Coalition Commander: British gov't invested 20 million dollars in northern Syrian prison

“The support to prisons is necessary because the SDF cannot handle the cost alone.”
Suspected ISIS fighters at an SDF prison in Hasakah, Syria, November 2019. (Photo: Joanne Stocker-Kelly)
Suspected ISIS fighters at an SDF prison in Hasakah, Syria, November 2019. (Photo: Joanne Stocker-Kelly)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Lt. Gen. Paul Calvert, the commander of the US-led mission in Iraq and Syria, on Sunday announced that the British government has invested 20 million dollars in a prison in northern Syria.

“Our British Coalition partners have invested 20 million dollars in expanding the Hasakah prison. We anticipate this project will be completed in September,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Calvert was one of the guest speakers at an annual Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) military council conference in Hasakah. He affirmed that coalition support for the SDF will continue.

The commander highlighted that the SDF-coalition partnership had resulted in three areas of success: providing security to camps and prisons; bringing international awareness for the people in northeastern Syria; the continued fight against ISIS.

On May 4, a Pentagon Inspector General report covering the first quarter of 2021 (January 1–March 31, 2021) noted that the coalition “continued to provide training and equipment to help increase the SDF’s capacity to manage detention facilities holding approximately 10,000 ISIS fighters.”

Northeastern Syrian authorities hold ISIS members in 19 detention facilities across the region. The majority of the suspected terrorists are being held in two SDF-run facilities in Hasakah province.

The prison has seen multiple escape attempts by ISIS-affiliated detainees, including one last year when they temporarily gained control of part of the facility where thousands of inmates are housed.

In May, the SDF announced that they updated security procedures at a prison in Syria’s northern Hasakah province to prevent future escape attempts by detainees accused of crimes committed as part of the ISIS extremist group.

Read More: Kurdish-led forces update security at northern Syrian prison where ISIS fighters attempted escapes

“In the interim, continued U.S. support for SDF detention capabilities helps buy time for diplomatic progress on the issue by helping to mitigate the risk of breakouts from SDF detention facilities that could fuel ISIS’s efforts to reconstitute itself,” the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy–International Security Affairs said in the report.

The Coalition continues to provide equipment to the SDF through the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF) to help increase physical security and capacity at the detention facilities.

“Further investments in facilities, equipment, and training during the quarter enabled the SDF to improve moderately its ability to manage the detention facilities,” the report said.

Divestments to the SDF included closed-circuit television systems and detainee transport vehicles, and, in the future, will also include information technology equipment.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) also provided food, water, fuel, and sanitation support to improve detainee living conditions.

“The support to prisons is necessary because the SDF cannot handle the cost alone,” Nicholas Heras, a Senior Analyst at the Washington, DC-based Newlines Institute, told Kurdistan 24.

“These prisons are the only place to hold the most dangerous ISIS fighters.”