Afghan clerics warn US to heed Karzai demands
AFGHANISTA: Afghanistan's leading religious body on Saturday warned
the presence of US troops in the country would soon be treated as an
“occupation” unless the United States hands over detainees.
The fate of prisoners held in Bagram jail has been one cause of a
sharp deterioration in US-Afghan ties, with President Hamid Karzai
repeatedly pushing to be given full control of the facility north of
“If the Americans do not act on their promises (to hand over Bagram)...
then that means occupation and they might like to see the reaction to
that,” the influential National Ulema Council said in a statement.
The government-funded council, which is the highest Islamic authority
in Afghanistan, added that a series of recent anti-US remarks by Karzai
were “the true voice of the Muslim people of Afghanistan”.
Karzai has ordered US special forces out of the key province of
Wardak, banned international troops from university campuses over
alleged harassment and stopped the Afghan military calling in US
He also triggered outrage by accusing the US of acting in concert
with Taliban insurgents to justify the presence of foreign troops.
The hand-over of the Bagram jail has been repeatedly delayed as
Afghan and US officials clash over whether the suspected militants will
continue to be held or released.
Late Saturday, Karzai's office said the transfer of prisoners “must
take place” in one week's time after a further postponement was agreed
in a telephone call with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
US General Joseph Dunford, the commander of NATO coalition force in
Afghanistan, has said that some of the detainees would pose “real
threats” if they returned to the battlefield.
He also warned that coalition troops face increased attacks from
militants and rogue Afghan forces due to Karzai's anti-US rhetoric.
In one sign of heightened tensions, hundreds of demonstrators on
Saturday marched to the parliament complex in Kabul demanding the US
special forces withdraw from Wardak after allegations of abuse.
Karzai ordered elite US units to pull out after he alleged Afghan
militia working with them had tortured and murdered civilians, but the
US military say they are still negotiating the province's security
hand-over. Afghan army and police are taking on responsibility for
battling the Taliban insurgency as most of the 100,000 NATO-led troops
prepare to exit by the end of next year. Karzai is due to step down at
elections next year, 13 years after he came to power with US backing
when the hardline Taliban regime was ousted in 2001. One member of the
NATO force died on Saturday in a helicopter crash in southern
Afghanistan, a spokesman said. No insurgent activity was reported in the