Jirgas and Release of Taliban Prisoners

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

The pitiful Hamid Karzai had a peace jirga in June.  Astonishingly, it appears that it wasn’t very successful.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s peace jirga earlier this month was pretty close to a bust. Powerful northern rivals were conspicuously absent, as were the Taliban, who instead dispatched a pair of suicide bombers to disturb the proceedings, detonating not far from where the conference took place. The violence, however, overshadowed a rare moment of unity among influential lawmakers and elders: a full-throated call to release of hundreds of prisoners, possibly even including Taliban, languishing in Afghan and U.S. military jails.

In yet another affirmation of his will to end the Taliban-led insurgency through compromise rather than the end of a gun, the President said the jirga’s demand compelled him to act quickly to free those prisoners who might oppose his government but have not been convicted of alleged crimes. The goal, he went on, was to build goodwill with “disenchanted people” in league with the Taliban.

Shortly after the jirga, Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghan intelligence agency NDS, resigned. It was widely believed that he had been browbeaten by Karzai for the security lapse that allowed the suicide bombers to be so close to the jirga. But Saleh had long bristled at what he viewed as Karzai’s tendency to appease the Taliban for political gain; in fact, he had called the prisoner-release idea a “disgrace” that amounts to “negotiating with suicide bombers.”

Later in June, fourteen Taliban prisoners were released as part of this agreement, and another twenty eight have been released just in the last several days.  In fact, this is only the beginning.  The flood gates could soon open, culminating in the release of as many as a thousand Taliban.

The head of Afghanistan’s most notorious prison says nearly 1,000 Taliban inmates could be freed from Pul-e-Charki prison as part of an amnesty deal offered by Hamid Karzai’s government.

The figure, revealed by General Abdulbakhi Behsudi, the warden of Afghanistan’s largest prison, in an interview with The Globe And Mail, suggests the potential breath of the prisoner release ordered under the terms of a controversial resolution issued by Afghanistan’s peace jirga, an assembly of tribal elders convened last week to pave the path for negotiations with the Taliban.

On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai ordered the creation of a special delegation to review the cases of Taliban inmates “imprisoned without sufficient evidence,” the first move toward a widespread prisoner release that could involve amnesty for thousands of jailed insurgents across Afghanistan …

Mr. Behsudi keeps a collection of evidence confiscated from these inmates in a locked glass cabinet, proof, he said, of their intractable criminal minds.

There are dozens of battered cellphones used to issue orders for suicide bombings; $1-million worth of heroin and hash buried inside the soles of shoes, stuffed inside a hairbrush, and lining a false-bottomed cooking pot. There is a braided rubber whip seized from cellblock D, used by the insurgents to punish any inmate who crossed them.

“These people will never be loyal to the government because they are dark thinkers, they think dark things,” said Mr. Behsudi, a heavy-set man dressed in crisp army fatigues, brandishing a sword confiscated from a prisoner’s bed.

Pul-e-Charki has about 4,620 inmates, he said, with the Taliban forming the most cohesive category of prisoners. Only a small fraction of those – the ones caught with “a smoking gun” – would be exempt from Mr. Karzai’s proposed amnesty.

While we are attempting to separate the insurgents from the population, go to great (and deadly) lengths to avoid collateral damage when fighting the insurgents, and have many thousands of American warriors deployed in theater to protect the population and kill the insurgents, Karzai is releasing them back into the population to start all over again.

With “friends” like this, who needs enemies?

  • Warbucks

    Another take on the same scenario is the “purification ritual” before the blood sacrifice. The alter of Karzai’s conscience is first purified by a granting of leniency (release of prisoners). The purification process requires that Karzai communicate to the enemy the desired outcome (non-violence) and sacrifice (release of prisoners).

    Karzai is now purged and purified and is now without sin and is fried to extract the highest levels of retribution for non-compliance of the intended beneficiaries of the ritual (his former enemy).

    The process is completed by escalated retribution measure out upon the enemy. Clues to this internalized process would likely be evidence of elevated ruthlessness by secrete, elite forces such as the rumored Afghanistan commandos now in early phases of training.

    While your interpretation is most likely correct, keep an eye out for other clues.

  • Warbucks

    Darn a typo…. “and is fried to extract” should have been …”and is freed to extract…”

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    There will be no retribution for anything. Karzai is a snivelling lackey. Remember. Karzai is the one who said to Mullah Omar, “come home, my dear.”

  • Pingback: Democracy and Society » With friends like these…()

  • Warbucks

    You are of course, most probably right. The alternative scenario I offered has a low likelihood. I just like to fit patterns to possibilities and investigate their chances.

    Here is a USIP seminar that can be watched on line apparently tomorrow:
    Webcast: You may participate in this event in two ways. You can register to attend the event, or you may watch the live webcast beginning at 9:00am EDT on June 24, 2010 at http://www.usip.org/webcast.

    High-Value Resource Contracts, Conflict, and Peace in Afghanistan

    July 14, 2010, 10:00am-11:30am

    U.S. Institute of Peace
    2nd floor
    1200 17th Street NW
    Washington, DC 20036

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Prisons in Counterinsurgency and was published July 12th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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