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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  • Display: Sort:
    What happens to all the unuseful suspects? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by esmense on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:04:07 PM EST

    And what would you (2.00 / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 07:07:21 PM EST
    protesters do with the prisoners taken?

    And what would you do to prevent civilian deaths besides giving the country back to the Taliban and al Qaeda?

    If you want the US out of Afghanistan and the ME, why don't you start the demonstrations? Or does Obama get a free pass because he is a Democrat?

    How to Make More Enemies 101 (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:09:15 PM EST
    THIS is our new approach in Afghanistan?  

    I know, I know, we're doing OTHER things differently, just not this.


    And OT, but JD Salinger has died (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Dadler on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:09:48 PM EST
    "Don't we get a say?" (none / 0) (#4)
    by Andreas on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:14:05 PM EST
    One should ask those who claimed that Barack Obama is different from George Walker Bush.

    Current issue.. (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:19:13 PM EST
    of Rolling Stone has an article/interview with Osama's son...he said that Osama won't be planning anymore major attacks because he's accomplished what he set out to do...get us to occupy Afghanistan.

    Reading the above I see why...if you wanna convice people we are the great satan, getting us to occupy a country and pull the night raid/secret prison schtick is the way to do it.

    Don't forget (none / 0) (#6)
    by DancingOpossum on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:28:02 PM EST
    slaughtering children:

    Afghans have taken to the streets in different cities to protest against the alleged killing of 10 civilians, including school children, in military operations by international forces in the country's east.


    That always helps with the whole "hearts and minds" thingummy.

    Has become the norm (none / 0) (#7)
    by mmc9431 on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 01:50:45 PM EST
    Now I understand why Obama insisted that we "look forward, not backwards" and not investigate the Bush administration.

    Bush was allowed to lower the bar on American conduct and now that will be the standard each new administration will work from.

    Investigating the Bush administration (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 05:17:05 PM EST
    would have closed doors they wanted to stay open, or made it more difficult for them to keep certain options open that they wanted kept open.

    Definitely (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 06:01:01 AM EST
    I also believe there are too many high ranking Democrats that were brought in at the start. If they brought down Bush, they would fall too. Cheney was very shrewd to involve them in the plans.

    hmmm. McChrystal... (none / 0) (#9)
    by jeffinalabama on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 03:44:54 PM EST
    Iraq... secret prisons.
    Afghanistan... secret prisons.

    Iraq... counterinsurgency.

    Am I the only one noticing a pattern here, or do we need more variables?

    They did buy this pattern though (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 05:13:00 PM EST
    They knowingly bought McChrystal after giving him a pass for his previous discretions though.  That's why he was the man for the job Jeff, this was what the Obama administration wanted.  I know you know that though, and you are being kind hoping to gently lead the Obama faithful to understand this.

    Don't you love that word? (none / 0) (#14)
    by DancingOpossum on Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 01:51:24 PM EST
    Counterinsurgency? It's so utterly and appallingly meaningless in the context. Just like "terrorism" itself.