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McChrystal Acknowledges Growth of Insurgency; Seems Tragically Ignorant of Why

Konar province, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan - US Army photoMcChrystal doesn’t understand why he is creating more terrorists.

In an article today, McClatchy describes the creation of a new task force to address the issue of al Qaeda presence in prisons in Afghanistan. The article quotes extensively from McChrystal’s recent strategic assessment of conditions in Afghanistan.

On one front, McChrystal does acknowledge the obvious:

"There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan," McChrystal wrote.

Shockingly, after eight years there, he also reports that nothing has been done to separate hardened terrorists from innocent detainees in these prisons:

McChrystal said that eight years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, there’s still no systematic way to separate al Qaida members from less radical prisoners and that al Qaida leaders have used the prison system to plot a number of high-profile terrorist attacks, including a 2008 assault on the Hotel Serena in Kabul, where Norwegian diplomats were housed. Six people were killed, including a Norwegian journalist.

McChrystal then comes perilously close to understanding where the problem lies:

The problem extends to the U.S.-operated Bagram Theater Internment Facility, where "productive interrogations and detainee intelligence collection have been reduced," and where "hundreds are held without charge or without a defined way a head [sic]."

But then, of course, McChrystal veers away from dealing with what creates new terrorists:

"This allows the enemy to radicalize them far beyond their pre-capture orientation," McChrystal wrote.

How on earth can McChrystal believe that it is "the enemy" who radicalizes the detainees when he is even admitting that we are holding prisoners without charges and without any process for evaluating whether or not they pose a terrorist risk?

As I pointed out in this diary, McChrystal played a role in some of the worst prisoner torture in Iraq and in the hiding of the worst Iraqi prisons from the ICRC. That diary also pointed out that one of McChrystal’s chief plans in coming into Afghanistan to "stabilize" it was to increase the number of people put into prisons there, with the foreknowledge that many innocents will be detained.

McChrystal has all of the pieces lying there in front of him to understand how new terrorists are created in Afghanistan, but he refuses to see how his personal policy of detaining innocent citizens, torturing them and then keeping them in prison with no hope of release is what radicalizes them far more than any indoctrination from fellow detainees. Further, as Matthew Alexander has pointed out with regard to Iraq, the knowledge of these practices serves to recruit even more terrorists from outside the area:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners.

I hold very little hope for the task force that is being created. The deputy commander announced in the McClatchy article is Army Brig. General Mark Martins, who was a member of the task force that tried to recommend to Obama that we still need a method to detain prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere with no prospect of filing charges. He also served as legal adviser to Petraeus on detainee issues in Iraq.

The only way for the task force to have any beneficial effect on reducing al Qaeda recruitment in Afghan prisons would be for them to immediately put into place a total ban on torture along with full due process in providing rapid access to impartial, independent judicial proceedings to determine whether sufficient grounds exist for detention of each prisoner. Freeing the innocent detainees, and having them report that all torture has stopped, also would reduce outside recruitment dramatically. However, the personal histories of McChrystal and Martins argue that this simply will not happen. Note that in his strategic assessment, McChrystal laments that "productive interrogations…have been reduced", which makes me think he wants to increase the amount of torture that "produces" information. Instead, detention of innocents will probably even increase and torture will continue to be covered up.

In failing to understand the role his personal policies play in producing more terrorists, McChrystal is demonstrating a stupidity that is brutal in its effects on innocents and tragic in its effects of producing further senseless violence.

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