Afghan prisons sanctuary for militants: U.S. commander

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan prisons have become a sanctuary and recruiting ground for insurgents, with many now firmly under Taliban control, the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country said in a confidential assessment.

Army General Stanley McChrystal, issued a bleak assessment of the war in Afghanistan to the Pentagon last month, a 66-page unclassified version of which was obtained by the Washington Post and published on its website on Monday.

McChrystal’s assessment of the eight-year-old conflict in Afghanistan paints a grim picture of the progress of the foreign military mission as it faces a rising Taliban insurgency and increased unpopularity among Afghans.

More than 2,500 insurgents who form part of the 14,500 prison population in Afghanistan are using detention facilities as a sanctuary where they radicalize non-insurgents and from where they plan deadly attacks, McChrystal said.

“Taliban/Al Qaeda leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military,” McChrystal says.


McChrystal also criticized U.S. detention centers in the country, singling out the notorious Bagram prison at a U.S. air base north of Kabul, where prisoners have fewer rights than those held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The United States is holding about 600 prisoners at Bagram, many of them without charge.

“... the Afghan people see U.S. detention operations as secretive and lacking in due process. As a result, hundreds are held without charge or without a defined way ahead,” McChrystal said.

This scenario, he continues, serves to radicalize such inmates “far beyond their pre-capture orientation.”

McChrystal says the U.S. forces needed to work toward a long-term goal of “getting the United States out of the detention business.”

“The desired end state must be the eventual turnover of all detention centers in Afghanistan ... to the Afghan government.”

Reporting by Golnar Motevalli; Editing by Jonathon Burch