Report on U.S. Secret Prisons in Afghanistan
"America's Secret Afghan Prisons", the result of a year long investigation from Afghanistan, by reporter Anand Gopal, conducted on behalf of The Nation, The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and TomDispatch.com, has been released. The report appears today at Tom Dispatch, tomorrow at TheNation.com and will be on newsstands Friday in the next issue of The Nation.
The report examines counter-terror policies in Afghanistan. What it finds:
- widespread and feared American "night raids" in Afghanistan
- a network of secret prisons on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan where detainees from raids are held.
- allegations of prisoner abuse, and in some cases disappearances.
First, what is counter-terror? It is "terror in uniform or at least under state orders." Think, "targeted assassinations, night raids, secret detention centers, disappearances."
It's a secret war kept from the public. It's conducted by "our Special Forces operatives, along with the CIA (and possibly private contractors)."
Gopal's report, says The Nation, is "the single most extensive report so far on American night raids in Afghanistan and the military holding areas that are the“black sites” of this moment."
Gopal's investigation was funded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism. He has reported in Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. His dispatches can be read at his website.
Here's a sample, on the night raids, which Gopal says are "an unavoidable part of modern counterinsurgency warfare" that breed resentment.
It has become a predictable pattern: Taliban forces ambush American convoys as they pass through the village, and then retreat into the thick fruit orchards that cover the area. The Americans then return at night to pick up suspects. In the last two years, 16 people have been taken and 10 killed in night raids in this single village of about 300, according to villagers. In the same period, they say, the insurgents killed one local and did not take anyone hostage.
The people of this village therefore have begun to fear the night raids more than the Taliban. There are now nights when Rehmatullah’s children hear the distant thrum of a helicopter and rush into his room. He consoles them, but admits he needs solace himself. “I know I should be too old for it,” he says, “but this war has made me afraid of the dark.”
Guerilla warfare, like that against the Taliban, Gopal says, requires secret jails, investigative detentions and round-ups.
An officer who has worked in the Field Detention Sites says that it takes dozens of raids to turn up a useful suspect. “Sometimes you’ve got to bust down doors. Sometimes you’ve got to twist arms. You have to cast a wide net, but when you get the right person it makes all the difference.”
For Arias, it’s a matter of survival. “I want to go home in one piece. If that means rounding people up, then round them up.” To question this, he says, is to question whether the war itself is worth fighting. “That’s not my job. The people in Washington can figure that out.”
Don't we get a say? Not if we don't know about it. Thanks are due to Gopal and his sponsors for bringing more details of this secret war it to light.
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