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Canceled handover of US prison to Afghan control back on track

KABUL – The delayed handover of Bagram prison from the U.S. military to Afghan control will be completed in the coming week, according to a statement issued late Saturday by the Afghan government.

A ceremonial transfer of the prison at Bagram Air Base on Saturday was canceled at the last minute because of unspecified differences between the two sides.

The statement from the Afghan presidential palace said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had come to an agreement on the issue.

According to the statement, the two “agreed that the full transfer of Bagram prison, initially set for Saturday, March 9th (today) will now take place during this week, allowing time for some of the remaining technical details concerning the handover to be resolved.”

But in an interview late Saturday with a television press pool covering the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Afghanistan, Dunford expressed reservations about handing over dangerous Afghan prisoners.

"If there's a threat to the force, we will not conduct the transfer,” Dunford said in the interview, according to news agencies.

Control of Afghan prisoners has long been a controversial issue between the two countries. Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama announced the transfer of Afghan prisoners during a January meeting in Washington, D.C.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity Saturday, a U.S. government official said some issues that were “not terribly substantial” delayed the ceremony.

The two sides are “resolving differences in language” of the handover agreement, but the official said it was not known when the issues would be resolved.

According to the Afghan government's statement Saturday, “The details include tackling issues necessary to provide for the full exercise of Afghanistan sovereignty in the prison as well as some technical and legal aspects of detention operations.”

carroll.chris@stripes.com
Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_

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