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U.S. Expresses Concern About Planned Afghan Prisoner Release

A newly freed prisoner emerges after a ceremony handing over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities, at the U.S. airbase in Bagram in March 2013.
The United States has again expressed concern over plans by Kabul to release prisoners who Washington considers a security risk.

On January 10, White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. officials had discussed the plan with their Afghan counterparts.

"We are very concerned about the release of any detainees who would pose a threat to U.S. forces," Carney said.

On January 9, a statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai said there was no or little evidence linking the 72 to any wrongdoing. The statement said a further 16 detainees will remain in custody until their cases can be reviewed further.

It's unclear when the releases will take place.

However, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said the 72 detainees Kabul planned to release are "dangerous criminals."

"We have expressed our concerns over the possible release of these detainees without their cases being referred to the Afghan criminal justice system. We've seen reports that President Karzai has approved the release of 72 out of the 88 detainees under review," Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on January 9.

"As you may also know, these 72 detainees are dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan citizens."

Last week, a group of U.S. senators met Karzai in Kabul to warn him that the release of the 88 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility "would be a major step backwards" in U.S.-Afghan relations.

U.S. officials turned over control of the Parwan facility -- near the U.S.-run Bagram military base north of Kabul -- to Afghan authorities in March 2013.

The prisoner release is the latest sticking point in relations between Kabul and Washington. The two sides are struggling to agree on a framework security agreement spelling out the terms and conditions for some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the NATO-led force later this year.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP