WASHINGTON – The United States has moved 11 new prisoners out of a military prison near the Afghan capital, the Pentagon said, as the Obama administration seeks to shut down a controversial detainee programme in Afghanistan ahead of its troop withdrawal.
About nine prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan last week from the Parwan detention centre, located on a military base near Kabul, said Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins III, a US military spokesman. Another two prisoners were sent to Yemen this week, Caggins added.
The prisoners were handed to the governments of their home countries. The Obama administration has been quietly moving prisoners out of the secretive prison as the US and its NATO allies wind down their long military mission in Afghanistan.
All US troops are set to leave Afghanistan, in the grips of a political crisis following a disputed presidential election, by January 1, 2015 unless the country finalises a deal that would permit some foreign soldiers to stay behind.
But in closing Parwan, like the much larger Guantanamo Bay US military prison in Cuba, the Obama administration risks political backlash from several directions. Human rights advocates have criticised long detentions for suspects in the US military prisons since 2001, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.
The identities of the detainees at Parwan, who have also included citizens of Tunisia, Russia and Jordan, have largely been a mystery, as has the reason for their imprisonment. The Yemeni Human Rights Ministry said that earlier this year that one of the two men sent back to Yemen last week was captured in Thailand.
The International Justice Network, which challenged the two men's detention in the US courts, said in a statement on its website that both of them were taken prisoner outside of Afghanistan and were coercively interrogated at secret prisons before being sent to Afghanistan.