Taliban Prison Break Frees 500 Fighters

The Taliban has engineered a massive escape from the Sarposa Prison, located near Kandahar, using tunnels and copies of jail keys provided by insiders.  Somewhere between 450 and 500 prisoners were freed, depending on whether one gives more credit to local authorities or Taliban spokesmen. 

According to the Associated Press, the escapees include about 100 Taliban commanders, and four “provincial-level Taliban commanders.”  Fortunately, “The highest-profile Taliban inmates would likely not be held at Sarposa,” because “the U.S. keeps detainees it considers a threat at a facility outside of Bagram Air Base in eastern Afghanistan.”

It was a classic Hollywood-style jailbreak, involving a long tunnel dug into the prison compound.  “Friends” of the Taliban provided them with keys to open various cells, and usher hundreds of prisoners through the tunnel and into the city of Kandahar.  Somehow the prison guards noticed none of this.

An anonymous Afghan government official told the AP that “while the external security [of Sarposa Prison] has been greatly improved, the internal controls were not as strong.  He said the Taliban prisoners in Sarposa were very united and would rally together to make demands from their jailers for better treatment or more privileges.”

The Sarposa incident highlights the continuing dangers of the Afghan theater, where a weak local government fights a fanatical enemy that can regroup and lick its wounds in Pakistani safe areas.  We’re supposed to begin drawing American forces down from Afghanistan in just a couple of months, but somehow every operation goes pear-shaped as soon as the U.S. military stops running the show.  Even if they remain, our troops are working with rules of engagement that leave the Afghan government sitting on mobs of prisoners it can’t keep.  How long were those hundreds of Taliban fighters and commanders supposed to sit in the Sarposa prison, anyway?