Afagn Rules Force U.S. soldiers to Free Captured Enemies

Posted on April 12, 2011

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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.”

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.”

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.

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