The U.S. system of detention in Iraq is a debacle. Along with a solid amount of hardened criminals and/or insurgents, a tremendous number of detained Iraqis are guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, rounded up in operations as peripherals. It’s not a new issue, but it is a sort of undercover problem that causes tremendous problems. The intelligence process with these guys is virtually nonexistent (not enough translators, not enough interrogators, not enough communication between national and unit intel, etc.), and if you think the U.S. prison system is a petri dish for education in violence and extremism, the situation in Iraq makes that look like day care.
Ilan over at DemocracyArsenal has more on recent reports that the U.S. is holding more than 23,000 prisoners:
The U.S. government can’t exactly let them go because a lot of these detainees are dangerous people. On the other hand, giving over a prison population, which is 86% Sunni, to a Shi’a dominated government in the middle of a civil war doesn’t exactly strike me as a good idea. However, if American forces are going to eventually leave they’ll have to figure out what to do with all these guys.
Some combination of amnesty and turnover is required, and sooner rather than later. I have seen little (if any) analysis of what to do about this in redeployment plans and reporting, and the longer it goes, and the more people it includes, the worse the eventual result.