This is a really creepy press release — yes, yes, somehow creepier than this now-resolved controversy with Yglesias — that the U.S. military command in Afghanistan just emailed reporters under the headline "Suspected Militants Die In Zabul Province." I reprint it here in its entirety:
Two known Taliban extremists were reported deceased on Dec. 18. The militants were part of a group of five suspects taken into custody, Dec. 17, by Afghan National Police and Coalition forces during a combined patrol conducted in Shinkay district, located in Zabul Province, approximately 160 km northeast of Kandahar. The five detainees were last seen alive at the Surri Police Station the early morning of the 18th, according to a Coalition report.
“We are committed to get to the truth as quickly as possible,” said Col. Greg Julian, “We will strive together to provide rule of law and better security for the Afghan people.”
A joint investigation is being conducted by Coalition forces and Afghan National Police.
This is a confusing and euphemistic press release, to say the least. (Are the two dead men "known Taliban extremists" or "suspected militants"?) The release suggests that the detainees died in Afghan National Police custody, but it’s by no means clear. What could have changed between the "early morning" of Dec. 18 and later that day, when the detainees "were reported deceased"? (Who reported them deceased?) What was the cause of death? Was an autopsy performed? If the detainees didn’t die in U.S. custody, what are the U.S. oversight procedures for detainees apprehended in joint custody and taken to Afghan prisons? Have either the Afghan police unit in question or the U.S. unit in question had any prior noted history of detainee abuse?
I have an email out to the U.S. command in Afghanistan and will update with any further information I have.
Crossposted to The Streak.
Update: So this is what I have so far from the military:
We have read your query and provide the following response:
The five detainees were last seen alive at the Surri Police Station the
early morning of the 18th, according to a Coalition report.
"We are committed to get to the truth as quickly as possible,"
said Col. Greg Julian, "We will strive together to provide rule of law
and better security for the Afghan people."
A joint investigation is being conducted by Coalition forces and
Afghan National Police.
As you can see above, that "response" is contained in the original press release. I pointed that out in a follow-up email, reiterated my questions, and added a few others. I will keep you posted if and when I hear anything.