The Blog

Catch and Release

9:16 AM, Dec 29, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Max Boot argues in the Washington Post today against what is fast becoming one of the most controversial restrictions on international forces in Afghanistan -- the 96 hour limit on holding prisoners before being forced to transfer them to Afghan custody. Boot says allied forces should opt-out of the restriction and expand the prison at Bagram:

But if we try to solve this problem by pressing the Afghans to undertake widespread security detentions, we may create a fresh problem. We want the Afghan government to develop the rule of law, which means only imprisoning malefactors based on a high level of proof presented in open court. Successful counterinsurgency operations require locking up suspects based on a lower level of evidence -- often based on classified intelligence that would not be admissible in a civilian court. It would be better if U.S. and allied forces undertake these kinds of security detentions while the Afghans build their own civilian legal capacity.

That means the United States, Canada and other nations need to overcome their squeamishness about detentions. The Bagram facility has been expanded to handle more than 1,200 detainees. Further expansion is necessary. Even more important, the United States and other nations should opt out of the 96-hour restriction. This is easy to do by designating all our troops as participating in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as the NATO mission. Likewise, Canada and other nations could unilaterally give their troops more detention authority than NATO rules permit. That may be distasteful, but the alternative is worse, as the Canadians are discovering.