Foreign Policy Blogs

Bagram Prison and Obama's Gitmo Policy Change

081213-f-9433m-001.JPGAmid all the hullabaloo around Obama's decision to shut down Gitmo within one year, is Gitmo's brother, the Bagram Air Base prison in Afghanistan. The air base is home to an important prison system that holds some of ‘worst of the worst’. The US considers the 600 or so inmates prisoners of war and holds them indefinitely and with no official charges. Most of these prisoners are Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, but some of them, suspected to be around 30, are brought there from other countries under more of a legal cloud.

Obama did not forget about this base during his executive order spree, but in fact ordered the defense department to perform a review of the situation in six months. After this report, it is likely Obama will make some changes. Closing Bagram's prison will be much more difficult to accomplish than Gitmo, and that's saying something, and would not be recommended. These prisoners are dangerous and it should be assumed that many of them will just go back and join the fight against the Afghan government and NATO forces. It is also accurate to assume that a small group of these prisoners may be a threat to US homelands.

oba.jpgNevertheless, it should be expected that Obama's administration will probably narrow the definition of enemy combatant under the Bush administration and this could open up Bagram's operations to greater scrutiny.

The Bagram prison is just one of many in the country holding insurgents and other criminals, and the US military has done a decent job moving inmates to these Afghan controlled holdings. However, Obama's troop build up will inevitably lead to more combat arrests and where these ‘fresh fish’ end up will be interesting to see. Before Obama came to office the Bush administration ordered a huge multi-million dollar expansion of the prison, which is reported to have more humane facilities for the inmates, and this may stave off some of the expected congestion, but it does not answer the now front and center question of who is an enemy combatant and what to do with them?

This is an important issue and I promise to keep my eye on future developments.

(1st Photo: 451st Air Expeditionary Group changes command at Bagram: Source: Bagram Air Base official site) (2nd Photo: Barack Obama in what looks like a 1950s black and white movie)



Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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