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Kerry Visits Afghanistan; U.S. Hands Over Bagram Prison

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on March 25
KABUL -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai after arriving in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip.

The March 25 visit is his first since becoming secretary of state and comes as U.S. and other foreign forces prepare to withdraw most of their troops by the end of 2014.

After the talks in Kabul with Karzai, Kerry said the two were "on the same page" regarding peace talks with the Taliban.

Kerry said he is confident Karzai "does not believe the U.S. has any interest except to see the Taliban come to the table to make peace."

A U.S. official traveling with Kerry had said the secretary of state would make it clear that the United States will have "an enduring commitment in Afghanistan that will last beyond transition and that there will always be bumps on the road."

Earlier this month, Karzai accused Washington of colluding with the Taliban to keep Afghanistan unstable and convince Afghans that foreign troops are needed in the country.

U.S. officials strongly denied the Afghan president's accusation. Last week, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called Karzai's assertion "an absolutely ridiculous idea."

Meanwhile, the United States on March 25 formally turned over control of a military detention center at the Bagram Airfield to Afghanistan’s government.

WATCH: U.S. authorities hand over control of the Bagram prison on March 25:
U.S. Hands Over High-Profile Afghan Prison
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Karzai said the handover of the prison at Bagram Air Field marks "a very good day."

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, told reporters that the transfer ceremony on March 25 highlighted “an increasingly confident, capable, and sovereign Afghanistan.”

"This ceremony to transfer the detention facility is important and it's meaningful,” he said. “But what's most significant is it's part of a broader political and security transition process. It's a small step towards a transformation that will occur in years ahead."

Continuing Presence

An agreement on the handover of the Parwan Detention Facility, which is located inside the massive Bagram airfield compound, was announced on March 23.

The handover was originally scheduled for March 9, but was postponed because Washington and Kabul could not reach agreement on the handling of inmates viewed as dangerous by U.S. forces.

"The New York Times" reports that, since then, the United States has received “private assurances” that detainees the United States considers to be threats would not be released.

The facility is being renamed the Afghan National Detention Facility at Parwan.

At the handover ceremony, Dunford maintained that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will not end completely after 2014.

"Let there be no doubt, transformation for those who wear the uniform of the United States does not mean the end of the mission or abandonment,” he said. “Our mission is changing but our commitment is enduring. We share the same goals as the people of Afghanistan: [the] development of a nation that protects human dignity."

After 2014, the remaining NATO-led forces are expected to focus on training and advising Afghan troops as well as a counterterrorism mission targeting Al-Qaeda militants.

Kerry Meets Pakistani Military Chief

Meanwhile, in related news, it has been announced that Pakistan's powerful military chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has also met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

A statement by Pakistan's military on March 25 said the meeting was in Amman, Jordan at a late hour in the previous evening.

The statement said the two men discussed the "reconciliation process in Afghanistan and security issues concerning the South Asian region."

The AP news agency reports that the men dined together privately at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Amman.

Pakistan's military is widely seen as holding the key to push the Taliban towards reconciliation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration because of Islamabad's historic ties and its alleged covert support for the Afghan Taliban.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP,, BBC Urdu