Monday's break-out of Taliban prisoners from Kandahar’s main prison was "a blow to Afghan and American efforts to secure and modernize the Sarposa prison, which stands adjacent to a new U.S.-funded “rule of law” center to process prosecutions," according to the WaPo.
I'll say it was. There ought to be plenty of egg on lots of faces. The only thing that could make it worse would be if we found out USAID indirectly funded the construction of the tunnel.
That's not as improbable as it might seem. The tunneling began in a construction compound outside the prison, and the tunnelers needed serious tools for digging, materials to brace up the tunnel, trucks to dispose of the excavated dirt, instruments to track the position and guide the direction of the tunnel so that it came up inside a cell in the political section of the prison, etc. What are the odds that those industrious Talibs acquired at least some of that equipment and expertise from the many U.S.-funded construction jobs that were going on all around them during the four or five months they were working? I'd say pretty good.
There are some interesting details about this insurgent infrastructure project here:
The starting point was a compound directly opposite the prison that from the outside looked like any one of hundreds of building companies that have popped up in areas awash with reconstruction dollars.
But the metal and concrete beams made there were not for building US-sponsored projects. Instead they were used to support a part of the tunnel that went directly underneath a section of Afghanistan’s most important road: the stretch of Highway One running between the cities of Kandahar and Herat.
According to one of the escapees (whose numbers could dramatically tip the odds in favour of the insurgents on the eve of this year’s “fighting season”), the tunnel was of sufficient diameter and high enough for the prisoners to stand upright for most of their walk to freedom.
Sections were lit by electric light and ventilated with fans, he said.
Bad as this break-out was, there have been worse, including at that same prison:
In the Middle East and Central Asia, when suspected militants go to jail, they don't necessarily stay there. This was very much in evidence this week when the Taliban built 1,000 feet of underground tunnels (shown above) to free nearly half the prisoners at the Sarposa prison in Kandahar. It was a brazen feat to be sure, though not even the largest break in the history of that prison.
That honor goes to the 2009 Taliban raid that freed nearly 1,200 prisoners from Sarposa, including 350 Taliban members. That break involved two truck bombs crashing into the front gates followed a group of fighters armed with RGPs and automatic rifles. Security upgrades were made after the attack and an American military officer told reporters just this year that the only way to break in would be would be to “put a nuke on a motorcycle.” Or, you know, build a really long tunnel -- a method that was a pop culture cliché by 1963.
Foreign Policy's blog has an entertaining look back at some of the Great Prison Breaks of the War on Terror today. Read about them here.