(Photo: Capt. Peter Smedberg, U.S. Army/AP)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military will not actively target the 65 detainees released by the Afghan government this week but if the men return to the fight they do so "at their own peril," the Pentagon's top spokesman said Friday.
On Thursday the Afghan government released the detainees against the protests of the U.S. military, who said the men were linked to the deaths of U.S. and Afghan forces, in addition to Afghan women and children.
"There's not going to be an active targeting campaign," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the top Pentagon spokesman. "If they choose to return to the fight they become legitimate enemies and legitimate targets."
"If they return to the fight they do it at their own peril," he said.
In the past, detainees released by the Afghans have surfaced again on the battlefield, the U.S. military said.
The U.S. military retains biometric identifying information on the detainees that would allow U.S. forces to confirm their identity should they be captured again.
The men were released from the Parwan detention facility, which the coalition turned over to the Afghan government last year after lengthy negotiations.
The Afghan government has been reviewing the cases of detainees to determine which can be brought to trial in court.
The U.S. military said they presented the Afghan government with extensive information on the 65 men, linking them to attacks that killed or wounded 32 U.S. or coalition personnel and 23 Afghan security personnel or civilians.
"They're still very dangerous individuals who should have remained locked up," Kirby said.