Close to five hundred captured Taliban are now free once more to fight another day:
In one of the most elaborate prison breaks in recent Afghan history, the Taliban managed to free hundreds of inmates from Kandahar’s central prison in the early hours of Monday morning through a 1,180-foot tunnel.
The mass escape – reportedly not discovered until hours after it was over – has further shaken Afghans’ faith in their government, and intensified concerns that the freed prisoners will bolster the insurgency in Kandahar.
The escape is a particular blow to NATO and Afghan forces who have ratcheted up their campaign against the Taliban during the past year and hoped to expand their gains this summer. While NATO forces captured many of the Taliban fighters who were being held in the prison, the escape cast doubts on the ability of Afghan forces preparing to take more responsibility for providing security.
“I would call this a shameful incident for the Afghan government,” says Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, a former member of parliament in Kandahar. “It is impossible for the Taliban to get 500 men out of prison without anyone’s help. I believe there are some people from the prison or the government who gave the Taliban support.… It’s now clear to everyone how corrupt the government is.”
The reactions by the Afghan population have been quite angry:
…Military analyst Abdul Hadi Khaliq warns that the escapees are “radicalized, ready-to-fight, and extremist” fighters. “This shows that the Kandahar government is paralyzed or has made a deal with the enemy. Either way, major changes need to be made in Kandahar. The Kandahar authorities must be punished, not rewarded as in the past,” Khaliq argues, referring to a previous Taliban prison break in Kandahar three years ago.
Cheragh Daily also alleges that local authorities were complicit in the jail break. “Even if digging the tunnel was not a scenario to free the terrorists from prison as concessions to [Taliban] leaders, we cannot rule out involvement of powerbrokers and influential hands in the incident.” Ridiculing Hamid Karzai’s conciliatory approach to the Taliban, the paper asks the president to explain whether the escapees were “foreign elements” or “dissatisfied brothers.” The paper warns that all escapees will “return to their trenches and continue to kill defenseless Afghan people and troops.” Afghan daily Hasht-e Sobh writes that the escape of Taliban fighters could “boost the morale of the Taliban and weaken the confidence of security forces.”
…Mohammad Sarwar Usmani, a lawmaker from Farah Province, also implicates local authorities and warns that the enemies’ growing infiltration into the security forces is dangerous. Usmani calls on the Karzai government to stop releasing Taliban prisoners through the High Peace Council. The council has recently asked the United States to release Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo jail, including top Taliban leader Khairullah Khairkhah. “If Khairkhah wants to make peace, we will welcome him. We will make contacts and discuss his release,” Karzai told journalist in Kabul recently. Usmani, however, argues that Taliban fighters freed from jail rejoin the terrorists and their release has had no effect on the prospect for peace.
And we’re left to ponder a few things. First, how in the hell can the coalition even think about relying on THIS government to disengage from the conflict. Second, wouldn’t it been better if these 400+ terrorists had no longer existed in the first place?
In the end it matters little from the vantage point of Taliban fighters in the countryside. As I have observed before, given the catch-and-release program, the radicalization of half-way insurgents in these prisons, and the reflexive reversion to capture rather than kill, ISAF operations that capture insurgents are becoming a literal joke among the Taliban (see prior articles). I pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to ISAF press releases that begin with “Taliban fighters detained …”
If this is offensive to sensibilities, if this causes an outcry over advocacy of harsh rules of engagement, if this causes moral preening over the rules of war, then so be it. Withdraw from Afghanistan and end the campaign now. In either case, prisons do not work in counterinsurgency. Kill them or let them go, but putting them into a fake justice system is a worthless enterprise.
The restrictions put on our soldiers fighting in either war is ridiculous and will be the undoing of any success we’ve had in the wars.
Oh, btw, had to throw this out there since it’s related to the War on Terror….more evidence of the ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.