In a post titled “More Shell Games: Command Structure for US Prisons and Special Operations in Afghanistan“, I cited this article from AFP, which included this statement:
As the NATO commander, the only forces not under McChrystal’s control will be a special US task force that handles detainees, the small number of special operations forces and some support troops from other nations, the official said.
I also linked to this press release describing the return of a group from the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC) which had been in Afghanistan helping to set up Joint Task Force 435. JTF-435 has authority over US prisons in Afghanistan. I misinterpreted the press release to wrongly conclude that JTF-435, like the JECC, falls under the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), when I stated:
As a part of JFCOM, then, JTF-435, and the prisoner operations under Harward, are well outside McChrystal’s official sphere of command within CENTCOM.
I received a response from a Media Officer in Central Command, Lieutenant Commander William Speaks, who has provided very useful information regarding the various command responsibilities involved. In the initial email, Speaks explained that the group from JFCOM was involved only in setting up JTF-435, as is common for JECC when it is involved in “helping to stand up new task forces before the permanent jobs are filled”. He further explained that
Once they help get things set up and the permanent billets are established and filled, they turnover and leave. More importantly, while they’re there, they report to whomever has operational control over the entity they are helping to set up, not JFCOM. I thought this was made clear in the release White linked to, which was about the JECC team returning home.
I asked for further explanation regarding the media reports that I had seen where it appeared to be reported that McChrystal did not have authority over detainee operations, especially since even the first email from Speaks stated that ” I can assure you that CENTCOM and ISAF do have authority over JTF-435, and JFCOM does not.”
Here is Speaks’ full response to that question from me:
The AFP story is not inaccurate, but it is imcomplete in its explanation of Gen. McChrystal’s authorities. The story says that “as the NATO commander,” the detainee operations task force is not under his control. While that’s accurate, it does not explain Gen. McChrystal’s dual-hatted role as Commander, ISAF, and Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan (COMUSFOR-A). The latter includes forces serving under the Operation Enduring Freedom mission, which is separate from the NATO/ISAF mission.
Gen. McChrystal does have authority over JTF-435 under his USFOR-A hat. You can certainly quote me on any of this information.
LCDR Bill Speaks
It appears that I was looking under the wrong shell for the Afghanistan prisons command authority. While it is not under McChrystal’s ISAF hat, it is under his USFOR-A hat. Given McChrystal’s history of hiding Iraq prisons from ICRC inspections, that arrangement does not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.