The South Asia Channel

Afghan panel confirms widespread torture in prisons

Afghan panel confirms widespread torture in prisons

Event Notice: Please join the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program TODAY at 1:30 PM for a conversation with Max Boot, the author of the new book Invisible Armies: An Epic History or Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (NAF).

The bad news

An Afghan government panel on Monday confirmed the widespread torture of detainees in Afghan prisons, after a two-week investigation into a United Nations report that found such abuse was happening (NYT, Tel, AP). Afghan investigators found that nearly half of the 284 prisoners interviewed had been tortured, and many had not been given access to a lawyer. But the official who announced the findings denied that the abuse was a "systematic" problem.

U.S. and Pakistani officials said Monday that the United States has begun shipping equipment out of Afghanistan using land routes through Pakistan (AFP, AP). The U.S. military reportedly sent its first 50 shipping containers to the Pakistani port city of Karachi over the weekend.

Senior U.S. officials have reportedly said that the Pentagon favors a plan that would leave 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after NATO’s combat mission ends at the end of 2014, but that those troops would slowly be reduced over the following two years (Post). The proposal appears to offer a compromise between the U.S. military’s recommendation to keep around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the White House’s desire to see far fewer U.S. soldiers on the ground there after 2014.

Long distance trial

Ali Rehman, a man accused by the United States of helping an elderly Pakistani imam, Hafiz Khan, to funnel thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban, testified via video feed from Islamabad on Monday that the money was not for terrorism-related activities (AP). Rehman was the first of 11 people expected to testify from Pakistan in the trial of Florida imam Hafiz Khan, who could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of the four terrorism charges against him.

Ten suspected militants were killed Monday during clashes between rival militant groups Ansarul Islam (AI) and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley (ET). The TTP has reportedly included an American and a Briton in a slideshow of martyred fighters released on February 6, which also eulogizes former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (AFP). The U.S. Navy SEAL who fired the kill shots on Osama bin Laden during a raid on his compound in May 2011 has described the experience to a reporter, and also said that he and his family are now living without health insurance or a steady income (Esquire).

Finally, Pakistan’s military successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable short-range missile on Monday (Dawn).

Barn house schools

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary ordered an investigation Monday into the country’s "ghost schools," where teachers do not teach classes but still collect salaries from the government, and the buildings are often occupied by animals instead (AFP).

— Jennifer Rowland