Afghan Prison Guards ‘Fully Trained,’ Commander Says
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 Some 400 Afghan soldiers are fully trained to run the detention center in Parwan, Afghanistan, the commander of an interagency detainee task force said today.
“Our detainee-housing units are primarily manned by the Afghan National Army,” Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, commander of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, told Pentagon reporters by video teleconference from the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The Afghan soldiers are inside the prison guarding the inmates with coalition troops, he said.
Of the roughly 5,500 people detained so far this year, Harward said, about 1,100 have come to the detention facility in Parwan, and about 550 have been released. Expansion work that’s slated over the next few months will double the Parwan facility’s detainee capacity from about 1,650 to 3,200 spaces, he added.
The United States is set to officially begin transition of responsibility for detainee operations to the Afghans in January, the admiral said.
“[The transition] is conditions-based,” he said. “We're partnered. We're working closely with our Afghan counterparts. But, again, it's going to be at their pace. We want to make sure [the transition] is done right.”
Harward said his forces will stay partnered with the Afghan soldiers during the transition, which will be complete when conditions meet Afghan and U.S. government expectations.
“Critical to our transition is transparency on detention and
judicial-sector operations,” he said. “Ultimately, we want perceptions to match reality, and the only way that will occur is through increased transparency.” More than 2,000 visitors -- including government and military leaders, human-rights organizations, detainee-review board witnesses and Afghan and international media -- have visited the detention center, he noted.
Harward’s joint task force, primarily a U.S. military organization, officially became a combined joint interagency task force in September, and now has interagency and coalition members, he said. Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 works with numerous Afghan ministries and includes U.S. interagency professionals from the State and Justice departments, the FBI, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations, he added.
In addition to the detention system, other lines of operations now include the rule of law and biometrics, Harward said.
“The desired end state of these cooperative endeavors is self-sustaining, secure Afghan national detention facilities and rule-of-law institutions compliant with Afghan and international law,” he explained.
Rule of law reform, he said, would allow Afghanistan's formal and informal justice sectors to be strengthened without displacing traditional Afghan processes that involve community leaders and elders.
U.S. and Afghan forces now gather biometric enrollments throughout the theater in support of the Afghan government, Harward told reporters. Biometric enrollments, in effect, provide the electronic equivalent of a birth certificate, and soon will be an Afghan program for Afghans, he said.
In the future, Harward explained, Afghans will have a unified national basis for voting, motor vehicle and business registration, trade agreements and school enrollment.