At Last, US Hands Disputed Bagram Prison to Afghans

As John Kerry arrives in Kabul to meet with Karzai

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 25, 2013 6:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – John Kerry dropped in unexpectedly on Afghanistan today, as the US finally handed over control of a prison near Bagram Air Force Base, CNN reports. The transition follows long-running controversy over the site; the deal was announced a year ago, and was supposed to put Bagram in Afghan hands six months ago. But the US suspended detainee transfers, with an insider citing US worries over how Afghanistan would deal with certain cases at a prison that held Taliban figures. President Hamid Karzai, concerned over matters of sovereignty, had called the delay a "serious breach."

But the handover marks a step forward in US-Afghan relations, AFP notes."US control of Bagram was a rallying cry for the Taliban and an important issue for much of the Afghan public," notes an analyst. The transfer "highlights an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan," says Gen. Joseph Dunford, head of international forces in Afghanistan. Kerry, meanwhile, is in Kabul to meet with Karzai in his first visit as secretary of state, CNN reports.

This March 23, 2011 file photo shows Afghan detainees through a wire mesh fence inside the Parwan detention facility near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.
This March 23, 2011 file photo shows Afghan detainees through a wire mesh fence inside the Parwan detention facility near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)
This Sept. 27, 2010, file photo reviewed by the US military shows a US military guard walking a corridor between detainee cells at the Parwan detention facility near Bagram.
This Sept. 27, 2010, file photo reviewed by the US military shows a US military guard walking a corridor between detainee cells at the Parwan detention facility near Bagram.   (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
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