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AFGHANISTAN

Karzai Demands U.S. Hand Over Bagram Prison

Aug. 27: U.S. soldiers stand outside cells at a newly built U.S.-run Parwan Detention Facility in Bagram north of Kabul, Afghanistan.AP

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai demanded Thursday that the U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base be handed over to Afghan control within a month, along with all Afghan citizens held by the coalition troops across the nation.

A presidential statement said Thursday that keeping Afghan citizens imprisoned without trial violates the country's constitution, as well as international human rights conventions.

The prison, inside the sprawling U.S. base at Bagram north of Kabul, abuts a a well-known public detention center known as Parwan, which is run jointly by Afghan authorities and the U.S. military.

It's unclear how many high-value detainees are being held at the U.S. facility. Human rights groups have claimed that detainees were menaced, forced to strip naked and kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells.

A statement from Karzai's office said he issued instructions to a commission consisting of the ministers of defense, interior and justice, as well as other top government and judicial officials, "to complete their job regarding the handing over of the (Bagram) prison and other prisoners who are held by foreign forces."

"The work should be completed within a month," it said.

The U.S.-led NATO coalition is in the process of handing over responsibility for security to the Afghan police and army. The process is due to be completed in 2014, when most foreign troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Karzai's demands are the most recent in a series of exercises in political brinksmanship by the president as he tries to bolster his negotiating position ahead of renewed talks for a Strategic Partnership Document with America that will determine the U.S. role in Afghanistan after 2014.

Among the conditions that Karzai has set is an end to night raids by international troops and complete Afghan control over detainees.

Karzai is walking a tightrope. Although he routinely plays to anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan by denouncing the U.S., he needs America's military and financial strength to back his weak government as it battles the Taliban insurgency.