One of the reasons cited for closing the prison at Guantanamo has been that the terrorists held there should be repatriated to their home countries. In theory that is a great idea–why should we pay the kind of money we are paying to provide soccer fields, special food, and flat screen televisions for terrorists? The jails in their home countries are much more in line with the punishment they deserve. Unfortunately, there are some problems with that idea. These problems were illustrated by some recent news stories.
Reuters has posted two stories recently about jailbreaks in Pakistan and Iraq where the Taliban freed terrorists inmates. (July 30, and July 23)
The July 30 story is about a jail break in Pakistan where the Taliban freed 250 prisoners. That article reported:
The attack in the city of Dera Ismail Khan showed the ability of the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s heavily guarded prison system and walk away with dozens of senior Taliban fighters and commanders.
The overnight assault on the Central Prison took place despite reports that regional officials had received intelligence days, if not weeks, ago suggesting such an attack was imminent.
Officials blamed a combination of negligence and lack of communication among Pakistan’s many security agencies, but some suggested there may have been a degree of insider help.
The July 23 story deals with an attack on two Iraqi prisons that freed 500 inmates. The July 23 story reports:
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formed earlier this year through a merger of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq, said it had stormed Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib jail and another, some 20 km (12 miles) north of capital, after months of preparation.
Monday’s attacks came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launched a “Breaking the Walls” campaign that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, the group said in a statement.
Sunni Islamist militants have in recent months been regaining momentum in their insurgency against Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, which came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
The group said it had deployed suicide attackers, rockets, and 12 car bombs, killing 120 Iraqi guards and SWAT forces in the attacks in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.
One interesting aspect of the Iraqi prison break is contained in the first sentence of the above quote, “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formed earlier this year through a merger of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria and Iraq…” This is what has happened in Iraq because we did not negotiate a withdrawal that included enough American forces to prevent a civil war.
But beyond that, let’s look at what happened. Al Qaeda is reconstructing itself because there is a very limited American presence (and thus, influence) in the areas of Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda needs foot soldiers–the leaders are somewhat expendable. The foot soldiers carry out the suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. The leaders of Al Qaeda do not do a lot of the work–they simply generate propaganda and supervise the suicide missions. As long as there are young men and women who are willing to undertake these suicide missions, the missions will continue. Al Qaeda has claimed that the attacks on the prisons in Pakistan and Iraq freed 750 prisoners. In those prison attacks, Al Qaeda just gained 750 foot soldiers. No wonder our embassies in the Middle East are shut down.
How much of this story have you seen in the American media?