WikiLeaks Doc: Catch and Release in Afghanistan
The Afghan government has likely released dozens of Gitmo detainees, and many more from Bagram, instead of trying them.
4:02 PM, Nov 30, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
A cable released by WikiLeaks that is available on the New York Times’s web site underscores the difficulties that both the Bush and Obama administrations have had in transferring war on terror detainees to Afghan custody. The cable, which originated at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on August 6, 2009, begins:
The cable’s author goes on to explain that this is a problem with respect to: detainees transferred from the American-run facility in Bagram to Afghan custody, detainees transferred from Guantanamo to Afghan custody, as well as narco-traffickers. When the Afghan government accepts transferred detainees, it is supposed to take certain security precautions. In some cases, the U.S. government expects the Afghans to try them in their courts. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work out that way.
The situation with respect to detainees once held in Bagram is worrisome (emphasis added):
Detainees at Bagram include those individuals the U.S. military and its allies suspect of fighting for the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their jihadist allies. The cable suggests that the Afghans released more 100 detainees without trial in 2008. The Americans expected at least some of them, and probably many of them, to be tried. The Afghans were on pace to release about the same number of detainees without trying them in 2009.
The situation with respect to detainees transferred from Guantanamo to Afghanistan is problematic as well. The cable notes (emphasis added):
It is not entirely clear if the Gitmo detainees referred to above were all supposed to be tried in Afghan courts, but it certainly appears that way. It also makes sense when put into context. For some perspective, roughly 200 Afghans have been transferred from Guantanamo to their home country, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Many of these former detainees probably were not slated to stand trial. But the Americans did expect that some of them would.
The cable suggests that the Afghans have released dozens of former Gitmo detainees who the Americans thought should be tried.
All of this underscores a central point. The Defense Department never wanted to be the “world’s jailer.” Nor did it want to move hundreds of detainees to the U.S. to stand trial – a move that would have caused a host of problems. But America’s allies, including Afghanistan, can’t be counted on to hold detainees let alone try them, even when the U.S. thinks a trial is appropriate.
And judging by this State Department cable, the recidivism rate for former Bagram detainees may be even worse.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.