US officials say they have no strategy to close Bagram, an American prison in Afghanistan nicknamed “The Second Guantanamo.”
The United States holds 67 non-Afghan prisoners in Bagram air base outside Kabul but it has not yet come up with a plan about their future.
The US government transferred Bagram’s Afghan inmates to local authorities this year.
“Is there a plan? No. Is there a desire to close the facility? Yes,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the top US general in Afghanistan, said as quoted by The Washington Post.
According to the newspaper, the foreign prisoners include some hardened al-Qaeda operatives seized from around the world in the months after September 11, 2001.
US President Barack Obama vowed in his first presidential campaign to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba but he has not yet met his promise.
The Obama administration now argues that Bagram’s resolution is even more complicated and more urgent than Guantanamo, where scores of detainees are being mistreated and tortured.
The US military is still sending new detainees to Bagram, making it more difficult for Washington to come up with a strategy for the trial or repatriation of the prisoners from more than a dozen countries.
None of the foreign prisoners have been formally tried, according to the Post. Many have been cleared for release by informal military review boards, but most of those were never freed, the newspaper said.
US forces are technically obliged to close Bagram when their combat role in Afghanistan formally ends in December 2014. However, US officials are saying that they will probably decide to keep the prison open even for decades after their forces leave Afghanistan.
The prisoners are “too dangerous to let go,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a reservist Air Force lawyer who was appointed last month by Dunford to consider solutions to the detention dilemma.
“We’re a nation without an available jail in the war on terror, and we need to fix that,” Graham said in an interview.
Keeping the American jail in Afghanistan beyond 2014 would require the permission of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has staunchly resisted American-run detention facilities.