News: Joint Task Force 435 stands up, directs Afghanistan Detainee Operations
Story by Chief Petty Officer Robert Garnand
KABUL, Afghanistan — A new Joint Task Force created to assume control of detention operations in Afghanistan became operational this week. The new unit, based in Kabul, will play an important role in the counter insurgency campaign in Afghanistan.
Joint Task Force 435 achieved Initial Operations Capability Jan. 7 to assume command, oversight and responsibility for detainee operations in Afghanistan. The task force is commanded by Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward Jr. and is part of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. Upon achieving IOC, the task force garnered the capability to conduct command and control of subordinate units and operate as a headquarters.
Joint Task Force 435 was established by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in September 2009. It assumed responsibility for U.S. detention operations from Combined Joint Task Force 82, including the care and custody of detainees at the Detention Facility in Parwan, oversight of detainee review processes, programs for the peaceful reintegration of detainees into society and coordination with other agencies and partners for the promotion of the rule of law in Afghanistan.
As part of its mission, JTF 435 will train and mentor the Afghan government to help improve detention operations throughout Afghanistan so these operations can be transitioned back to the Afghan government in accordance with all applicable international and national laws. JTF 435 will also coordinate with other agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and coalition partners.
Currently, there are about 750 detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, of which about ten to twenty percent are considered hardened extremists. However, local insurgents, foreign fighters and al Qaeda also represent more than 2,500 of the 14,500 inmates in the Afghan corrections system — some of whom seek to radicalize non-insurgents.
JTF 435, along with Afghan partners, will essentially be conducting counterinsurgency behind the wire," working with Afghan partners in deradicalization efforts, as well as reintegration — helping detainees who no longer pose a threat with reading and writing and vocational skills that will help them be peaceful and productive citizens upon release.
Harward stressed the importance of the vocational training programs currently being offered at the U.S. Detention Facility in Parwan.
"By providing an environment that's conducive to rehabilitation and reintegration programs, as well as vocational training," Harward said, "we are offering detainees a viable option other than returning to the insurgency."
Besides overseeing U.S. detention operations, JTF 435 is preparing to have other partners join the command. Instead of being all U.S. military members, the goal is for the task force to include officials from Afghan and U.S. organizations, such as the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Justice, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S.Department of Justice. The official term of what leaders of the task force hope to become is a Combined Joint Interagency Task Force, or CJIATF.
The task force will also help mentor and train Afghans to build greater capacity in rule of law and detention, creating a more professional Afghan system — from cops, to courts to corrections. The task force's ultimate goal is to transition all detention operations over to the government of Afghanistan.
"We will transition detention operations here to our Afghan partners once they have developed the sustainable capacity," Harward said. "We are committed to increasing the Afghan government's capability by providing training, management and mentorship on lawful, humane and transparent detention operations, which will provide greater security for the people of Afghanistan."
As part of the U.S. strategy for counter insurgency, JTF 435 implemented a reintegration program to provide marketable skills to detainees prior to their release.
JTF-435's Deputy Commander is Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who noted that the new unit is linking detention and rule of law with strategic objectives established by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the International Security and Assistance Force.
"It's strategy and counterinsurgency in the context of Afghanistan," Martins said. "Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We think transparency is certainly going to help the counterinsurgency effort and increase credibility of the whole process."
Martins, an Army judge advocate and former infantryman, led the rule of law campaign in Iraq from 2006 to 2008 while serving with Army Gen. David Petraeus in Multi-National Force Iraq. While in Iraq, Martins coordinated the work of United States and coalition investigative, corrections and judicial experts and directed MNF-I support to Iraq's courts and law enforcement institutions. Martins was also recently named Chief Judge of U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals before being selected to help lead JTF 435.
Harward recently served as Deputy Commander U.S. Joint Forces Command. His experience comes from multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He assumed command of JTF 435 Nov. 28, 2009.