McChrystal’s Chief Detentions Officer: ‘All Detainees Under My Command’ Have Red Cross Access
Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a former senior officer with the Joint Special Operations Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command, arrived in Afghanistan in late November to take charge of detention operations for his longtime colleague, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. In those two months — his command formally stood up on Jan. 8 — Harward took the dramatic step of inking a deal with the Afghan government to transition responsibility for the infamous U.S. prison at Bagram Air Field to Afghan authorities over the next several months. It’s expected to turn over to the Ministry of Defense by 2011.
But there’s a lingering challenge facing Harward. Around the time he arrived in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported that the Joint Special Operations Command retains a detention facility off-limits to the Red Cross that human rights organizations and ex-detainees call the “Black Jail.” McChrystal wasn’t asked about it in his Congressional testimony last month. But in response to a question from TWI during a conference call with bloggers this morning, Harward said unequivocally that “all detainees under my command have access to the International [Committee of the] Red Cross.” The admiral suggested that The Times may have misconstrued “field detention sites” where detainees are initially in-processed for “a very short period” before transfer to detention facilities like the Parwan facility at Bagram, since the locations are undisclosed for operational security reasons.
“There are no black-jail secret prisons,” Harward said. “We do have field detention sites we do not disclose, but they’re held there for very short periods, and then they’re moved — if they’re determined to need additional internment, they’re moved to the detention facility at Parwan or released.”