Commentary Magazine


Topic: detainees

U.S.-Afghan Agreement is a Win-Win

For those who claim it is impossible to deal with Hamid Karzai and U.S. forces cannot succeed while he is in power, today’s agreement on the handling of detainees in U.S. custody is a good rebuttal.

Karzai had been demanding the U.S. immediately hand over all 3,200 detainees in our custody–he understandably views the operation of a U.S. detention facility on Afghan soil as an affront to Afghan sovereignty– even though Afghan forces are manifestly not capable of holding them securely on their own. The result was months of deadlock in negotiating a U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement. That deadlock was broken today when both sides agreed to give a little. Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, they agreed that during the next six months the U.S. detention facility in Parwan will transition to full Afghan control (there are already Afghan personnel in training there) but that the U.S. would retain a veto on the release of any prisoners while our forces remain in Afghanistan. Moreover, U.S. personnel will continue to supervise the facility to make sure detainees are held safely and securely. And finally, roughly 50 non-Afghan fighters–highly dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists–will remain under full U.S. custody.

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For those who claim it is impossible to deal with Hamid Karzai and U.S. forces cannot succeed while he is in power, today’s agreement on the handling of detainees in U.S. custody is a good rebuttal.

Karzai had been demanding the U.S. immediately hand over all 3,200 detainees in our custody–he understandably views the operation of a U.S. detention facility on Afghan soil as an affront to Afghan sovereignty– even though Afghan forces are manifestly not capable of holding them securely on their own. The result was months of deadlock in negotiating a U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership agreement. That deadlock was broken today when both sides agreed to give a little. Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, they agreed that during the next six months the U.S. detention facility in Parwan will transition to full Afghan control (there are already Afghan personnel in training there) but that the U.S. would retain a veto on the release of any prisoners while our forces remain in Afghanistan. Moreover, U.S. personnel will continue to supervise the facility to make sure detainees are held safely and securely. And finally, roughly 50 non-Afghan fighters–highly dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists–will remain under full U.S. custody.

This agreement allows both sides to get what it wants–Karzai gets a demonstration of his government’s sovereignty, while the U.S. gets to keep in detention prisoners whose release would endanger our troops and hamper their efforts to pacify the country.

This looks like a win-win and offers hope that the last remaining deadlock–over “night raids”–will soon be broken.

 

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