Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A self inflicted wound:
That the option of detaining suspects captured outside Afghanistan at Bagram is being contemplated reflects a recognition by the Obama administration that it has few other places to hold and interrogate foreign prisoners without giving them access to the U.S. court system, the officials said.

Without a location outside the United States for sending prisoners, the administration must resort to turning the suspects over to foreign governments, bringing them to the U.S. or even killing them.

In one case last year, U.S. special operations forces killed an Al Qaeda-linked suspect named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in a helicopter attack in southern Somalia rather than trying to capture him, a U.S. official said. Officials had debated trying to take him alive but decided against doing so in part because of uncertainty over where to hold him, the official added.

U.S. officials find such options unappealing for handling suspects they want to question but lack the evidence to prosecute. For such suspects, a facility such as Bagram, north of Kabul, remains necessary, officials said, even as they acknowledged that having it in Afghanistan could complicate McCrystal's mission.

The Obama administration has really backed itself into a corner here. It committed to closing Guantanamo without really thinking though the options, as highlighted by Holder's ridiculous comments last week. The Bagram option pointedly identifies Gitmo's true advantage--a complete lack of local considerations restricting US options. Obama's position will probably increase the use of rendition, and decrease in the intelligence gathered due to the apparent assassination policy.
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