- that the Taliban are not nearly as broken and disorganized as some would argue. The first prison break seemed to indicate that the whole "these guys cannot organize anything of significance" myth was perhaps a bit off. The second one clearly demonstrates that the Taliban, who spent months tunneling into the prison and found the right spot (GPS?), are not a random band of idiots.
- that the Afghan government has made very little progress. This event happened three years after the last prison break with much international effort focused on this place. Prisons can be generators of extremism. Little did we know that that the Saraposa prison is more of a half-way house or bed and breakfast of extremism.
- The international focus on improving the treatment of prisoners did not apparently stretch to focus on retaining them. No tunnel prevention efforts? While it is easy to second guess now, given that (a) this prison was a target for previous organized escape efforts; and (b) tunnels are the classic way to escape a prison (Great Escape anyone? Shawshank much?), one would think that there might have been some effort to detect tunneling.
So, where does this leave us? Well, it undermines all of the claims made recently about progress. In two senses: it shows that the government is incredibly inept (shouldn't the escape have been discovered somewhere along the way as 475 guys start disappearing?); and it tells the public that the Taliban are actually organized. Would you now bet with your life by siding with the government? Um, no. If COIN is about control, what does this event suggest? Not a good way to start the Spring fighting season unless one is a Taliban PR guy.