LASHKARGAH (PAN): Afghan prisoners currently being held by British troops in a camp in southern Helmand province might be returned to Afghan jurisdiction over the next one week, a senior UK army officer said on Thursday.
Lt-Gen. Nick Patrick Carter, the deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told Pajhwok Afghan during an interview in Lashkargah the issue was being discussed with local authorities.
He neither provided any figures for the detainees held at the Camp Bastion nor cited any law under which British troops are holding them. However, media reports put at 90 the number of Afghans in the custody of UK forces.
Last month, President Hamid Karzai has given the UK two weeks to transfer all detainees to Afghan control. British forces are allowed to hold suspected insurgents for no longer than 96 hours, except in “exceptional circumstances”.
Karzai has condemned Afghans’ detention at UK facilities, saying the imprisonment of suspected insurgents without charge violated Afghan sovereignty and law.
His spokesman Aimal Faizi has said the unlawful detention and internment of Afghan nationals was against international law. The deadline set by Karzai expired on June 8. The Defence Ministry in Kabul has also slammed the detentions as illegal and inhuman.
However, UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has claimed the detainees were involved in the killing of British forces.
For his part, Carter said they aimed to turn over all the detainees and responsibility for investigating their cases to the Afghan government.
He added NATO by the end of 2014 and at the same time they worked on policies to continue training Afghan forces and providing them with required equipment.
Cater said Afghan forces’ morale was high as they took lead in security operations. “They have professionally improved and know how to treat civilians and identify criminals.”
The British Army officer added it remained unknown how many troops from his country would stay in Afghanistan after formal withdrawal. However, he indicated the number of those staying beyond 2014 would be in accordance with the demand of the Afghan people.
The ISAF commander reaffirmed support for the peace process, saying the opening of the Taliban’s Qatar office had raised hopes for an end to the war.
Cater denied Pakistan was aiding the insurgents or sheltering them on its soil because the South Asian country had suffered a lot at the hands of the fighters. He said his 12 years experience in Afghanistan showed the war could be brought to an end by the Afghans themselves.