– U.S. Super-Sizing Afghan Jail It Promised to Abandon (Wired, Feb. 20, 2012):
There once was a plan to turn over the main U.S. detention center in Afghanistan to control of the Afghans in 2011. That’s out the window. Instead, the military is offering millions to vastly expand the center’s inmate intake.
Specifically, $35 million will fund expansions necessary to house “approximately 2,000 detainees” at the Detention Facility at Parwan on the outskirts of Bagram Air Field, an hour’s drive from Kabul. The Army Corps of Engineers wants to expand “detainee housing, guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems,” according to a recent solicitation. A Turkey-based company received the contract in late January.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. As far back as summer 2010, senior military officials in charge of the detention center boasted to Danger Room outright that by January 2012, they wouldn’t be running the square-mile sized prison. They considered handing the detention center to the Afghans a mark of their own success at fostering a culture of law and order within the Afghan government.
Alas. A year later, the command in charge of the detention center, Joint Task Force-435, admitted that it wouldn’t complete the handoff until the U.S. ended combat in 2014. The reason? “The Afghans don’t have the legal framework or the capacity to deal with violence being inflicted on the country by the insurgency,” an official told the Financial Times.
But the expansion is only going to increase the caseload the Afghans will eventually deal with. This is no minor refurbishment. The Detention Facility at Parwan held 1,000 inmates in August 2010. The $35 million expansion will prepare it to double the detainee population.
That should underscore the amount of fighting still to come in Afghanistan ahead of 2012. Even though much of the U.S. military views Afghanistan as a war with an expiration date — as I learned during a brief trip to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. yesterday, where soldiers referred to the war in the past tense — there will still be 68,000 troops there by summer’s end, and it’s not clear how many troops will leave Afghanistan by 2014.
Nor will 2014 mark the end of the war. The U.S. wants a residual military presence in Afghanistan, keeping troops on bases run by Afghans, as an insurance policy against the country falling apart and to stage the shadow war in Pakistan. The war will become heavy on Special Operations Forces in lieu of conventional troops — and human rights workers allege that the commandos run an unacknowledged torture facility at Parwan.
Even if they don’t, there are few who believe the Afghanistan War is on the cusp of ending, even if the U.S. will — slowly, incompletely — cease waging it. Where there’s war, there’s wartime detentions. And Parwan isn’t the only detention center on the grow: the U.S. is spending up to $100 million building jails across Afghanistan.