US Can't Close Bagram, Either

Nicknamed the 'second Guantanamo'
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2013 5:22 PM CDT
US Can't Close Bagram, Either
Smoke rises from the Bagram airbase after insurgents launched a brazen pre-dawn assault against the giant U.S.-run Bagram Air Field.   (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

The US is preparing to pull out of Afghanistan, but there's one fly in the ointment: the prison at Bagram air base, which has been nicknamed "the second Guantanamo," the Washington Post reports. The US currently houses 67 non-Afghan inmates there, some of whom it says are al-Qaeda operatives arrested in the months after September 11. None have been formally tried. Technically, the US is supposed to close the prison when it leaves next year, but officials say that's too dangerous. So what's the plan? There isn't one, admits the top US general in Afghanistan. The best bet is to keep Bagram open under US oversight, maybe for decades—assuming Afghanistan will allow it.

But President Hamid Karzai is not a fan of US-operated prisons, and a deal allowing Bagram to stay open this year was made under the assumption that the offer was only good until 2014. Lawyers tell the Post it's unlikely prisoners could be repatriated to their home countries within a year. It took a year of negotiations to repatriate a 14-year-old Pakistani boy and an employee of an Afghan military base whose colleagues turned him in over a personal spat. "If it takes a year to release those guys, whose innocence was never in dispute, what does it say about the prospect for the others?" says an attorney for Justice Project Pakistan. (More Bagram Air Force Base stories.)

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