Standoff at Afghan prison

Would be rather a Phyrric victory if, four years and counting after Operation Enduring Freedom, the US wound up losing control of both Pakistan and Afghanistan simultaneously. From VOA, Feb. 27:

Hundreds of Afghan forces – backed by tanks and rocket launchers – have surrounded the country’s main high security prison after Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners seized control Saturday evening. Authorities restarted negotiations Monday but warned the government could use force end the standoff.

Afghan officials are blaming the uprising on hundreds of al-Qaida and Taleban inmates housed in the Pol-e-Charkhi jail just outside Kabul.

Deputy Afghan Justice Minister Mohammed Qasim Hashimzai says more than a thousand inmates armed with makeshift weapons began the revolt late Saturday. He says the riots started in block two of the prison, which houses more than 13 hundred of facility’s 2,000 inmates. He says the violence erupted after inmates rejected new uniforms.

The uniforms were meant to improve security after seven Taleban detainees disguised as civilians escaped last month.

Officials say dozens of inmates have been injured but details are sketchy.

More from AP:

Hundreds of Afghan soldiers with tanks and grenade-launchers surrounded Kabul’s main prison Sunday after rioting inmates seized control of much of the facility in an uprising that officials blamed on al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Local media reported several people were killed and dozens injured. But it appeared security forces had yet to gain access to parts of the jail under prisoners’ control, so officials could not confirm reports of casualties. One official said at least four inmates were injured.

Gunshots occasionally rang out troops tried to keep the prisoners bottled up. Officials said the rioters did not have any firearms but had armed themselves with small knives and clubs fashioned from wrecked furniture.

Smoke could be seen curling out of some cell windows, where inmates apparently set fire to bedding and furniture.

Government negotiators late Sunday suspended talks to end the standoff at the notorious Policharki jail, which later this year is slated to receive dozens of Afghans currently in U.S. military’s Guantanamo prison.

The riot broke out late Saturday in Block Two of the prison, which houses about 1,300 of the 2,000 inmates. Officials said the violence began when inmates refused to put on new uniforms, which were ordered after seven Taliban prisoners escaped last month by disguising themselves as visitors.

Officials said some 350 al-Qaida and Taliban loyalists were among the inmates in that block. Abdul Salaam Bakshi, chief of prisons in Afghanistan, accused them of inciting the other prisoners, mostly common criminals.

He said no inmates escaped from the prison block but guards had been forced out.

The Afghan army said it deployed 800 soldiers around the prison. Along with NATO peacekeepers, they parked at least 10 tanks and armored personnel carriers outside the gates.

See our last post on Afghanistan.