Graham on United States-Afghanistan Detainee Agreement

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: March 9, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made these statements on the transfer of detainees from United States to Afghan control. Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Today's agreement regarding detainees begins to clear the path for a broader strategic partnership agreement between our two nations which will be the biggest accomplishment to secure Afghanistan in over a decade. The remaining issue left to be dealt with is the issue of night raids with Afghans in the lead, a vitally important military tactic which must be preserved.

"I applaud the successful efforts of Ambassador Crocker, General Allen, his staff, and other Administration officials, like Ambassador Grossman the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who have worked tirelessly to negotiate an agreement regarding future disposition of law-of-war detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. This has been an emotional and contentious topic for all concerned.

"The agreement signed today ensures detainees are not arbitrarily released to return to the battlefield and most importantly creates a double-key veto system where the U.S. commander has the ability to object to an individual detainee released that may pose a threat to Coalition Forces and the Afghan people.

"This is a sound and solid approach to detainee transfers, an issue I have been deeply involved in for over a year and a half. The agreement enhances Afghan sovereignty but with a robust check and balance system to protect Coalition Forces and continue to apply pressure to the insurgency.

"The Afghans have changed their law to allow for administrative detention of an insurgent engaged in hostile actions against Coalition Forces and the people of Afghanistan. Previously there was resistance to creation of a law-of-war system for insurgents requiring us to rely on a porous and undermanned Afghan criminal justice system that could not deal with intelligence generated cases.

"The adoption of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention, allowing for nations facing an insurgency to detain individuals as a security threat, rather than a common criminal, is a major breakthrough in the war effort. It creates a lane of detention under Afghan law specifically designed to deal with the insurgent threat.

"As previously mentioned, this begins to clear the way for a broader strategic partnership between our two nations.

"The strategic partnership agreement is the last card to be played in Afghanistan. If it comes about, as I envision, it will be the end of the Taliban and other insurgent forces ability to acquire power through military means in Afghanistan. The post-2014 military relationship covered by the agreement would allow a follow-on force made up of American military power, transport capability and Special Forces units.

"This post-2014 force would be substantially smaller than today and would shift the tide of battle in any future engagement of Afghan security forces, Taliban and other insurgents. With American airpower and Special Forces units backing up the Afghan forces, the Taliban dreams of reoccupying Afghanistan will have come to an end. This will hopefully lead to political reconciliation in Afghanistan, end the narrative that America is leaving the region, and send a strong signal to Pakistan regarding their support for insurgents along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

"Equally important, it will be a clear signal to Iran that we are not abandoning the region, the Afghan people who have stood by our side, and those who believe American presence in the region is vital to stability. I hope a strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan will also lead to strategic partnership agreements between individual NATO nations and Afghanistan and make it more likely NATO will be committed to Afghanistan post-2014.

"The last remaining issue to be dealt with before we have a chance to enter into a strategic partnership agreement is the continuation of night raids against the insurgency. Night raids have dealt a severe blow to the Taliban and other insurgents as Coalition Forces and Afghan Special Forces own the night militarily. In recent months, almost 80 percent of detainees captured on the battlefield have come from night raids.

"If we are able to successfully deal with the night raid issue, then it is possible to have a strategic partnership agreement that ensures an all encompassing relationship post-2014 in the areas of economic, political and military cooperation.

"General Allen has reformed the night raid process to put Afghans in the lead, dramatically reduced civilian casualties, and increased Afghan capacity in this area. Due to a shortage of trained Afghan pilots and specialized equipment, Coalition Forces must be allowed to continue partnering with Afghan Special Forces in future night raids.

"General Allen has stated unequivocally that night raids with Afghans in the lead are an essential military tool to continue the momentum against the Taliban and other insurgents. I'm hopeful that an agreement regarding future night raids will be reached with a goal of increasing Afghan capacity in this area but always ensuring that the insurgency will be aggressively pursued in the night. Much of our intelligence regarding IED cells and other attacks against Coalition Forces has come from night raid captures. This must be allowed to continue.

"With a rational agreement allowing for US captures to Afghan control, combined with an agreement that will continue night raids, we could be on the verge of reaching a turning point in the war -- a strategic partnership agreement -- that will allow us to reduce our military presence post-2014.

"Most importantly, we are on a path to ensure Afghanistan -- the place where Osama Bin Laden was the honored guest of the Taliban is never used as a terrorist safe haven again. We have a long way to go militarily and rampant corruption remains a problem. But from my many trips to Afghanistan, I know there is a generation of young Afghans who are truly committed to a brighter future for their nation. They have the desire they just need the time and capacity to become the leaders of the future. They embrace a modern conservative Islamic country that will be a source of stability in the region and an ally against the darkness of terror. This is an outcome that we have been fighting for and tremendously enhances our nation's national security."