Bagram: The US military gave control of its last detention facility in Afghanistan to Kabul on Monday, a year after the two sides initially agreed on the transfer.
The handover of Parwan Detention Facility ends a bitter chapter in American relations with Afghanistan`s mercurial president, Hamid Karzai, who demanded control of the prison as a matter of national sovereignty.
It took place just a few hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to see Karzai amid concerns the Afghan president may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with anti-American rhetoric.
The dispute over the detention facility fueled acrimony between the two countries in recent months and also threw a pall over the ongoing negotiations for a bilateral security agreement that would govern the presence of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Top US commander in Afghanistan Gen Joseph Dunford handed over Parwan, located near the US-run Bagram military base north of Kabul, at a ceremony there after signing an agreement with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi.
"The transfer of the detention facility is an important part of the overall transition of security lead to Afghan National Security Forces. This ceremony highlights an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan," Dunford said.
An initial agreement to hand over Parwan was signed a year ago, but efforts to follow through on it constantly stumbled over American concerns that the Afghan government would release prisoners that it considered dangerous.
A key hurdle was a ruling by an Afghan judicial panel holding that administrative detention, the practice of holding someone without formal charges, violated the country`s laws.
The US argued that international law allowed administrative detentions and also argued that it could not risk turning over some high-value detainees to the notoriously corrupt Afghan court system.
An initial deadline for the full handover passed last September and another earlier this month.
The formula for how the two sides resolved this dilemma has not been made public. Officials say that the Afghan government will be able to invoke a procedure that ensures prisoners considered dangerous will not be released from the detention center.
According to a senior US official in Washington, the agreement also includes a provision that allows the US and Kabul to work together to resolve any differences. The official lacked authorization to discuss the details of the agreement publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.