US violating detainee pact, says Karzai

Updated 20 November 2012
0

US violating detainee pact, says Karzai

KABUL: Afghanistan’s president has accused US forces of continuing to capture and hold Afghans in violation of an agreement signed earlier this year between the two countries.
Hamid Karzai’s statement late Sunday came at a sensitive time — just days after the beginning of negotiations on a bilateral security agreement that will govern the US military presence in the country after the majority of troops draw down in 2014. Karzai’s critics say he frequently strikes populist, nationalist stances that give him leverage in talks with the Americans.
In the statement, the Afghan president said some detainees are still being held by US forces even though Afghan judges have ruled that they be released. He also decried the continued arrest of Afghans by US forces.
Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi yesterday told reporters that more than 70 detainees continue to be held by the Americans despite being ordered released by Afghan courts.
The two countries signed the detainee transfer pact in March but the handover of detention facilities has been slowed by the US, which has argued both that the Afghans are not ready to take over their management and insisted that the Afghan government agree to hold without trial some detainees that the US deems too dangerous to release.
“These acts are completely against the agreement that has been signed between Afghanistan and the US president,” said Karzai’s statement and urged Afghan officials to “take serious measures” to push for taking over all responsibility for the detention center on the edge of the main US base in eastern Afghanistan.
Detention without trial, often called administrative detention, is against Afghan law, said Faizi, the Afghan president’s spokesman.
“There is nothing by the name of ‘administration detention’ in our laws, yet the US is insisting that there are a number of people who, while there is not enough evidence against them, are a threat to US national security,” he said.
Faizi also said that Karzai had agreed in a video conference call with President Barack Obama earlier this fall to give the Americans two months to figure out an alternative to detention without trial, until after the US presidential election. This grace period has now expired, said the spokesman.
The detainee transfer deal was one of two pacts that were key to a broad but vague strategic partnership agreement signed by Kabul and Washington in May that set forth an American commitment to Afghanistan for years to come. The second pact covers “special operations” such as certain American raids and other conduct on the battlefield.
A third detailed pact — dubbed the bilateral security agreement — is now under negotiation, and covers logistical and legal questions such as the size and number of bases and the immunity of US forces from prosecution.
The two countries officially opened negotiations on the bilateral security agreement last week, and have given themselves a year to sign the pact.
Karzai is under pressure to give an appearance of upholding Afghan sovereignty — which he has repeatedly claimed to champion — without putting so many restrictions on US forces that an agreement becomes impossible.
It is believed that the United States wants to retain up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train and support Afghan forces and go after extremists and groups, including Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan now has about 66,000 US troops and it remains unclear how many will be withdrawn next year as they continue to hand over security to Afghan forces. The foreign military mission is evolving from combat to advising, assisting and training Afghan forces.
The bilateral security agreement will set up a legal framework needed to operate military forces in Afghanistan, including taxation, visas and other technical issues. It does not need to be ratified by Congress.
The US has similar agreements with dozens of countries. In Iraq, a similar deal fell apart after US officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain there.




Karzai said last month that the issue of soldiers being protected from prosecution in Afghanistan could be a problem in the talks. He has said Afghanistan might demand prosecutions in some cases.
The issue took on new meaning following the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales charged in the attacks on Afghan civilians in two villages in southern Afghanistan earlier this year. The American soldier faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attacks against civilians. A preliminary hearing was held this week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 1 min 17 sec ago
0

Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

United Nations — USA
United Nations, United States, April 18, 2018 Agence France Presse: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.