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Torture common in Afghanistan, UN report finds. Can NATO trust local forces?

Half of all detainees in the custody of the Afghanistan intelligence service have been tortured, a year-long UN investigation found, raising questions about the readiness of local forces to take over from NATO.

An Afghan National Army soldier stands in front of the gate of the Pul-e-Charkhy prison during an opening ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 25, 2007. Prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities have been beaten and tortured, a United Nations report said Monday.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP/File

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Half of all detainees in Afghan intelligence service custody have been tortured, according to a new United Nations report that raises grave concerns about the Afghan security force personnel that the United States and its NATO partners are meant to be training and supervising.

In a nearly year-long investigation that concluded in August, UN officials uncovered “compelling evidence” of systematic detainee abuse, including electric shock, beatings with rubber hoses, and the forced removal of toenails.

Children under the age of 18 were also found to have been tortured, according to the report’s executive summary.

The investigation raises questions about the readiness of Afghan forces to take over security responsibility and amplifies fears that the torture could further fuel the insurgency. However NATO officials are unsure how to address the problem.

Detainees described being suspended from the ceiling with chains around their wrists, as well as “beatings, especially with rubber hoses, electric cables or wires or wooden sticks and most frequently on the soles of the feet.”

The descriptions of abuse are at times gruesome, including the “twisting and wrenching” of body parts, mutilation, and “threatened sexual abuse.”

Beginning in October 2010, UN officials interviewed 379 detainees at 47 detention centers across Afghanistan. Of the 273 detainees held in custody by officials of the Afghan intelligence service, known as the National Directorate of Security, 125, or 46 percent, reported being tortured.

Of those held in Afghan national police custody, one third “experienced treatment that amounted to torture or to other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” according to the report.

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