Baghdad The U.S. military said Saturday it has released more than 10,000 detainees in Iraq so far this year - more than in all of 2007 - as it continues to try to phase out its running of Iraqi prisons.
The military said about 21,000 people remained in custody, and it is currently releasing about 45 detainees and detaining 30 a day.
The United States wants to transfer the detainees to Iraqi control. Reaching that goal has been slowed partly by the lack of adequate Iraqi prison space and trained guards. More than 8,900 people were released from detention last year.
The U.S. military separated moderate detainees from extremists and instituted religious, educational and vocational programs over the past year to try to rehabilitate less dangerous prisoners. It also increased releases under amnesty programs.
The U.S. military says its detention system is authorized by a U.N. resolution under which the Iraqi government allows U.S. troops to arrest people at will. U.S. military attorneys say it also complies with international laws covering warfare and was created in "the spirit" of the Geneva Conventions.
Commanders say they are entitled to hold any prisoner until the detainee is no longer considered a threat to U.S. forces. Local law and court rulings do not apply, they add.