Bagram Eyed as Latest ‘New Guantanamo’

Afghan Prison Would Keep Detainees in Legal Limbo

First it was Hardin, Montana, then it was Standish, Michigan. Thomson, Illinois won the Gitmo sweepstakes formally, and officials are planning to buy their empty prison even though the odds of it ever being used are looking pretty long.

But the Obama Administration is bound and determined to eventually fulfill their campaign promise to close Guantanamo’s detention facility, even if they have to betray the reasons behind its closure entirely and simply transplant the extralegal detention center somewhere else. Enter Bagram Air Base.

Bagram, the former base of operations for the Soviet occupation and currently among the bases of operations for the NATO occupation, has already been well established over the past eight years as a legal black hole for detainees.

The Bush Administration and later the Obama Administration have argued that the detainees at Bagram have even fewer rights than those held at Guantanamo Bay, and there are already some US court decisions supporting the position that the government can hold detainees at Bagram forever without explanation, without charges, and without any legal recourse.

It isn’t hard to imagine why the Obama Administration, facing political fallout from the notion that relocating the Gitmo detainees and charging them with actual crimes is an outrage, is examining the prospect of moving the captives from an island prison off the coast of Florida to a prison in a landlocked nation on the other side of the planet. Not everyone is happy though.

In addition to the usual opponents of this sort of policy, Gen. McChrystal, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, is reportedly concerned about administration plans to use Bagram to house detainees that have nothing to do with the Afghan War. It seems that it will make his job more difficult, moreover, when the time comes to explain to Afghans how the pretense of a temporary occupation can be maintained when the nation is being used to house detainees who the administration has also clearly said will be held for the rest of their lives.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.