US Builds New Jails Across Afghanistan, Going To Keep Holding Detainees In Afghanistan For A Long, Looooong Time To Come

Lockdown: U.S. Builds New Jails Across Afghanistan (Wired, July 12, 2011):

The U.S. military is supposed to turn its massive jail on the outskirts of Bagram Air Field over to the Afghan government this year. But the U.S. is going to keep holding detainees in Afghanistan for a long, looooong time to come — as new military construction contracts reveal.

One of the big unanswered questions of the plan to give the Detention Facility at Parwan to the Afghans is what happens to insurgents U.S. troops detain in the future. Rumors abound about secret, off-the-books jails kept by Special Operations Forces, but those are supposed to be only for insurgents suspected of possessing high-level intelligence. Where will the rest go?

Here’s a clue. The Army Corps of Engineers is just hired an Afghan contractor to build a new “U.S. government controlled detention facility.” The lockup has to include “4 Modular Detention Housing Units (MDHU), 1 Special Holding Unit (SHU), guard towers, to include utilities, communications, fencing and related site work.” It’s got to be built fast — as in, by November — and so the Afghan firm got a no-bid contract of unspecified value.

That’s just for starters. After that facility goes up — and it’s unclear where it’ll be built — the Army will hold an open competition for an even larger detention center, awarding a contract worth $46 million. That facility will consist of seven modular detention units and a “Special Holding Unit.”

Special Holding Units are a nice way to say “maximum security.” The ones built in Parwan have solid metal doors and a camera peeking in. Reserved for “noncompliant” detainees, the cells are built for a single detainee, rather than the communal bunking and fenced barriers of much of Parwan.

Get used to more of these in a post-Parwan era. The Corps of Engineers expressed interest in building a different detention facility in late June. It doesn’t sound like a temporary holding cell, either: desired features include “detainee housing, guard towers, administration building, medical clinic, laundry, food preparation, detainee processing, visitor and warehouse facilities; primary and secondary electrical power supply, CCTV and communications, waste water treatment, sanitary and water distribution, storm water and related infrastructure, ATFP [anti-terrorism and force protection] measures and building information systems necessary for a stand-alone US Government controlled detention facility.”

Cost: between $25 and $100 million.

The Afghans may get the sprawling Parwan complex. But their landscape is about to be dotted with new, pop-up American military jails.

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