Time to expand Gitmo in the Hindu Kush
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The detention facilities at Bagram AB in Afghanistan have already come under attack as the eastern equivalent of Gitmo, and they are in some respects. We do have a number of bad guys there under ongoing detention, but we and our allies in country are handcuffed by some rules about prisoners and how long we can keep them. Most US and NATO forces must release prisoners after 96 hours or turn them over to the Afghans. Max Boot explains this and offers a solution in today's Wash Post.
Most U.S. troops are bound by the same 96-hour restriction as the rest of the NATO command. The major exceptions are Special Operations Forces and Task Force Paladin, which works to combat improvised explosive devices. They operate under a separate U.S. mandate as part of Operation Enduring Freedom that allows them to detain suspects indefinitely. But they tend to take only top-tier offenders. Ordinary Taliban foot soldiers, or even mid-level facilitators, are either cut loose or turned over to the Afghans -- which often amounts to the same thing.....
As more U.S. troops roll into Afghanistan, they will conduct offensive operations that result in the capture of more Taliban over the next 18 months. That is not enough time to build Afghan courts and prisons and to train guards, judges and lawyers. Even in Iraq, the legal system has had trouble coping with all of the terrorists U.S. authorities have turned over during the past year. Some have been released and have gone on to commit fresh atrocities.
Such a situation, which exists on a much bigger scale in Afghanistan, is profoundly demoralizing to troops. If service members see a "catch and release" policy in effect, they are likely to either pull back or pull the trigger prematurely. Both possibilities are worrisome.....
The Bagram facility has been expanded to handle more than 1,200 detainees. Further expansion is necessary. Even more important, the United States and other nations should opt out of the 96-hour restriction. This is easy to do by designating all our troops as participating in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as the NATO mission.
There are many problems with the Afghan justice system that will take years to fix and we need a way to deal with the insurgents we take off the battlefield now. Regardless of the howls and whines of the human rights community, our treatment of detainees is plenty good, and given the alternatives the only real solution. Last time I checked this was still a war and we ought to act like it.