Monday, September 22, 2008

US crimes in Bagram may continue into long term

Bagram prison will be expanded, an indication of American plans to settle into Afghanistan for the long-term. Some time ago, the New York Times reported that the Bagram complex was considered "worse than Guantanamo," as prisoners in Afghanistan had no access to lawyers nor other basic rights. The abuses have continued, as the Times again noted early this year.

Pentagon to expand intel ops at U.S. prison in Afghanistan
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 — The Pentagon plans to expand intelligence operations at its main prison in Afghanistan, records and interviews with military officials show.

Interrogators and analysts are being sought for a bigger Bagram prison scheduled to open next year. They will be hired to question prisoners and provide intelligence that can be used on the battlefield, according to contract solicitations reviewed by USA TODAY. The Army also is seeking a "trained Mullah" to conduct Islamic services for detainees and advise U.S. officials on religious issues.

The developments are the latest indication of U.S. plans for a long-term presence in Afghanistan...

After peaking at nearly 700 prisoners in 2006, the population at Bagram has hovered for the past year at its 600-prisoner capacity, according to Central Command figures provided in response to a USA TODAY inquiry.

The intelligence hires are to be in place before next summer's scheduled completion of the new detention center that will hold 1,000 prisoners, an increase in capacity by 65%... (link)
It strikes one as odd that the US military is only now seeking a "trained mullah." Evidently they don't have one currently, and perhaps never did. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reveals a new American strategy development:
U.S. to Expand Drone Use, Other Surveillance in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Sept 18 -- The U.S. Army is preparing to deploy a network of drones and other surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in an expanding effort to defeat the resurgent Taliban and reverse a downward spiral in the country.

The effort, known as Task Force ODIN-A, is set to begin early next year and will coincide with the planned deployments of thousands of American troop reinforcements to Afghanistan, senior U.S. military officials said.

The officials said drones -- remotely piloted aircraft -- and manned surveillance aircraft will be deployed to identify insurgent targets inside Afghanistan, including on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan. The military will use the information to launch airstrikes and ground attacks on militants.

Drones are already used widely in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the new aircraft should significantly boost the Army's ability to track insurgents and quickly funnel usable intelligence to individual units, officials said...

The initiative is modeled on an effort in Iraq, where the Army last year began flying drones and piloted planes, including a modified version of the C-12, a small civilian plane, for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes.

In Iraq, the Army aircraft fed data on insurgent positions to Apache attack helicopters and ground forces. U.S. commanders said the effort has contributed to the deaths of more than 3,000 suspected insurgents.

The expansion of the program into Afghanistan hasn't been formally announced, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates alluded to the plan during a congressional hearing last week. Mr. Gates told lawmakers from the House Armed Services Committee that he was going to "re-create" the Iraq effort and "replicate it in Afghanistan with additional assets." (link)

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