This story in today’s Washington Post won’t get the attention it would garner if it dealt with Guantanamo, but put it in the category of Very Important if True. According to Post reporters Peter Finn and Julie Tate,
The Obama administration is considering the repatriation of most, if not all, of the non-Afghan detainees held at the main American-run prison in Afghanistan, an effort to oversee their transfer before U.S. officials relinquish control of the facility, according to administration officials.
The foreign prisoners, who number close to 50, were in some cases picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan and in others detained in third countries and taken to the prison by the CIA, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
. . .
In early January, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the United States to turn Parwan over to his government. U.S. officials had said two years ago that they expected the prison would be turned over in early 2012.
While Karzai apparently regarded that as a hard deadline, U.S. officials said it was always contingent on Afghanistan’s “demonstrated capacity” to manage the facility.
The prison now holds approximately 2,600 prisoners, up from the 600 held in 2009.
The reason it is important is that if one really wants the United States out of the detention business one ignores Parwan at considerable peril. While people make a fetish of Guantanamo, the Parwan population is–as this story reflects–much larger, and the problems associated with at least some of its population are quite intractable too. Yet here we see a two-pronged strategy for dealing with it: turning over the facility itself to the Afghans and repatriating most or all of the non-Afghan detainees. Both prongs of this strategy are going to be difficult to accomplish, and I am far from convinced that either can be navigated successfully. That said, the strategy itself is interesting.