KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai has ordered Afghan forces to take control of the American-built Bagram Prison and accused American officials of violating an agreement to fully transfer the facility to the Afghans, according to a statement issued by his office on Monday.
The move came after what Mr. Karzai said was the expiration of a two-month grace period, agreed to by President Obama in September, to complete the transfer of the prison at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. The Afghan president convened a meeting on Sunday of top officials to report on the prison's status, which led to Monday's statement, officials said.
At issue in particular were 57 prisoners held there who had been acquitted by the Afghan courts but who have been held by American officials at the prison for more than a month in defiance of release orders, Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for President Karzai, said in an interview.
Afghan officials were also concerned about the status of new prisoners being captured on the battlefield by American troops, who the Afghans feel should be transferred to their control under the prison transfer agreement signed by the two countries this year.
Mr. Faizi said hundreds of new prisoners were being held by American authorities in a closed-off section of the Bagram Prison, which the American military calls the Detention Facility in Parwan. American military forces, mainly Special Operations troops carrying out night raids, have been arresting suspected insurgents at the rate of more than 100 a month, according to Afghan officials.
"We expect the Americans to respect the agreement according to the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries," Mr. Faizi said.
The American military did not respond to specific complaints from Afghan officials, but United States Forces-Afghanistan released a statement saying, "The United States fully respects the sovereignty of Afghanistan, and we are committed to fulfilling the mutual obligations incurred under the Memorandum of Understanding on Detentions."
American officials have said that the agreement on detention left open to further negotiation how to handle new prisoners captured by American forces on the battlefield. Those negotiations have stalled, however, over disputes about the release of some prisoners from before that the Americans have refused to let go.
Tensions over detainee transfers have been on the front burner since the memo of understanding was signed in March, setting a six-month timeline for full transfer of Parwan to Afghan authority. That deadline lapsed with the central issues of a prison transfer still unresolved, leading to a two-month extension agreed to in a videoconference between Mr. Karzai and Mr. Obama in September.
The continued disagreement now threatens to complicate an even larger issue: the two countries began negotiations last week on a status of forces agreement that would govern the sort of American military presence that would remain in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal deadline.
In the statement by Mr. Karzai's office on Monday, he was quoted as saying the Americans were in "serious breach" of the prison transfer agreement and ordered Afghan officials, including the commander of the Bagram Prison, to take "urgent measures to ensure a full Afghanization of the prison affairs and a complete transfer of its authority."
American officials, however, say it's not so simple. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity because a formal response to Mr. Karzai had not been prepared, said: "It's an issue of sovereignty for the government of Afghanistan, and to General Allen it's a matter of security for the coalition troops. You can't just bring these guys in and let them go." Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of American and NATO troops here, is in Washington, D.C., after a scandal erupted over e-mails he sent to a woman in Florida.
The American military's statement maintained that the agreement "contains reciprocal commitments to provide for the security of Afghan citizens, the A.N.S.F. and coalition forces by keeping captured enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield." It added that the military was confident of working out a solution with Afghanistan on that issue.
Mr. Faizi said there would not immediately be a change in actual control over the Bagram facility, despite the Afghan president's strongly worded statement. He said Afghan judicial, defense and prison officials would hold discussions with American officials and report back to President Karzai in the next few days about how to actually implement his order. After that, Mr. Karzai would hold a news conference to announce his government's next steps.
The Bagram Prison, which has a capacity for more than 3,000 detainees, lies within the much larger, American-controlled Bagram Air Base and is surrounded by American checkpoints, and is heavily staffed by American guards.
Human rights advocates welcomed President Karzai's move. Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, who represents some Bagram detainees, met recently with Afghan officials in an unsuccessful effort to visit her clients in Bagram. Afghan officials approved the visits, but the United States military blocked them, she said.
"When we met with Karzai's staff it was clear that the Afghans are tired of being treated like servants in their own country," Ms. Foster said. "Symbolic gestures are not going to cut it anymore. They want the keys to the prison, and the ability to determine the fates of the prisoners held there."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.