In a move that was long in coming but widely expected, the Afghan government announced today that it is going to release all but 16 of the 88 terrorist detainees in custody in Afghanistan.
All 88 are considered security threats to the United States and have been classified by the U.S. as Tier One security threats.
The U.S. has consistently opposed the release of any of these 88 detainees, but because they are Afghan citizens, the U.S. has less leverage with the Karzai government than it does with others in custody who are third-country nationals.
The United States continues to have custody of a couple dozen non-Afghan terrorist detainees in Afghanistan who are considered the most serious threat to our interests. Those terrorists have been labeled enduring security threats (ESTs). Senior Taliban fighter and Russian national Hamidullan, who may be brought to the United States to face trial by military commission, is one of those ESTs.
Behind the scenes, Afghan officials have not been entirely clear with U.S. government officials as to exactly which detainees they plan to release. But there are signs that the 16 remaining ones are really among the most dangerous among the group of Afghan detainees slated to remain in custody. The Afghan government may try some of those 16 detainees for war crimes or other crimes against American or allied personnel.
As combat operations wind down in Afghanistan, expect to see more Afghan detainees in custody ordered released by the Karzai government.
This announcement by the Afghan government comes at a crucial time in the Afghan conflict and should be a wake-up call to the Obama Administration that it must take concrete, responsible actions now with respect to the remaining ESTs in Afghanistan.