Afghan Prison Guards ‘Fully Trained,’ Commander Says

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 — Some 400 Afghan sol­diers are ful­ly trained to run the deten­tion cen­ter in Par­wan, Afghanistan, the com­man­der of an inter­a­gency detainee task force said today.
“Our detainee-hous­ing units are pri­mar­i­ly manned by the Afghan Nation­al Army,” Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Har­ward, com­man­der of Com­bined Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force 435, told Pen­ta­gon reporters by video tele­con­fer­ence from the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

The Afghan sol­diers are inside the prison guard­ing the inmates with coali­tion troops, he said.

Of the rough­ly 5,500 peo­ple detained so far this year, Har­ward said, about 1,100 have come to the deten­tion facil­i­ty in Par­wan, and about 550 have been released. Expan­sion work that’s slat­ed over the next few months will dou­ble the Par­wan facility’s detainee capac­i­ty from about 1,650 to 3,200 spaces, he added.

The Unit­ed States is set to offi­cial­ly begin tran­si­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty for detainee oper­a­tions to the Afghans in Jan­u­ary, the admi­ral said.

“[The tran­si­tion] is con­di­tions-based,” he said. “We’re part­nered. We’re work­ing close­ly with our Afghan coun­ter­parts. But, again, it’s going to be at their pace. We want to make sure [the tran­si­tion] is done right.”

Har­ward said his forces will stay part­nered with the Afghan sol­diers dur­ing the tran­si­tion, which will be com­plete when con­di­tions meet Afghan and U.S. gov­ern­ment expec­ta­tions.

“Crit­i­cal to our tran­si­tion is trans­paren­cy on deten­tion and judi­cial-sec­tor oper­a­tions,” he said. “Ulti­mate­ly, we want per­cep­tions to match real­i­ty, and the only way that will occur is through increased trans­paren­cy.” More than 2,000 vis­i­tors — includ­ing gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary lead­ers, human-rights orga­ni­za­tions, detainee-review board wit­ness­es and Afghan and inter­na­tion­al media — have vis­it­ed the deten­tion cen­ter, he not­ed.

Harward’s joint task force, pri­mar­i­ly a U.S. mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion, offi­cial­ly became a com­bined joint inter­a­gency task force in Sep­tem­ber, and now has inter­a­gency and coali­tion mem­bers, he said. Com­bined Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force 435 works with numer­ous Afghan min­istries and includes U.S. inter­a­gency pro­fes­sion­als from the State and Jus­tice depart­ments, the FBI, the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions, he added.

In addi­tion to the deten­tion sys­tem, oth­er lines of oper­a­tions now include the rule of law and bio­met­rics, Har­ward said.

“The desired end state of these coop­er­a­tive endeav­ors is self-sus­tain­ing, secure Afghan nation­al deten­tion facil­i­ties and rule-of-law insti­tu­tions com­pli­ant with Afghan and inter­na­tion­al law,” he explained.

Rule of law reform, he said, would allow Afghanistan’s for­mal and infor­mal jus­tice sec­tors to be strength­ened with­out dis­plac­ing tra­di­tion­al Afghan process­es that involve com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and elders.

U.S. and Afghan forces now gath­er bio­met­ric enroll­ments through­out the the­ater in sup­port of the Afghan gov­ern­ment, Har­ward told reporters. Bio­met­ric enroll­ments, in effect, pro­vide the elec­tron­ic equiv­a­lent of a birth cer­tifi­cate, and soon will be an Afghan pro­gram for Afghans, he said.

In the future, Har­ward explained, Afghans will have a uni­fied nation­al basis for vot­ing, motor vehi­cle and busi­ness reg­is­tra­tion, trade agree­ments and school enroll­ment.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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