Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doing Jihad

That was some street party. It made a lot of people very happy. Almost five hundred, in fact. Who were most dissatisfied with the lodgings they were placed in that kept them too tied up to attend to the kind of dedicated and comprehensive activities they far preferred to be involved with. Little did they know that a little conspiracy was afoot, courtesy of government auspices and their happy-club, to free them from the inconvenience of bars and release them back to the activities they love best.

"The most astonishing thing" ,trumpeted the Taliban was that their carefully planned and executed route to the outside world for the politically-motivated inhabitants of Sarpoza prison in Kandahar City went serenely undetected for the many hours it took to void the cells of their prisoners. Astonishing too that the prison break-out might not have concluded so successfully had its planners-and-executors not been in possession of keys to the prison cells.

"They were just sleeping. They are always intoxicated, smoking heroin, smoking hashish, or sleeping", one of the escapees said dismissively of the prison guards who had no inkling, not the merest suspicion over the course of the night that anything amiss was occurring. The soundless and hushed exercise where Taliban members went about the political wing of the prison to awaken and hustle prisoners down into the escape tunnel escaped their notice.

These are the very guards who received careful and detailed training by experienced Canadian correctional services agents, to teach them the fine points of prisoners' rights, and the lawful and effective manner in which their profession should be practised. Correctional Services Canada had a number of officials regularly travel to Afghanistan to monitor the process.

Canada invested several millions in physical upgrades to the building.

And additional funding to the overhauling of the insecure and previously incompetent professionalism of Sarpoza's staff guards. This was seen as a huge improvement over the situation that prevailed a few years earlier when an earlier prison break-out occurred. Like everything else in Afghanistan, considering the corruption of the government, the national police and the armed forces, outside sources cannot compensate for a cultural lack of commitment.

The Taliban, determined to recover what they consider rightfully theirs by conquest, have not been idle in the face of NATO's recent successes. They planned well, but could not possibly have conducted the operation as successfully as they did without inside help. And despite the declarations of the Afghan government spokesman after the fact, there were obviously those in high places who were complicit.

How is it possible that over a period of five months' excavation work, the resulting tons of soil carted off in trucks and even on donkeys went unnoticed? A tunnel 320 metres long - a full kilometer - that went under a major highway and the outer prison wall, directly into the prison itself would result in an awful lot of excavated soil to be disposed of. And considering that the tunnel was 2 meters wide by 2.5 tall, even more so.

The start of the tunnel was inside a metal-making shop that came in handy to produce metal bars to bulwark the tunnel under the highway. That's a lot of heavy labour for a team of 18 men; and no one noticed...? The tunnel was ventilated with fans, electrified for light, and nothing irregular was noted? The tumult of almost five hundred men being suddenly notified that freedom was at hand, just fellow me - not heard, not seen, not spoken of.

And the deputy intelligence chief in Kandahar, who obviously has the title, but no inkling of what intelligence might actually consist of in its gathering potential and vital importance, moans that "this will have a negative effect on Kandahar's security situation." Yes, it most definitely will, given that some one hundred and more of the escapees represented high-value Taliban chiefs.

Abdul Wahab Salihi, the deputy intelligence chief in Kandahar may claim to be upset about the misfortune that has befallen the prison, but the escapees clearly are elated: "I have been doing jihad for 10 years. I will fight again, I will fight again."

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