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Initial United States Forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Assessment

Annex F: Detainee Operations, Rule of Law, and Afghan Corrections


Detention operations, while critical to successful counterinsurgency operations, also have the potential to become a strategic liability for the U.S. and ISAF. With the drawdown in Iraq and the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the focus on U.S. detention operations will turn to the U.S. Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF). Because of the classification level of the BTIF and the lack of public transparency, the Afghan people see U.S. detention operations as secretive and lacking in due process. It is critical that we continue to develop and build capacity to empower the Afghan government to conduct all detentions operations in this country in accordance with international and national law. The desired endstate must be the eventual turnover of all detention operations in Afghanistan, to include the BTIF, to the Afghan government once they have developed the requisite sustainable capacity to run those systems properly.

Currently, Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents represent more than 2,500 of the 14,500 inmates in the increasingly overcrowded Afghan Corrections System (ACS). These detainees are currently radicalizing non-insurgent inmates and worsening an already over-crowded prison system. Hardened, committed Islamists are indiscriminately mixed with petty criminals and sex offenders, and they are using the opportunity to radicalize and indoctrinate them. In effect, insurgents use the ACS as a sanctuary and base to conduct lethal operations against GIRoA and coalition forces (e.g., Serena Hotel bombing, GIRoA assassinations, governmental facility bombings).

The U.S. came to Afghanistan vowing to deny these same enemies safe haven in 2001. They have gone from inaccessible mountain hideouts to recruiting and indoctrinating hiding in the open, in the ACS. There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Unchecked, Taliban/Al Qaeda leaders patiently coordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military.

Multiple national facilities are firmly under the control of the Taliban. The Central Prisons Directorate (CPD) accepts a lack of offensive violence there as a half win. Within the U.S. Bagram Theater Internment Facility (BTIF), due to a lack of capacity and capability, productive interrogations and detainee intelligence collection have been reduced. As a result, hundreds are held without charge or without a defined way- ahead. This allows the enemy to radicalize them far beyond their pre-capture orientation. This problem can no longer be ignored.


In order to transform detention and corrections operations in theater, U.S. Forces- Afghanistan (USFOR-A) proposes the formation of a new Combined Joint Interagency Task Force, CJIATF ...REDACTION... to work toward the long-term goal of getting the U.S. out of the detention business. The priority for the CJIATF... REDACTION... in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy and our interagency and international partners, will be to build the capacity of the Afghan government to take over responsibility for detention in its own country as soon as possible, to include the BTIF. The CJIATF will provide two primary functions:

  • Assume oversight responsibilities and Title 10 support for detention and interrogation operations of all U.S.-held detainees in Afghanistan; and
  • Conduct Rule of Law (Corrections) operations, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy, working with and advising the Ministry of Defense, the Afghan Central Prison Directorate (CPD), and associated Afghan Ministries.

The CJIATF will train and apply sound corrections management techniques and Rule of Law principles in all detention systems in Afghanistan, whether currently run by the U.S. government or the Afghan government. These sound corrections management techniques ("best practices") and Rule of Law principles, applicable to all detention facilities, include: adherence to international humanitarian law; due process; vocational and technical training; de-radicalization; rehabilitation; education; and classifying and segregating detainee populations (segregating hard-core insurgents from low level fighters, juveniles from adults, women from men, common criminals from insurgents, etc.).

Systemic Challenges in Detention and Corrections

The CJIATF ...REDACTION... will address 10 systemic challenges in the current U.S., Afghan military, and CPD detention and prison systems. These include:

  • Need for a country wide, coalition supported, corrections and detention plan to help establish unity of effort.
  • Need for all detainees and prisoners to be correctly classified and separated accordingly.
  • Need for a GIRoA and International community supported Rule of Law program which allows for and codifies alternatives to incarceration.
  • Within U.S. Detention and Afghanistan Prison systems alike, take immediate measures to counter insurgent actions and minimize the religious radicalization process of inmates.
  • Need to plan and provide for Afghanistan corrections infrastructure multi-year sustainment.
  • Need to ensure meaningful corrections reform in both U.S. and Afghanistan detention/prison systems. These reforms include changing punishment from retribution to rehabilitation, purposeful and effective staff training, equity of pay, and improved alignment with law enforcement and legal systems, both formal and informal.
  • Need to review and ensure the intelligence policy and procedures match the exigencies of the Government of Afghanistan and Coalition counter-insurgent activity.
  • Need to address the current and projected over-crowding situation.
  • Need to address the current shortage of knowledgeable, competent, and committed leadership within both U.S. and Afghanistan corrections systems and advisory groups.
  • Need to address the command and control, and unity of command over both U.S. detention and Afghan advisory efforts.


Establish a CJIATF

Establish a CJIATF commanded by a General Officer, with a civilian deputy at the Ambassador level, to lead an organization of approximately 120 personnel (70 civilian, 50 military). The CJIATF will be a Major Subordinate Command under USFOR-A with a coordination relationship reporting to the U.S. Ambassador Afghanistan. The CJIATF will have a Command/Control Headquarters Element and the following six Lines of Operation:

  • The U.S. Detention Operations Brigade will provide safe, secure, legal and humane custody, care, and control of detainees at the BTIF.
  • The Intelligence Group will support the Task Force's mission to identify and defeat the insurgency through intelligence collection and analysis, and improve interrogations intelligence collection though operations at the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center and Strategic Debriefing Center, including input from field detention sites after capture.
  • The Detention and Prisons Common Program Support Group will establish and conduct a series of programs designed to move detention/corrections operations from retribution to rehabilitation. A de-radicalization process will attack the enemy ethos center of gravity and enable successful reintegration of inmates back to the Afghan (or home origin) population.
  • The Engagement and Outreach Group will formulate and implement strategic communication and outreach as a proactive tool to protect and defend the truth of U.S. detention and interrogation practices, to further assist in the development of the Rule of Law within Afghanistan.
  • The Legal Group will identify gaps in the Rule of Law framework that are inhibiting U.S. and Afghan detention/corrections operations from completing their mission and will develop solutions through consistent engagement with GIRoA elements and the International Community.
  • The Afghanistan Prison Engagement Group will assist GIRoA in reforming the Central Prisons Directorate (CPD) so it can defeat the insurgency within its walls. The reformed CPD National Prison System will meet international standards, employ best correctional practices, comply with Afghan laws, and be capable of sustaining de-radicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs.


The CJIATF Concept will be developed based on three capabilities (or phases):

  • Capability 1 - Assume the U.S. detention oversight and support responsibilities ...REDACTION... to include the operation and management of the BTIF, to allow ...REDACTION... focus on the operational fight. Once the JTF stands up, and the commander and his staff are on the ground in Afghanistan, they can begin planning and further developing Capabilities 2 and 3.
  • Capability 2 - Conduct corrections and Rule of Law development within the Afghan National Defense Force (ANDF) detention facilities.
  • Capability 3 - In close coordination and cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, conduct corrections and Rule of Law development within the Afghan CPD system of prisons.


The desired endstate is the turnover of all detention operations in Afghanistan, to include the BTIF, to the Afghan government once they have developed the requisite sustainable capacity to run those detention systems in accordance with international and national law. This will empower the Afghan government, enable counterinsurgency operations, and restore the faith of the Afghan people in their government's ability to apply good governance and Rule of Law with respect to corrections, detention, and justice.

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