News Release

U.S. Night Raids in Afghanistan


Based in Afghanistan, Gopal has just published the results of an investigation in and The Nation magazine, “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons.”

He writes: “Sometime in the last few years, Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan’s rugged heartland began to lose faith in the American project. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of the night, when most of the country was fast asleep. In the secretive U.S. detentions process, suspects are usually nabbed in the darkness and then sent to one of a number of detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families. …”

Gopal reports on a team of U.S. troops, “most of them tattooed and bearded,” who came at 3 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2009 and broke into the Ghazni city home of Majidullah Qarar, the spokesman for the Minister of Agriculture, killing two of his visiting relatives before taking away Habib-ur-Rahman, a computer programmer and government employee, and another cousin, to one of the secret detention centers on a nearby U.S. military base. “After two days, U.S. forces released Rahman’s cousin. But Rahman has not been seen or heard from since.”

Writes Gopal: “Night raids are only the first step in the American detention process in Afghanistan. Suspects are usually sent to one among a series of prisons on U.S. military bases around the country. There are officially nine such jails, called Field Detention Sites in military parlance. They are small holding areas, often just a clutch of cells divided by plywood, and are mainly used for prisoner interrogation.

“In the early years of the war, these were but way stations for those en route to Bagram prison, a facility with a notorious reputation for abusive behavior. As a spotlight of international attention fell on Bagram in recent years, wardens there cleaned up their act and the mistreatment of prisoners began to shift to the little-noticed Field Detention Sites.

“Of the 24 former detainees interviewed for this story, 17 claim to have been abused at or en route to these sites. Doctors, government officials, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, a body tasked with investigating abuse claims, corroborate 12 of these claims.”

Gopal has reported in Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. He is currently working on a book about the Afghan war. The research for this story was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167