Another Bagram Prison ‘Handover,’ But US Keeps Some Afghan Detainees

Little Change as Officials Hold Another Ceremony

Another high profile visit of a US official means its time for the US to have another “handover” ceremony where they give the Bagram prison to Afghan officials. This time it is Secretary of State John Kerry’s turn, and as with multiple such ceremonies in the past, the handover means very little.

In reality, what little “handover” there has been already happened months ago, and today’s announcement, beyond giving Kerry and President Hamid Karzai some photo-ops, still lift the status of many Afghan and foreign detainees unchanged.

Since many of the people in Bagram have never been charged with anything, Afghan courts ordered a lot of releases after previous portions of the handover, and US officials have insisted that the “enduring security threats” can never be handed over to Afghan forces, since the Karzai government insists on giving them actual trials.

Despite repeated demands from US officials, Karzai insists he doesn’t have the power under the US-penned constitution to prevent courts from reviewing the detention of Afghan citizens, and since a lot of those “threats” don’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction, that’s a deal-breaker for the US.

What’s going to happen to them long-term is entirely unclear. The US still has an estimated 90 detainees it is holding, seemingly forever, at Bagram. With the US giving lip-service to leaving Bagram outright, sooner or later a new prison for the detainees to be held without charges will need to be procured.

Though officials are mum on this matter, the Pentagon’s intention to construct yet another “new” prison in Guantanamo for “special” detainees may be the key to this, though an influx of more captives from one notorious prison to another is likely to spark public attention officials would just as soon avoid.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.