‘Symbol of Government Strength’ Destroyed in Afghan Prison Break

The Taliban prison escape on April 25 served a tough blow to the Afghan government, with the nearly 500 escaped inmates compounding a history of poor security at the Saraposa prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A stigma hangs over the prison run by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Justice. It is a place that “has in recent years been chronically vulnerable and a symbol of the [Afghan] government’s ineffectiveness,” stated Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins in a Feb. 10 Department of Defense video conference, according to a Pentagon transcript.

The area was known for corruption. “Assassinations of investigators, bribery of prosecutors, intimidation of justices, and attacks upon witnesses have corrupted the system and obscured both evidence and law,” Martins said.

Its poor standing was totally shattered by a 2008 attack in broad daylight that freed up to 900 inmates, including almost 390 Taliban prisoners. Among them were high-ranking field commanders in charge of organizing suicide attacks, according to a report from the Refugee Documentation Centre, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mending the tarnished image of Saraposa prison and the surrounding area became a focus over the years. Barracks were set up for guards to be on station 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Western trainers and advisers were assigned there, and coalition forces nearby were on-call with Afghan National Police.

The area was placed under a rule-of-law green zone secured by “projecting criminal justice, as well as mediation and civil-dispute resolution, to outlying districts,” Martins said.

Three years later, efforts were finally beginning to pay off. On Feb. 10, Martins stated firmly, that Saraposa “has now become a hard-won symbol of government strength now under the rule of law.”

He added that the prison set a model “we’re seeking to help replicate in other areas around Afghanistan.”

Read the full story here.