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Pentagon: Deal reached on U.S. handover of Afghan prison

By Barbara Starr and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
March 23, 2013 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The United States will transfer control of Parwan detainees on Monday, the Pentagon says
  • The handover of the facility has been a sticking point between U.S. and Afghan authorities
  • The Pentagon did not detail what, if any, negotiations were carried out

Washington (CNN) -- An agreement was reached Saturday for handing over control of a U.S.-run prison near Bagram Air Base to Afghan authorities, the Pentagon said.

Under the agreement between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the United States will transfer control of Parwan prison on Monday, according to a statement released by the Pentagon.

The detention facility has been a sticking point between U.S. and Afghan authorities, and tensions over the facility re-emerged this month with sharp words from Karzai that the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force called "inflammatory."

A Pentagon spokesman said Hagel and Karzai spoke by phone shortly after the deal was reached on the prison.

"The secretary welcomed President Karzai's commitment that the transfer will be carried out in a way that ensures the safety of the Afghan people and coalition forces by keeping dangerous individuals detained in a secure and humane manner in accordance with Afghan law," spokesman George Little said.

Last March, U.S. and Afghan authorities agreed on a plan to hand over the prison and detainees within six months.

But in September, the United States "paused" the transfer of detainees, which include suspected Taliban militants and insurgents.

The U.S. military has not publicly discussed the specifics of the dispute. But a military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told CNN last year that the United States was holding on to several detainees over concerns about whether Afghan authorities will properly handle their cases and under what circumstances they might be released.

Karzai has been adamant that all prisoners be under Afghan control. Last yea, he called the U.S. failure to hand over all detainees at the facility a "serious breach" in the deal outlining the transfer of power from U.S. forces to Afghanistan.

Tensions between the NATO-led coalition forces -- especially those from the United States -- and Karzai have escalated since a bomb blast in Kabul earlier this month that killed nine people.

Karzai said afterward that there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."

The comment effectively claimed the United States was trying to foment continued violence inside Afghanistan, and it was quickly denounced by NATO and U.S. officials.

Some experts say Karzai's comments have been fueled by frustration over the detention facility not being handed over, which he views as an attack on his country's sovereignty.

In an e-mail this month to top commanders, U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of ISAF, warned of new risks of attacks due to rising tensions between NATO forces and the Afghan president, an ISAF official told CNN.

Karzai's recent statements "could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces -- he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk," Dunford said.

Barbara Starr reported from Washington and Chelsea J. Carter reported from Atlanta. CNN's Jake Tapper contributed to this report.

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