Monday, May 19, 2008

Prisons and the War on Terror

U.S. Planning Big New Prison in Afghanistan:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to build a new, 40-acre detention complex on the main American military base in Afghanistan, officials said, in a stark acknowledgment that the United States is likely to continue to hold prisoners overseas for years to come.

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Students of 3150 may remember our discussion of Bagram and its role as prison facility after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Now, the place has started to deteriorate and plans are under way for a new $60 million facility with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that will rival any prison state-side.
In its place the United States will build what officials described as a more modern and humane detention center that would usually accommodate about 600 detainees — or as many as 1,100 in a surge — and cost more than $60 million.

The new detention center at Bagram will incorporate some of the lessons learned by the United States in Iraq. Classrooms will be built for vocational training and religious discussion, and there will be more space for recreation and family visits, officials said.

The Pentagon is planning to use $60 million in emergency construction funds this fiscal year to build a complex of 6 to 10 semi-permanent structures resembling Quonset huts, each the size of a football field, a Defense Department official said. The structures will have more natural light, and each will have its own recreation area. There will be a half-dozen other buildings for administration, medical care and other purposes, the official said.

It will have its own perimeter security wall, and its own perimeter security guards, a change that will increase the number of soldiers required to operate the detention center.

The military plans to request $24 million in fiscal year 2009 and $7.4 million in fiscal year 2010 to pay for educational programs, job training and other parts of what American officials call a reintegration plan. After that, the Pentagon plans to pay about $7 million a year in training and operational costs.

As the "central front in the war on terror" moves from Iraq back to Afghanistan, I'm not so sure this isn't a wise investment. After years of making it up as they went along in the former Bagram airport hanger, where "harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used widely," this can only be seen as a sign that the military is taking its carceral role of "enemy combatants" more seriously.

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