WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States plans to build a vast, new detention camp at its main military base in Afghanistan, a Defense Department spokesman said on Saturday.
"I can confirm there are indeed plans to build a new detention facility at Bagram airfield," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright told AFP. "And the overall size is expected to be 40 acres (16.2 ha)."
The move came because "our existing theatre facility is deteriorating," Wright said, referring to the makeshift jail at Bagram that holds alleged extremist militants rounded up in the US "war on terror" launched after the September 11 attacks.
The move signals that Washington expects to hold detainees abroad indefinitely even as White House officials say they want to shut down the US-run camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President George W. Bush's administration had previously indicated it would transfer a large number of detainees to the custody of the Afghan government at a new prison outside Kabul financed with US funds, The New York Times reported.
But US officials say the Afghan-run jail cannot handle all the Afghans detained by US forces or new prisoners taken amid an increasingly bloody fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, the Times wrote.
The sprawling Bagram compound, built on the site of an old airfield during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, lies about 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of the capital Kabul and serves as the headquarters for the US-led coalition fighting the Taliban insurgency.
The new detention center will be designed to allow the inmates more educational, religious and recreational amenities, according to Wright.
"It's an opportunity to use best practises and lessons learned from other facilities that we've used before," he said.
Former detainees allege they were beaten, chained in uncomfortable positions and stripped naked at the Bagram prison after it opened in 2002, according to human rights groups.
Two Afghan men died in US custody at Bagram in December 2002.
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