KABUL -- Afghanistan's president accused U.S. forces of capturing and holding Afghans in violation of an agreement to turn over that responsibility to his forces, complicating a new round of security talks between the two countries.
Hamid Karzai's statement late Sunday came just days after the beginning of negotiations on a bilateral security agreement that will govern the U.S. military presence in the country after the majority of troops draw down in 2014.
Karzai's critics say he frequently strikes populist, nationalist poses that give him leverage in talks with the Americans. Karzai, in turn, has said that he needs to protect Afghanistan's national interest in the face of a much stronger partner.
The two countries signed the detainee transfer pact in March, but the accord was vaguely worded and the United States has slowed the handover of detention facilities. Washington believes the Afghans are not ready to take over their management, while insisting that the Afghan government agree to hold, without trial, some detainees that the Americans deem too dangerous to release.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States is committed to fulfilling its pledges. "We do have a number of cases that we are continuing to work through with the Afghan government to ensure that commitments are kept on both sides," she said.
In his statement, Karzai criticized the continued arrest of Afghans by U.S. forces. His spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told reporters yesterday that more than 70 detainees are still being held by the Americans despite being ordered released by Afghan courts.
"These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the U.S. president," said Karzai's statement, urging Afghan officials to push for taking over all responsibility at the Parwan detention center at the Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan. It is the only facility where Americans confirm holding Afghan prisoners.