Taliban leaders quietly freed without trial after paying off officials
June 5, 2012
American officers in Ghazni province say in several cases they have been powerless to prevent the release of insurgent figures despite strong evidence they were attacking coalition forces.
The men were released not as part of the judicial process, or as part of a formal reconciliation deal, but after corrupt officials had taken bribes worth the equivalent of thousands of pounds.
A former Afghan intelligence chief from the eastern province confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that the practice had been rife for some time.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have been sent to southern Ghazni this summer with just months to try and stabilise security and bolster the Afghan forces, before they pull out.
The Taliban have had free run of the area in recent years, installing their own shadow administration and staging attacks on military convoys using the highway running through Ghazni between Kabul and Kandahar.
Since the arrival of the American troops, seven paratroopers have been killed, mainly when their vehicles have been hit by huge homemade bombs dug into roads.
Attacks have dropped recently though, as large caches of small arms and ammunition, along with tons of fertiliser-based homemade explosives, have been seized - with many prisoners.
American policemen and federal agents attached as advisers to the paratroopers have been able to use police forensic and biometric techniques to strengthen the cases against those caught.
However the collected evidence has been ignored by officials intent on lining their own pockets by releasing prisoners.
"We are talking about people who may have American blood on their hands," complained one officer.
In one example, an insurgent caught in Muqur district on March 31 with eight homemade bombs was released two weeks later, after never facing trial.
In another, an insurgent gaoler who was seized in a raid on a clandestine Taliban prison which he ran was quietly released soon afterwards without consultation.
Of 20 prisoners taken in Muqur district since the 82nd Airborne arrived, it is unclear how many are still in custody.
When confronted, Afghan officials have said the men were wrongly held, or had sworn their innocence on the Koran. In at least one case American officials later found that sums of up to 600,000 Pakistani rupees (£4,200) had changed hands to gain the release of the prisoners.
In neighbouring Qarabagh district, officers said they had so far managed to keep custody of their biggest catches, but had to remain watchful of attempts to release them.
Those working alongside Afghan policemen and soldiers had to follow captives through the judicial system to prevent them disappearing.