Interpol’s chief has sharply criticized Allied countries operating in Afghanistan for not sharing important data on detainees—like the hundreds who escaped from an Afghan prison earlier this week.
Secretary General Ronald Noble of Interpol was referring to data that could prove useful in determining DNA, photographs and fingerprints.
He also criticized the international community’s “shocking” failure to properly train and equip Afghan police.
Some 488 prisoners, many of them Taliban militants, tunneled out of a jail in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar late Sunday and early Monday, three years after a previous escape from the same jail saw 900 flee.
“It is simply shocking that three years after the largest jail break in Afghanistan’s history, including of convicted terrorists, there is no data to be shared with law enforcement, regionally and globally,” Mr. Noble said.
“Until this glaring and serious void in the world’s anti-terror efforts is filled, no country can consider itself secure from criminals and terrorists who are essentially being given an opportunity to travel internationally,” Mr. Noble said.
The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan is in charge of training and equipping Afghan forces, and Mr. Noble, while not attacking the alliance by name, made it clear that Interpol feels the international community had failed.
“Any country which fails to take appropriate measures at the national level when dangerous prisoners escape would be harshly criticized and accused of malpractice,” he said, according to a Interpol statement.
“And there is no reason why this should be any different at the international level,” he warned, adding that the escaped prisoners may now be able to “elude detection and engage in future terrorist activity.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office has suggested that the embarrassing jailbreak—in which inmates spent five months digging a tunnel equipped with temporary lighting—might have been an inside job.
Around 65 of more than 500 who escaped have been recaptured, but the bulk of the prisoners have been able to scatter around the Kandahar region, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency against NATO and Mr. Karzai's regime.
The audacious jailbreak could have a devastating effect on efforts to quell a growing insurgency and underscores the weakness of the Afghan government and its security forces.
Analysts now fear the jailbreak will help an emboldened Taliban spread their insurgency despite strenuous efforts by Afghan, US and other foreign troops over more than a year to hit back at militants in their strongholds in the south.
It comes as a blow to both the Afghan government and NATO-led foreign troops who have boasted of recent security gains in Kandahar after months of heavy fighting. The Taliban have said more than 100 of its commanders were among the escapees.
“The jailbreak is likely to have real implications for the upcoming fighting season,” said Felix Kuehn, an independent researcher based in Kandahar city.
“If over a hundred Taliban commanders have managed to escape from the prison, they are likely to have a multiplying effect in and around Kandahar city, reconnecting with their home communities and mobilizing others,” he said.
Some officials have said it was more likely that mid-level fighters had been freed, but Mr. Kuehn said, even if they were not particularly senior, it would have a “significant” effect on the Taliban’s morale.
This time, rather than launching any large-scale offensive as they did after the major prison break in 2008, the Taliban will most likely stick to a tried and tested method of assassinations, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“Such targeted attacks are more efficient and effective for the insurgency,” he said.
Last year was the most violent since the war started in late 2001, with record casualties on all sides. The United Nations said 21 public officials were reported to have been assassinated each week across Afghanistan between mid-June and mid-September, up from seven a week for the previous three months.
“The Taliban are smart. They will wait and defend their positions over the summer. If they can resist and continue with these kinds of spectacular attacks I think they have won,” said Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst.
“This is what they need. They are not expecting to defeat a mighty military force such as NATO—resisting is a great achievement for them,” Mr. Mir said.
(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: email@example.com)