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Why Did Karzai Release 65 Bagram Detainees?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. military are at odds after the president ordered the release of 65 prisoners the U.S. says are dangerous.
Posted at 2:06 PM, Feb 13, 2014

Tensions are mounting between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The Afghan government released 65 detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility in Bagram Thursday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the prisoners' release without trials, saying there isn't enough evidence to keep them locked up. (Via CBS)

The U.S. military strongly disagrees. (Via CNN)

"CNN has obtained 23 pages of U.S. military evidence against these people."

In fact, the U.S. military believes some of those released have already "returned to the fight." It says in a statement, "Detainees from this group of 65 are directly linked to attacks killing or wounding 32 U.S. or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians." (Via The New York Times)

But Karzai has called the Bagram facility, which used to be run by the U.S., a "Taliban-making factory." He tells the BBC how one former prisoner characterized the place: (Via CCTV)

“This is not a prison where they take criminals, but this is a prison where they take innocent Afghans and turn them against their own country and government.”

Still, concern for the potentially innocent prisoners might not be Karzai's only motivation for the move. Fox News reports it's "seen by many as a move to appease the Taliban while he tries to negotiate with them before the U.S. withdraws."

The Wire echoes that point, adding Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement with the U.S. He's trying to negotiate with the Taliban. And, well, it's failing.

But reaction within Afghanistan has been mixed, according to The Washington Post. "Some people said the release was an important way to demonstrate Afghanistan's sovereignty and added that holding people for years without trial was a crime in itself."

It's a tense situation that will likely only get worse. The 65 prisoners released Thursday were part of a group of 88. The New York Times reports an official in the country expects the other 23 to walk as well.

And if they do, you can expect an already vocal Lindsey Graham to get even louder. The senator has called for lawmakers to cut off all developmental aid to Afghanistan until after next year's election, when Karzai will step down.