer and release. LawFare.


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