Some detainees will remain at Guantánamo who are not candidates for trial, but who were captured during military operations in Afghanistan and may represent a threat to coalition forces still fighting in that country if they are released. The next administration should transfer this group back to Afghanistan and hold them in a NATO-controlled detention program along with prisoners captured by coalition forces during ongoing military operations.
Neither the Americans nor the Afghans have proven to be particularly good jailors, and it is time they gave up exclusive control of this mission. The international coalition of military forces in Afghanistan is NATO-led; it should not require a significant change in mission to shift responsibility for detainee operations from American to NATO control.
Some of the fiercest criticisms of the Bush administration’s detainee policies have emanated from NATO governments. Placing command of all coalition detainee operations in Afghanistan under the authority of NATO is therefore an opportunity for the alliance to demonstrate that it can deliver better results than the Americans. With the largest number of troops in Afghanistan, the United States should have a meaningful role in the oversight of detainee operations, but the ultimate authority will reside with the leadership of the NATO forces.
This process will have to receive the approval of NATO and the Afghan government, and be completed with the cooperation and assistance of the International Red Cross to ensure that it is consistent with America’s obligations as the detaining power. If those agreements can be reached, and these last detainees satisfy the requirements of international law, then they can be transferred out of Guantánamo and the prison camp can finally be closed.
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