Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New U.S. Push to Release More Detainees in Iraq

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New U.S. Push to Release More Detainees in Iraq

Article excerpt

The US military, in a move to foster "goodwill and reconciliation," has this month released 300 detainees in Iraq who are no longer considered a threat.

The release reflects the beginning of a push by the military to release thousands of individuals who have been held for months or even years but who were never charged with wrongdoing.

The move also represents a careful balancing act for the military: While counterinsurgency experts say there is an inherent value to releasing individuals who are not considered an "imperative threat" to society, military commanders remain concerned that releasing too many too soon could undermine improving security trends in Iraq.

During a series of meetings that ended last month, Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, worked with subordinates to hammer out an agreement under which thousands of detainees could be let go. Under the new approach, representatives from each command sit on review boards to assess the cases of the roughly 24,000 individuals currently held in US detention in Iraq.

Now, the US military is releasing as many as 50 individuals per day. The military says it has no quota, but if it continues at that rate, it could release about 18,000 this year - more than double the number released last year.

"We've tried to review as many cases as we can and assess as many as we can, and release as many who are not an imperative threat," says Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Marshall, a spokesman for Task Force-134, which oversees detainee operations for the US military command in Iraq.

The number of detainees being released versus the number being put in detention is roughly the opposite of what it was a year ago. In January 2007, the military took in about 1,500 individuals and released about 600. Last month, about 700 were put in detention and about 1,160 were released. …

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