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US Military says Prison Reform Under Way in Afghanistan - 2004-06-14

The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it is making changes in procedures at its detention facilities following allegations of prisoner abuse.

About a month ago, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan had directed "a top-to-bottom" review of their system of detainee operations across the country.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager told reporters in Kabul the review is going well. He says the officer [Brigadier General Charles Jacoby] appointed to conduct the review has visited all 20 U.S.-run prisons and is expected to submit his final report later this month.

But Colonel Mansager said the military is acting on the interim findings without waiting for the final report. "As we continue to get intermediate reports and information and suggestions and recommendations, we are taking action on those as they come forward, evaluating them, implementing some of them, deferring some of them and planning some of the rest of them out," he said.

The spokesman refused to elaborate on what changes the military is planning. The decision to assess the American detention facilities in Afghanistan followed allegations that some Afghan detainees were beaten and sexually abused while in U.S custody.

But the U.S. military has refused to comment on these allegations until its own investigation is concluded.

Nearly 400 prisoners, including members of Afghanistan's ousted Taleban government, are being held at U.S.-operated detention centers in the country.

Last week the U.S. military announced it will allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the Kandahar detention facility. The ICRC. currently has access only to the main U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base North of Kabul.

The United States established the detention centers after its coalition forces removed the Taleban from power in 2001 for harboring al-Qaida terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, Colonel Mansager says relentless efforts to rid Afghanistan of terrorist forces are under way to ensure landmark elections are held in September as planned.

He gave details of the military operations, particularly in notorious Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, where insurgents have increased anti-government activities in recent weeks. "Coalition forces have killed in excess of 80 anti-coalition militants, detained another 90, have found 49 caches of weapons, ammunition, and other equipment, and have carried out 81 civil-affairs projects," he said.

Afghanistan's historic presidential and parliamentary elections are due in September. But increasing attacks on election officials and local and foreign troops have led to suggestions the polls would have to be delayed again. But U.N. backed election officials dismiss the speculations, saying elections will go forward as planned.