KABUL, Afghanistan -- The US military promised yesterday to improve its prison regime in Afghanistan after a top general inspected the network of 20 secretive jails, where allegations of abuse include the deaths of at least three detainees.
The military would not say how procedures will be changed at the jails, amid accounts from former prisoners of hoodings, beatings, and sexual abuse. But a spokesman promised "comprehensive" information on the general's findings would be made public within weeks.
Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, urged commanders to release the findings to convince Afghans -- shocked by graphic pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- that abuse in Afghanistan was not widespread.
"We're not satisfied, but hope all the results of the review will be made public, or at least shared with the Afghan government and the human rights commission," he said.
Lieutenant General David Barno, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, ordered the prison review last month. He pledged rapid action if faults were found, but said details of techniques used on suspects will remain classified.
Brigadier General Charles Jacoby, Barno's deputy operational chief, visited all the US holding facilities, most of them at bases in the south and east where American troops are still battling -- and detaining -- Taliban and Al Qaeda holdouts.
US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager said some changes were being implemented at the jails based on Jacoby's interim findings.
"We're taking action on those as they come forward, evaluating them, implementing some of them, deferring some of them, and planning some of the rest of them out," he said at a news conference in Kabul.
Mansager said the final report will be complete within days, and some findings will be made public by early next month.
"It'll come out as a consolidated, cohesive, and comprehensive package," Mansager said.
Of the three confirmed detainee deaths in Afghanistan, two were at the main US base at Bagram, north of Kabul, in December 2002. Both were ruled homicides after autopsies found the men had died from "blunt-force injuries."
The CIA is investigating the death of another detainee in eastern Afghanistan in June 2003.
The military says it made a raft of changes to its prison regime as a result of the two Bagram deaths, but it has not announced any results of its criminal investigations.
The military is also probing allegations of mistreatment brought by two former detainees last month. One, an Afghan police colonel, said he was beaten, stripped naked, and sexually abused while in US custody for nearly 40 days last year in Gardez, Kandahar, and Bagram.
The allegations are similar to those against several US soldiers in Iraq, and were submitted in a complaint to the Afghan rights commission in August 2003, well before the Iraqi cases became public.
The military says some 2,000 prisoners have been held at the jails since US troops entered Afghanistan in late 2001.
Mansager said about 390 people are in US custody in Afghanistan, and 90 others were recently detained in southern Zabul province.
The US military announced last week that it would allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its holding facility in the main southern city of Kandahar. It has previously allowed the group access only to its main jail at Bagram.
But Nadery said Barno, the US military chief, had still not responded to a letter asking for the Afghan rights commission to have access to prisoners.