KABUL, Afghanistan — A commission appointed by President Hamid Karzai to investigate detention facilities run by U.S. and British forces in southern Afghanistan claimed today to have uncovered secret prisons on two coalition bases, an allegation that could not be immediately confirmed but that was likely to further complicate relations between the Afghan government and its allies.
“We have conducted a thorough investigation and search of Kandahar Airfield and Camp Bastion and found several illegal and unlawful detention facilities run and operated by foreign military forces,” said Abdul Shakur Dadras, the panel’s chairman.
Dadras offered no evidence to support his assertion, though he promised to release more details after presenting his report to Karzai.
Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for the Defense Department, wrote in an email, “Every facility that we use for detention is well known not only by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, but also by the ICRC,” a reference to the International Committee of the Red Cross, a nonpartisan organization that provides humanitarian care for victims of conflict.
The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the coalition is known, said in a statement today that it was “aware of their investigative team looking into the detention facilities in Kandahar and Helmand and we are cooperating fully with the investigation on this matter.”
The accusations are the latest salvo in a dispute over the detention of Afghans by foreign forces. The issue reached a climax early this year, when the Afghan government released from the former U.S. prison at Bagram dozens of prisoners the coalition claimed had killed U.S. soldiers.
Before that, the transfer of the prison itself called attention to the deteriorating relationship between the Afghans and their U.S. allies in a public way.
The U.S. has accused the Afghan government of using the issue to score political points. The Afghans say the foreigners have unfairly imprisoned people without credible evidence and insist that they run all detention facilities in the country.
Dadras said his team was sent to the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand to review the prisons on two coalition bases, Kandahar Airfield, run by the United States, and Camp Bastion, run by the British.