31 December 2009

Aghan Jails compounding the problem

Great article about how Afghan jails aren't keeping terrorists off the streets even as Western nations insist on 96-hour maximum holds and releasing as many Afghans as possible - even the bad ones.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal's report, prepared in August, contained a scathing indictment of the Afghan detention system. It said that "hardened, committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalize and indoctrinate them." Afghan prisons, the report said, have become "a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations," with "multiple national facilities . . . firmly under the control of the Taliban."

To address this problem, McChrystal created a task force to work on the Afghan correctional system, segregating hard-core terrorists from the rest of the prison population and generally bringing conditions up to the standards U.S. authorities achieved in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib scandal. That's a good idea, but it's insufficient.

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 former means more enemy fighters on the loose; the latter sullies our troops' honor, denies them the intelligence gleaned from interrogations and leads the remaining Taliban to fight harder.

By: Brant

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