U.S. May Move Some Guantanamo Inmates to Afghanistan

Reuters reports that United States may move some Guantanamo inmates to a notorious Soviet prison in Afghanistan.

The United States wants to develop a high-security prison in Afghanistan to hold terrorism suspects, including some transferred from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the Financial Times said on Thursday. The U.S. government has chosen the site of a former Soviet-era prison near the capital, Kabul, to house the prisoners, the British newspaper reported.

Some of the jail’s facilities have already been refurbished as part of a European Union-financed criminal justice reform scheme backed by the United Nations, the paper said. It was intended to be used for people convicted of drugs offences, the paper said.

The newspaper said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan issued a public notice last month for the renovation and construction of a cell block at the complex. The notice said the project would accommodate “detainees presently in sub-standard and/or overcrowded facilities.”

The prison was notorious for the torture and execution of Islamists by former Communist-backed regimes in the 1980s.

From the Financial Times:

The US government has plans to build a high-security prison in Afghanistan to hold terror suspects, including some who would be transferred from the controversial US naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

The site selected for the jail is Pol-e-Charki, a rundown prison near Kabul dating from the Soviet era. Some of the base̢۪s prison facilities have recently been refurbished as part of a European Union-financed criminal justice reform programme backed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The transfer of prisoners of Afghan origin from Guantánamo to Afghanistan is intended to take pressure off the US administration, which continues to face strong international criticism for holding detainees without trial or other legal recourse. The administration is eager to return as many detainees as possible to their home countries, while bringing what it considers the most dangerous ones to trial before US military tribunals.

According to estimates by Amnesty International, the human rights group, about 750 people have been detained in Guantánamo since January 2002, many of them of Afghan origin. As of August an estimated 510 detainees were still held, with 167 prisoners released and, according to the US defence department, a further 67 moved to the custody of other governments.

Under an agreement announced by the US administration last August, 110 Afghan detainees were to be repatriated from Guantánamo initially to be detained together with about 350 others held without trial at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

The prospect of terrorist suspects being held under indefinite detention in Afghanistan could fuel concerns about their treatment at a time when the Afghan judicial system is in its infancy. Human rights groups have made allegations of mistreatment of detainees in Afghan jails.

Especially in light of prison abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, this could be a P.R. disaster. Ironically, a lot of problems could have been avoided had we just left the prisoners in Afghanistan to begin with.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    What a sad little sham. The Afghan “authorities” will surely be puppets of the U.S., or else we wouldn’t be doing this.

    The only purpose is to evade the review of the U.S. courts.

    What a shameful Administration.

  2. McGehee says:

    The Afghan “authorities” will surely be puppets of the U.S., or else we wouldn’t be doing this.

    Define “puppet.”

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘The Afghan “authorities” will surely be puppets of the U.S., or else we wouldn’t be doing this.’

    If you ever come up with an original thought send out a press release. Our allies are all puppets except that they never do what we want them to.

  4. Anderson says:

    Let’s see: the Afghans need our bucks like a junkie needs a hit. Are they going to do anything with “our” prisoners that we don’t approve of?

    That’s not “liberal” or “conservative” thinking; it’s just “realism.”

    The only alternative I can see is that we’ve concluded the Gitmo guys aren’t really dangerous, but it’s too embarrassing to release them—so we hand them to the Afghans, who release them, & then we go “oh how terrible!”

    (Maybe we even use that as an excuse to cut their funding, so we can pass more corporate entitlements like Medicare Part D? That would be a fine double-cross.)