Media Shoots Imagery at Afghan Detention Facility

Joint Task Force 435
PARWAN, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2010 – News media representatives were permitted to take video and still photos Aug. 27 at the detention facility here for the first time since it became operational in December 2009.

Coalition and Afghan military and civilian leaders, news media and human rights organizations have previously toured the facility but had never been permitted to shoot photos and record video because of a Defense Department policy, which recently changed.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
An Afghan guard and a U.S. Army soldier work together at the detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan, Aug. 23, 2010. On Aug. 27, 2010, news media representatives were permitted to take video and still photos at the facility for the first time since it became operational in December 2009. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"The change in the documentation policy enables a level of transparency that did not previously exist, countering negative perceptions with truthful, accurate images," said Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Joint Task Force 435’s commander. The admiral has command, control, oversight and responsibility for U.S. detention and correction operations in Afghanistan.

"Joint Task Force 435 is proud of the facility and the important mission our people areresponsible for doing every day," Harward said. "We are committed to transparency at all levels of the detention operations mission and welcome the opportunity to show that we are conducting operations in accordance with international law and providing appropriate treatment and care to all detainees.&rdquo

The Parwan facility will transition to the Afghans beginning January 2011.

Some restrictions on photography and videography remain, officials said, due to security or safety considerations. These restrictions, they added, are in place to protect detainees, the facility and its personnel by not revealing security measures or procedures. Photos or video in which detainees are recognizable are not authorized and are deleted as part of the security review.

"I am exceptionally proud of the work this task force does every day, providing humane, respectful care to those in our custody," Harward said. "I welcome this opportunity to show what it is really like inside the detention facility in Parwan. These truthful, accurate images of our operations help to mitigate false accusations and perceptions that may otherwise fuel the insurgent cause."

The detention facility’s design allows for safe, humane and effective management of the population, and allows willing detainees to participate in group activities and educational programs, officials said. It is equipped with modern medical facilities, an on-site family visitation area, video teleconferencing capability, large recreation areas, vocational technical and education classrooms, and additional space to conduct legal proceedings.

The detention facility was completed in September 2009 and became fully operational in late December 2009. The facility’s design accommodates detainee reintegration efforts and enables JTF 435 to better align detainee operations with the overall strategy to defeat the extremist insurgency in Afghanistan.

The facility currently is designed to house about 1,300 detainees.

Three additional detainee housing units are being constructed, with an expected delivery date of March 2011. These units will be completely staffed and managed by Afghan authorities and will increase the overall capacity of the Parwan facility by nearly 1,000.

The facility is operated by more than 1,200 professionals from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with trained guards, expert medical personnel and legal support. More than 700 Afghan National Army military police soldiers are currently training to augment the guard force and more than 100 are fully trained and standing guard duty inside the facility with their American counterparts. JTF 435 is actively partnering with Afghan forces in preparation for the responsible transfer of military detention operations to the Afghanistan government .

Once transferred, the detention facility will become part of a larger Afghan Justice Center in Parwan, which will become Afghanistan’s central location for the pre-trial detention, prosecution and post-trial incarceration of national security suspects. This transfer is consistent with the memorandum of agreement signed by the pertinent Afghan ministries on Jan. 9.