5 years, 11 months ago
Approximately three years ago the Taliban broke more than 1000 prisoners out of a prison near Kandahar, including some 400 Taliban fighters. It’s happened again with more than 450 insurgents, but this time as a function of an innovative plan from both the inside and outside.
The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville said prisoners did not break out but in fact people outside broke into the jail.
More than 470 inmates at a prison in southern Afghanistan have escaped through a tunnel hundreds of metres long and dug from outside the jail.
Officials in the city of Kandahar said many of those who escaped from Sarposa jail were Taliban insurgents.
The Kandahar provincial governor’s office said at least 12 had since been recaptured but gave no further details.
A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the escape was a “disaster” which should never have happened.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said it had taken five months to build the 360m (1,180ft) tunnel to a cell within the political wing.
He said it was dug from a house north-east of the prison that was rented by “friends” of the Taliban, and had to bypass security checkpoints and the main Kandahar-Kabul road.
About 100 of those who escaped were Taliban commanders, he added. Most of the others are thought to have been insurgents. The prison holds about 1,200 inmates.
“A tunnel hundreds of metres long was dug from the south of the prison into the prison and 476 political prisoners escaped last night,” said prison director General Ghulam Dastageer Mayar.
One escapee told the BBC it had taken him about 30 minutes to walk the length of the tunnel. The escape took most of the night and vehicles were waiting at the exit point to take prisoners away.
Kandahar’s provincial authorities said a search operation was under way.
So far, only about a dozen of the prisoners have been recaptured. Police said they were looking for men without shoes – many escaped barefoot.
The jailbreak is the second major escape from the prison in three years.
In June 2008 a suicide bomber blew open the Kandahar prison gates and destroyed a nearby checkpoint, freeing about 900 prisoners, many of them suspected insurgents.
After that, millions of pounds were spent upgrading the prison. The 2008 breakout was followed by a major upsurge in violence.
The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says the escape is a further setback for security in the area, and for the fight against the insurgency.
“This is a blow,” Afghan presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said. “A prison break of this magnitude, of course, points to a vulnerability.”
The Afghan politician and former MP, Daoud Sultanzai, told the BBC that the escape exposed “the porousness of our security apparatus”.
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.
On another level, this is bad for the campaign in that it causes continued inability to trust anything associated with the Karzai regime, whether from ineptitude or malfeasance.