Recon Marine Cpl. Todd Love (above) got a hero's welcome in his hometown of Acworth, Georgia this week. Love lost both legs and his left arm in an IED explosion in Afghanistan a few months ago. The Washington Examiner story below by Sara Carter tells us that even if US forces had photographed the bomber in the act and captured him with bomb traces on his hands, they would then have had to feed him, clothe him ... and let him go.
This is another Afghanistan scandal that should get Congress pounding tables and demanding answers from the Pentagon and the White House. It should get readers doing the same. After all, we pay $350 million a day for this.
Several Taliban detainees who had been captured in February after being observed placing bombs in the culverts of roads used by civilians and military convoys near Kandahar were fed, given medical treatment, then released by American troops frustrated by a policy they say is forcing them to kick loose enemies who are trying to kill them.
Despite what American soldiers say was a mountain of evidence, which included a video of the men planting the bomb and chemical traces found on their hands, there was nothing the soldiers who had captured them could do but feed and care for them for 96 hours and then set them free.
In another incident, members of a unit attached to 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment survived an attack by a suicide bomber on their convoy when his device failed to detonate. Soldiers managed to capture the would-be martyr, but he too was released after being held for four days.
"We put our lives on the line to capture the enemy," a soldier with the Stryker regiment told The Washington Examiner. "Since my deployment, every insurgent we've captured has been released."
Since my deployment, every insurgent we've captured has been released."
International Security Assistance Forces officials contacted by The Examiner admitted that releases like these were common. The officials said ISAF forces can hold detainees for up to 96 hours, during which time detainees are "screened and a decision is made whether to release the individual, transfer them to appropriate Afghan authorities, or to the detention facility in Parwan [at Bagram Air Base]."
ISAF spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian said things are expected to change. He said Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior, supported by Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, is implementing a system for fingerprinting captured insurgents.
"This program is going to make a huge difference, dramatically reducing insurgents' ability to hide among the general population," he said. "It will also improve the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to gather evidence of insurgent activity that will hold up in court."
Since when do soldiers have to gather "evidence" on their enemies? Welcome to COIN.
However, the program is not yet operational. Like many plans associated with the Afghan war, there are many potential setbacks ahead.
Troops say top commander Gen. David Petraeus has not fulfilled promises he made to Congress last year to review and, where appropriate, change rules of engagement that have restricted troops' ability to stop the enemy.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. promised that ISAF would have control of at least 40 Afghan districts by the end of 2010. That promise also was not met.
Troops say it's impossible to hold the terrain when insurgents know that, if captured, they cannot be held.
The policy of releasing insurgents is expected to continue for now, officials said.
The Afghan legal system has no Western-style standards of prosecution that would allow suspected Taliban to be held in civil detention, ISAF officials said.
Um, the Afghan legal system (sharia-based) has no Western-style standards of anythiing.
"While there may be ample evidence to detain an individual, the same evidence may be insufficient to obtain an indictment or bring the detainee to an evidence-based trial," Dorrian said. "In other instances, individuals may be detained based on legitimate intelligence, but the intelligence may be classified and thus not able to be presented in open court. In some instances, this results in the individual being released."
ISAF general staff meeting.
James Carafano, senior defense analyst for the Heritage Foundation, said releasing suspected insurgents is not only a problem for U.S. troops but civilians who have been tormented under Taliban rule.
"The real issue is what is the right thing to do?" Carafano said. "Putting Taliban fighters back in the field who may kill or terrorize Afghan civilians as easily as U.S. soldiers is never the right thing to do. The U.S. troops will not be there forever --
-- and local officials need to start thinking about the long-term interests of their own people."
American troops say the policy is a morale killer.
How about just plain "killer"?
They say the inability to hold suspected insurgents is one of the reasons why the U.S. has been unable to suppress the Taliban.
Detainees can be held at various field detention facilities throughout Afghanistan. "Capacity is not an issue as to whether an individual remains detained," an ISAF official stated.
"How much more evidence do you need when they are captured on video and tested positive for ... chemicals on their hand?" a military official in Afghanistan said. "That's not enough evidence for our forces to transfer the detainees to a permanent facility before they try to kill U.S. troops again? It's unacceptable."
So don't accept it.