United States, Britain Offer Training to “Improve” Prison Conditions in Afghanistan
While attempting to liberate Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban, the U.S. and Great Britain have given the Afghans incarceration-related tools and training, ostensibly to improve conditions in that nation’s prisons.
Since 2011, the U.S. State Department has operated the International Correctional Management Training Center (ICMTC) in Cañon City, Colorado, where prison wardens from Afghanistan have learned how to manage their facilities and prisoners.
The ICMTC, funded by a $1.6 million federal grant, uses Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) staff on the site of a decommissioned state prison for women to teach the Afghans – and a host of prison officials from other nations, including Mexico, Brazil, Morocco and Lebanon – how to handle their most dangerous prisoners, usually through solitary confinement.
A written statement issued jointly by the U.S. Department of State and Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the CDOC, describes the training center’s mission as offering correctional programs “to assist nations, particularly those in conflict, emerging from conflict, and emerging democracies so that they may develop and sustain the capacities to operate prisons and correctional systems that are safe, secure, humane, and transparent and conform to internationally accepted standards and norms.”
“I took notes. This has been very good for me,” said Afghan Gen. Mazare Sharafi, who oversees 210 jails and prisons, when interviewed by The Denver Post in September 2012. “We’ll make changes. The people who came here will become trainers in my country.”
For their part, the British spent $6.5 million to help build the Helmand Central Prison in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, complete with air conditioning, refrigerators and computer systems. According to Gen. Sharafi, the U.S. has also spent millions of dollars to build an isolation wing at a prison in Kabul.
The Helmand prison was the first phase of what The New York Times referred to as “an ambitious complex” that includes a jail for juveniles, a women’s prison and a rehab facility.
“If we, the Afghan officials, stop preying on prisoners and using the prison as a source of money making,” said Helmand’s warden, Gen. Bismullah Hamid, “then every prison in Afghanistan will become like the Helmand central jail.”
Ironically, the ICMTC may have also unwittingly become a freedom-seeking conduit for two allegedly high-ranking Afghan prison officials who walked away from the training center on separate occasions on the pretense of going for cigarettes. One was caught while the other remained at large as recently as November 3, 2014.
“There is absolutely no reason to believe they would be involved in any terrorist activity or any wrongdoing at all,” maintained CDOC spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson. She said the State Department had conducted background checks and cleared both of the men before they entered the country on temporary visas.
Jacobson refused to disclose the names of the Afghan officials who absconded, citing concerns that they and their family members could face repercussions in Afghanistan if their identities were revealed.
“Disclosure of the names and likenesses of any of the participants ... could result in their being harassed, threatened, intimidated, and/or could otherwise compromise their safety and the safety of their families,” Jacobson wrote in an email to The Denver Post.
The first Afghan to flee from the ICMTC was seen running away on September 30, 2013. Emails obtained by the Post suggested that he was captured while trying to enter Canada. Investigators questioned other members of the Afghan prison training team but they offered no reason why the man had left, reporting only that he “was not a very social person and kept to himself.”
The second member of the Afghan team fled on February 6, 2014. Officials said that according to surveillance video, he left the center wearing a dark jacket and pants but left behind a suitcase and clothes.
Those incidents are the latest involving Afghan officials attending U.S. training facilities. In September 2013, three Afghan soldiers – Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar – disappeared during a “cultural exercise” trip to a shopping mall near Boston, Massachusetts. The soldiers, who were attending U.S. Army-sponsored training designed to strengthen ties between the two nations, were later apprehended when they tried to illegally enter Canada.
Sources: Denver Post, The New York Times, www.nationalcia.org
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