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The U.S. military says it has started the process of releasing its detainees in Iraq, promising to release or transfer an average of 50 a day until all are released.

The transfers are part of the security agreement signed late last year between the U.S. and Iraq, mandating that all detainees will be freed or handed to the Iraqis this year. The agreement went into effect Jan. 1.

There are some 15,000 detainees in the custody of foreign forces in Iraq, the vast majority at the U.S. facilities of Camp Cropper in Baghdad and Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

After negotiations about processes, the U.S. military committed to releasing 1,500 detainees each month.

Iraqi authorities review detainees’ case files before a determination is made on their status. The Iraqis can ask for custody of the detainee, or the person can be released outright.

"These are fair releases — not mass releases — of those detainees who [Multi-National Force▬Iraq] and the Government of Iraq think no longer pose a threat to the security or stability of Iraq," Brig. Gen. David Quantock, commander of Task Force 134, said in a written statement. "We are working very hard with the Iraqi government to ensure the releases are conducted in a safe and orderly manner to prevent disrupting the noticeable gains in security and stability enjoyed by Iraqi citizens."

High-ranking Iraqi and American officials have been meeting to address the transfer of detainees.

That task must be completed through a "transparent process that will apply to all parties," Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said after the first meeting of the group.

In recent years, the U.S. detention system in Iraq has undergone several makeovers to change the image created by the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal. Officials have stressed vocational and religious programs aimed at reducing recidivism. They have also touted the increased pace of releases and transfers to Iraqi authorities.

Task Force 134 officials have sought to reassure troops in the field that targets they detain will not be released without going through a review. Troops now have stringent requirements on gathering evidence against detainees, and U.S. officials have estimated that there are around 5,000 "hard-core" detainees they would not want to see released by the Iraqis.

Future meetings of the detainee transfer committee will focus on "intelligence reviews of each detainee’s file, judicial review of the files of the most dangerous detainees, and the process for handing over control of the coalition forces theater internment facilities," officials have said.


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