[Ppnews] Unaccountable Prisons in Afghanistan

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Dec 22 12:40:20 EST 2007

December 22 / 23, 2007


Tales of the Afghan Prisoners
Intelligence Failures, Battlefield Myths and Unaccountable Prisons in

In the last week, while the media's attention has focused on the release
of two Sudanese humanitarian aid workers from Guantánamo, the 13 Afghans
who were flown to Kabul at the same time have barely been mentioned. The
reasons for this oversight are clear: firstly, because one of the Sudanese
ex-detainees, Adel Hamad, a hospital administrator, had become something
of a celebrity after his enterprising lawyers posted a video about his
case on YouTube, which prompted a group of campaigners to establish a
website devoted to his plight; and secondly, because Hamad and his
compatriot, Salim Adem, were released on their return, and various
reporters were able to meet them.

No such luxuries were reserved for the Afghans. Few of their stories are
known at all, and on their return to Afghanistan they were promptly
imprisoned in a wing of Pol-i-Charki, Kabul's main prison, which was
recently refurbished by the US authorities. The oversight is disturbing
because, for the most part, the stories of the Afghans demonstrate
colossal ineptitude on the part of the US military and Special Forces in
Afghanistan, at least equivalent to the failures of intelligence that led
to the capture of Adel Hamad and Salim Adem. In addition, the imprisonment
of these men in a prison wing refurbished by the US authorities raises
uncomfortable questions about the role of the US military in Afghanistan,
over six years after the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Unaccountable US prisons in Afghanistan

Despite the official inauguration of Hamid Karzai as the President of
post-Taliban Afghanistan (and the country's first democratically elected
leader) on December 7, 2004, the US military has continued to behave like
an occupying power, holding hundreds of prisoners at Bagram airbase
(formerly used to process detainees for Guantánamo), including foreigners
as well as Afghans, and an unknown number of other prisoners in a variety
of secret prisons and forward operating bases. Cut off from all outside
scrutiny (except for representatives of the International Red Cross),
these prisoners do not even have the limited legal representation
available to the detainees in Guantánamo.

In March 2005, when journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark visited
Afghanistan, they met Dr. Rafiullah Bidar, a regional director of the
Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which had recently been
established, with funding from the US Congress, "to investigate abuses
committed by local warlords and to ensure that women's and children's
rights were protected." Ironically, Bidar told the reporters that what his
job actually entailed was registering complaints against the US military.
"Many thousands of people have been rounded up and detained by them," he
said. "Those who have been freed say that they were held alongside foreign
detainees who've been brought to this country to be processed. No one is
charged. No one is identified. No international monitors are allowed into
the US jails. People who have been arrested say they've been brutalized ­
the tactics used are beyond belief." Speaking anonymously, a government
minister also complained, "Washington holds Afghanistan up to the world as
a nascent democracy and yet the US military has deliberately kept us down,
using our country to host a prison system that seems to be administered
arbitrarily, indiscriminately and without accountability."

Nearly three years later, this situation has not changed. Lawyers at the
US-based International Justice Network have filed a potentially
ground-breaking habeas corpus claim on behalf of a detainee at Bagram, but
the system as a whole -- like that in Iraq, where at least 15,000
detainees are held without charge or trial -- remains impervious to
outside scrutiny.

Until April 2007, however, the detainees released from Guantánamo -- 152
of the 220 held since the prison opened in January 2002 -- sidestepped
this unaccountable prison system and were released on their return to
Afghanistan, but this has changed with the US-financed refurbishment of
Pol-i-Charki, and it is not yet clear whether the 32 detainees returned
since April 2007 have simply exchanged Guantánamo for an even less
accountable form of indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Myths and lies: detainees who returned to the battlefield

It's probable that the excuse for imprisoning the Afghans returned in the
last eight months is the US military's oft-repeated claim that dozens of
released detainees have returned to the battlefield. If so, this would be
grossly disingenuous. Not only are the figures disputed, with only six
recognized by those who have studied the stories in any detail, but the US
administration has also refused to acknowledge the shocking truth about
its own responsibility for releasing these men.

The Taliban freed from Guantánamo include Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani
Taliban commander, released in March 2004, who killed himself with a hand
grenade after being cornered by security forces in Pakistan in July 2007.
Mehsud came to prominence in October 2004, after his men kidnapped two
Chinese engineers working on a dam project in Waziristan, when he
explained that, at the time of his capture in November 2001, he was
carrying a false Afghan ID card, and that he had successfully maintained
throughout his detention that he was an innocent Afghan tribesman.

Another was Mullah Shahzada, released in May 2003, who gave the Americans
a false name and claimed that he was an innocent rug merchant. "He stuck
to his story and was fairly calm about the whole thing," a military
intelligence official told the New York Times. "He maintained over a
period of time that he was nothing but an innocent rug merchant who just
got snatched up." After his release, Shahzada seized control of Taliban
operations in southern Afghanistan, recruiting fighters by "telling
harrowing tales of his supposed ill-treatment in the cages of Guantánamo,"
and masterminded a jailbreak in Kandahar in October 2003, in which he
bribed the guards to allow 41 Taliban fighters to escape through a tunnel.
His post-Guantánamo notoriety came to an end in May 2004, when he was
killed in an ambush by US Special Forces.

While right-wing commentators seized on the release of Mehsud and Shahzada
as evidence that no one should ever be released from Guantánamo, a rather
different interpretation was offered by Gul Agha Sherzai, the post-Taliban
governor of Kandahar, who pointed out that they would never have been
freed if Afghan officials had been allowed to vet the Afghans in
Guantánamo. "We know all these Taliban faces," he said, adding that
repeated requests for access to the Afghan prisoners had been turned down.
Sherzai's opinion was reinforced by security officials in Karzai's
government, who, off the record, blamed the US for the return of Taliban
commanders to the battlefield, explaining that "neither the American
military officials, nor the Kabul police, who briefly process the
detainees when they are sent home, consult them about the detainees they

Of the 13 Afghans released from Guantánamo last week, nine have been
identified. The rest, like dozens of those released in the last 18 months,
did not have lawyers (who are told when their clients have been released),
and as a result even their identities are unknown. The Pentagon never
reveals the names of the detainees it frees, and without representatives
of the world's media on the ground in Kabul, as they were for the first
batches of released detainees in 2002 and 2003, these men remain as lost
to the world as they were in Guantánamo.

Taliban conscript or Taliban commander?

The first of the nine to be captured, Abdul Rauf Aliza, remains something
of an enigma to this day. Seized in November 2001 during the fall of
Kunduz, the last Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan, he was held,
with thousands of other men, in a filthy, overcrowded prison in Sheberghan
run by General Rashid Dostum, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban
Northern Alliance, and was then transferred to the US prison at Kandahar
airbase with nine other Afghan prisoners.

One of the nine, Jan Mohammed, a baker from Helmand province who had been
forcibly conscripted by the Taliban, was one of the first detainees to be
released from Guantánamo in October 2002. After his release, he explained
that the decision to transfer him to Kandahar came about because some of
Dostum's men "told US soldiers that he and nine others were senior Taliban
officials." "They came and took ten strong-looking people," he told the
journalist David Rohde. "Only one of those ten was a Talib."

It's probable that the solitary Taliban member transferred to Kandahar
with Jan Mohammed was Abdul Rauf Aliza, who was identified by the US
authorities as Mullah Abdul Rauf, a Taliban troop commander. Although
Aliza claimed that he was conscripted by the Taliban, who said they would
take his land if he refused, and insisted that he only worked for them as
a cook, several released Afghans explained to the journalist Ashwin Raman
that Mullah Abdul Rauf was one of three Taliban commanders in northern
Afghanistan held in Guantánamo. They told Raman that he had not been so
cautious with his identity while detained in Camp X-Ray, when he
"repeatedly pleaded with the Americans to let many of the detainees free,"
saying, "These are no Talibs, I am the real Talib."

While this suggests that Abdul Rauf Aliza and Mullah Abdul Rauf are one
and the same, it's possible that the Taliban commander was hiding his true
identity behind a false name, as was the case with Abdullah Mehsud and
Mullah Shahzada. According to the Pentagon's records. Aliza was only 20
years old when he was captured, which would have made him an extremely
youthful troop commander, but the truth, as with so much of Guantánamo's
story, may never be uncovered.

"Number three in Taliban intel"

Two of the other released detainees were captured in December 2001.
26-year old Gholam Ruhani was seized with Abdul-Haq Wasiq, the Taliban's
deputy minister of intelligence, and one of the few senior Taliban figures
captured by the Americans, in a potentially perilous Special Forces
operation in Ghazni, south of Kabul. At the time, Ghazni was a Taliban
stronghold, but when the Special Forces received a tip-off that a local
warlord had arranged a meeting with Qari Amadullah, the Taliban's minister
of intelligence, in which, it was suggested, Amadullah might provide
information that would lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden, their
commander, Gary Berntsen approved the mission.

In the end, Amadullah did not turn up, and clearly had no intention of
doing so. Safely ensconced in Pakistan, after escaping from Afghanistan,
he spoke to a journalist in late December, interrupting the interview to
take a phone call, and then declaring, "I am personally requested by
Mullah Omar and Sheikh Osama to go to Uruzgan and take the command of new
guerrilla war preparations, which will start as soon as possible, and you
will hear the news in papers and on BBC." Unsurprisingly, having
effectively given US forces his itinerary as a result of this loose talk,
he was killed in a US air strike a few days later. In the same interview,
however, he also spoke about Abdul-Haq Wasiq. He said that Mullah Omar,
who, he claimed, was living in a safe place in the mountains north of
Kandahar, had asked him to visit, but he had been unable to do so,
"because a lot of people know me, and I am frightened they will capture me
somewhere on the road. So I sent my assistant Mullah Abdul-Haq Wasiq to
Kandahar. Unfortunately he was captured by American agents in Ghazni."

This suggests that Wasiq either made his own negotiations with the
Americans in Ghazni, or was invited and then betrayed by the local
warlord, because after the meeting he was duly arrested, along with Gholam
Ruhani, by the Special Forces operatives, who duly declared that they were
"the number two and three in Taliban intel."

In Guantánamo, Wasiq, who is still imprisoned, has been coy about his
role, claiming that he was forced to join the Taliban, and that he
sometimes acted as the deputy minister of intelligence, but only to combat
"thieves and bribes." This did not convince his tribunal, who greeted him
with the words, "Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. Seldom before have we had
someone of such prestige and responsibility." Ruhani, however, was adamant
that he was not the "number three in Taliban intel." He said that he was a
Taliban conscript, who fulfilled his duties in a clerical capacity to
avoid being sent to the front lines, and explained that he was asked to
attend the meeting between the Taliban and the Americans because he had
learned a little English while studying electronics manuals in a store run
by his elderly father. "I turned over my pistol and ammunition to the
American, as an act of faith, because it was a friendly meeting," he said.
"I expected to leave the meeting and return to my life, my shop and my
family. Instead, I was arrested."

The foot soldier

The second man, 22-year old Omar al-Kunduzi, was one of around 250
detainees captured by Pakistani forces after crossing the border from
Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001. Born in Afghanistan, he had been
living in Saudi Arabia since the Soviet invasion, when he was just one
year old, but returned to Afghanistan in September 2001. He told his
lawyer that he wanted to fight in Chechnya (as did several other detainees
from the Gulf countries), and added that Chechen representatives had told
him to undertake military training in Afghanistan. He explained that he
had trained at the al-Farouq camp (a camp for Arabs, established by the
Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, but associated with al-Qaeda in the
years before 9/11), but had a distaste for both the Taliban and al-Qaeda
on religious grounds, insisting that both groups were responsible for
killing Muslims, which he thought was wrong. This, too, was an explanation
proferred by numerous detainees.

In his tribunal at Guantánamo, he said that he was staying at a house in
the eastern city of Jalalabad when the city fell in November 2001, and he
explained that everyone in the house got into a pick-up truck and drove to
the Tora Bora mountains, where they stayed in a cave for a month. No
mention was made of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri or any other senior
figures in al-Qaeda or the Taliban, who were also in Tora Bora at this
time, and who all escaped safely to Pakistan. Instead, al-Kunduzi
explained that he left for Pakistan with a group of Arabs, Pakistanis and
other Afghans, and was arrested on the border, which surprised him. "I did
not expect them to hand me over to the Americans," he said, "I thought
they would treat me like an Afghani."

The other six men released from Guantánamo last week and sent to
Pol-i-Charki prison in Kabul were among the 100 or so detainees -- almost
all Afghans -- who were captured between December 2002 and August 2003,
when, with the exception of 29 mostly "high-value" detainees, transferred
to Guantánamo in September 2004, September 2006, and throughout 2007, the
last of the Guantánamo prisoners were processed. Although many more
Afghans captured during this period were released without being sent to
Guantánamo, and others continued to be held in Afghanistan, those who were
sent to Cuba were mostly innocent men. Around 60 percent -- including at
least 17 men who were working for the Karzai government -- were betrayed
by opportunistic rivals, who were all too aware that the Americans were
both gullible and lazy, and would not make any attempt to investigate the
men's histories, and another 30 percent were bystanders rounded up
arbitrarily after attacks on US forces.

The teachers

Two of these men were teachers. 40-year old Abdul Ghafour ran a small
school in his village in Paktia province, and rarely left the area because
his mother was ill. When US and Afghan forces came knocking on his door in
the middle of the night on February 7, 2003, he thought that they were
robbers, and went to the roof and fired a few warning shots. When the
Americans opened fire in response and summoned fighter jets, he realized
he had made a mistake, and he then let them in and was arrested, but at no
point did anyone explain to him why they wanted to search his house in the
first place. 37-year old Abdul Matin, a science teacher, had been living
in Pakistan during the Taliban years, but returned to Afghanistan in
February 2002 when the Karzai government called for people to help rebuild
the country. He said that he was betrayed by local enemies, who knew that
his father was wealthy, when he refused to pay a $30,000 bribe.

The shopkeeper

The story of Abdullah Wazir, who was 24 years old when he was captured,
appears to be a case of opportunism on the part of the Pakistani police. A
shopkeeper in a village near Khost, he said that he was on a bus, making
one of his regular visits across the border to Pakistan to buy batteries
and tires for his shop, and to mend the broken glass on his satellite
phone, when the bus was stopped and searched by Pakistani police. Fearing
that, if the police saw his phone, they might try to take his money
because they were "corrupt," he explained that he gave his phone to Bostan
Karim, an acquaintance from his village, with whom he had spent three days
preaching five years before, and asked him "to hold it for two minutes."
Unfortunately, he added, "a soldier on top of the bus saw me give the
phone to Karim." He then "told another soldier that I had passed something
to another person," and both men were then arrested, taken to a jail and
interrogated. Although Wazir reported that "the boss of the jail told me
that I will released tomorrow, in the afternoon they handcuffed our hands
and took us somewhere else [Bagram, presumably]. We spent six to seven
months at the place they took us. From there, they brought me here."

Although Wazir was accused of being a member of the Taliban (an allegation
that he denied), what particularly counted against him was his alleged
association with Karim, who is still in Guantánamo. A preacher and also a
shopkeeper, Karim, who was 33 years old when he was captured, was
reportedly "apprehended because he matched the description of an al-Qaeda
bomb cell leader and had a [satellite] phone." In a demonstration of the
thinness of so many of the allegations that make up the "evidence" in
Guantánamo, it was also alleged that he was "possibly identified as an
al-Qaeda associate, planning landmine attacks in Khost," and was "possibly
identified as a person likely to have communicated with Arab al-Qaeda
members operating in Peshawar, Afghanistan [sic], and working directly for
Arab al-Qaeda in the Khost province."

Karim maintained that the allegations had been made by another detainee,
Obaidullah (who is also still in Guantánamo), who had been a partner in
his shop, but had fallen out with him in a dispute over money. From
Obaidullah's statements in his own hearings, it's clear that, while being
interrogated by US forces in Bagram, he admitted making up allegations
against Karim. In his military review in 2005, he responded to an
allegation that Karim "is thought to be a Taliban commander who is getting
funding from the Taliban or the Arabs" by saying, "I accepted this by
force in Bagram. They told me in Bagram that Karim is one of the Taliban
commanders and they forced me to say yes. I am not aware if he is a
Taliban commander."

When asked who forced him to "say things," Obaidullah said, "The first
time when they [US forces] captured me and brought me to Khost they put a
knife to my throat and said if you don't tell us the truth and you lie to
us we are going to slaughter you They tied my hands and put a heavy bag of
sand on my hands and made me walk all night in the Khost airport In Bagram
they gave me more trouble and would not let me sleep. They were standing
me on the wall and my hands were hanging above my head. There were a lot
of things they made me say."

The "Commander"

Also transferred was Gul Chaman (also known as Commander Chaman), who was
40 years old at the time of his capture. A former mujahideen fighter
against the Soviet Union, Chaman had a colorful history. In the turmoil of
the brutal civil war that followed the collapse of the Soviet government
in the early 1990s, he fought for six months against the forces of Ahmed
Shah Massoud, the charismatic Tajik who led the Northern Alliance (and who
was assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives two days before 9/11), as a member
of Hezb-e-Islami Gulduddin (HIG), a military faction led by Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar. A virulently anti-American warlord, Hekmatyar had,
nevertheless, been the main recipient of billions of dollars of US aid in
the 1980s, because he was the favored warlord of the ISI (the Pakistani
intelligence services), who were responsible for funneling US aid to the

Chaman explained to his tribunal that he then switched sides, joining
Massoud, and insisted that he did not join the Taliban after their rise to
power in 1994. "When the Taliban movement started," he said, "[they]
captured Logar and then they started coming to Azrah, which is my
district. The Taliban collected ten guys by the name of Chaman's people
and killed and executed them right on the spot. I was there and they did
not capture me." He explained that they were "my cousins and my day
laborers," and that the Taliban would not let him give them a proper
burial. "After that," he continued, "I was against the Taliban. I did not
fight but I tried my best to fight them through propaganda."

Accused of being "heavily involved in the drug trade and other illegal
activities in Kabul," Chaman denied the allegations, claiming that, after
Hamid Karzai came to power, he made a few visits to Pakistan with a
delegation connected with the chief of intelligence, and provided some
information on HIG. He added, "I was doing work against the Taliban."

The circumstances of his capture apparently had nothing whatsoever to do
with this back story. Instead, it seems that he was seized and sent to
Guantánamo because a young man called Mohammed Mustafa Sohail, who was
working for an American contractor and who is still held in Guantánamo,
accused him of stealing a computer from the Americans that he had actually
stolen himself. Sohail explained that he accused Chaman after being
interrogated for 68 hours in Kabul, when an interrogator "tortured and
threatened me with a gun to my mouth, to try to make me say something,"
but whether or not there was any truth in this story it came too late for
Chaman, who had already been handed over to the Americans at Bagram by the
local intelligence chief.

The pro-American rivals

Two others, whose stories are in some ways the most shocking of the nine,
were among six men captured in Gardez in July 2003, who were resolutely
opposed to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. 32-year old Abdullah Mujahid was the
police chief in Gardez and the security chief for Paktia province after
the fall of the Taliban, and had just been promoted to a job protecting
the highways of Kabul at the Interior Ministry. At the start of the US-led
invasion, he met US Special Forces in Logar and invited them to Gardez,
where he negotiated the rent of the camp that they used as their base, and
he also fought alongside them during Operation Anaconda, a mission to oust
al-Qaeda remnants from the Shah-i-Kot valley in Paktia province in March

According to Mujahid's lawyers, he was so well respected that residents of
Gardez and Paktia sent several petitions to the US administration,
pointing out that he was "instrumental in helping establish schools,
including schools for girls" in the region. Explaining the circumstances
of his arrest, he said that two Americans detained him and asked him about
two military commanders that he knew, who were accused of stealing. When
he denied the story, he said that one of the men told me that I wasn't
telling the truth about these people, so you belong in Cuba," and added,
"It appears that the decision was made to send me to Cuba already."

In Guantánamo, it was also alleged that Mujahid was "fired from his
appointed position due to suspicions of collusion with anti-government
forces," and that he later attacked US troops in retaliation, but Farah
Stockman of the Boston Globe, who visited Gardez to find out more about
his story, noted that he fell out of favor with the American forces
operating in the area, who wanted to replace him with a professionally
trained police chief, and that after his new job in Kabul was arranged,
the Special Forces commander actually advised him to leave Gardez, warning
him that he was at risk of being sent to Guantánamo if he remained.

The US forces seem to have been particularly upset by Mujahid's response
to the murder of Jamil Nasser, an Afghan prisoner (and a member of the new
Afghan army) who was killed by Special Forces soldiers while in custody at
a US base near Gardez in March 2003. After Nasser's death, the US military
insisted on transferring his seven surviving colleagues, who had all been
tortured and beaten horrendously, to Mujahid's custody. According to the
Crimes of War Project, a Washington human rights group that investigated
the abuse, the Special Forces commander "threatened to kill Mujahid if he
released the prisoners," and it may have been his subsequent actions that
convinced the Americans not only to remove him from office, but also to do
it by sending him to Guantánamo. Farah Stockman reported that Mujahid
"ordered that they [the injured men] be given medical treatment and
mattresses," and then "described the prisoners' injuries to Afghan
military prosecutors, who later wrote a report recommending that the
American soldiers be punished."

In addition, the theft that was allegedly responsible for getting Abdullah
Mujahid sent to Guantánamo seems to have been reported by another of the
detainees released last week, Dr. Hafizullah Shabaz Khail, a 56-year old
pharmacist from Zormat, south of Gardez, who in turn blamed Mujahid for
his imprisonment. Approached by the town elders after Hamid Karzai first
came to power as the head of the interim post-Taliban government, Khail
served as the mayor for six months until an official appointment was made,
and then continued to help out with security. "While I was mayor in
Zormat," he said, "there were no problems with the Americans. I met with
American commanders several times ... We even took pictures together."

Arrested after capturing some thieves who were working for Taj Mohammed,
the head of security in Zormat, he suggested that Mujahid, who was
Mohammed's boss, then arranged for the Americans to arrest him. If this is
the case -- and lawyers for the two men suggested that they were bitter
enemies -- then at least part of the reason that both men were in
Guantánamo was because of allegations they had made against each other.
The fact that the US authorities failed to notice this indicates that they
had no interest in cross-referencing cases or investigating the truth of
assertions made against those in their custody. Unlike Mujahid, who was
cleared for release two years ago, Khail was not cleared for release until
the last few months, even though, as with his rival, several local tribes
sent a petition to the US authorities confirming his many contributions to
their community.

Suppression of witnesses at Guantánamo

Mujahid's story was also notable because it was used by the journalist
Declan Walsh to demonstrate one of the many failures of the tribunal
process at Guantánamo. These tribunals -- the Combatant Status Review
Tribunals (CSRTs) -- were dreamt up as a deliberately inadequate response
to a decisive Supreme Court ruling, in June 2004, that the Guantánamo
detainees had habeas corpus rights; in other words, that they had the
right to challenge the basis of their detention. Initially criticized by
lawyers and human rights activists because the detainees were denied legal
representation, and were prevented from either seeing or hearing secret
evidence against them, which could therefore have been obtained through
torture, coercion or bribery, the tribunals were recently savaged by
military officers who had taken part in them, who condemned them for
relying on generalized and often generic evidence that had nothing to do
with the detainees in question, and who indicated, moreover, that they
were merely designed to rubber-stamp their prior designation as "enemy
combatants" without rights, so that they could be held indefinitely
without charge or trial.

Declan Walsh's contribution was to demolish the US military's assertion
that the detainees would be allowed to call witnesses, if they were
"reasonably available." "No-Hearing Hearings," a report by researchers at
the Seton Hall Law School, who analyzed documents released by the Pentagon
in 2006, established that, although the CSRT process "provided that
detainees could call witnesses no witness from outside Guantánamo ever
appeared," often because the tribunal claimed that the request had been
forwarded to the State Department, but that no reply had been received.

In June 2006, after deciding to test how difficult it was to track down
witnesses, Walsh focused on the case of Abdullah Mujahid, just one of many
Afghans who asked his tribunal to make a few phone calls to verify his
story. Walsh did just that, and within three days found three witnesses
that the Pentagon had apparently been unable to contact. One was working
in Washington DC, teaching at the National Defense University, and the
other two were in Afghanistan.

A call to President Karzai's office located Shahzada Masoud, an adviser on
tribal affairs, who confirmed that Mujahid had accepted a job protecting
the highways in Kabul and "was given a lavish transfer-of-power ceremony
attended by government dignitaries," and Walsh obtained the phone number
of Gul Haider, a defense ministry representative and former Northern
Alliance commander, from a government official in Gardez. Haider confirmed
that Mujahid sent 30 of his men to assist the Americans during Operation
Anaconda, and said he had not heard anything to support the Americans'
claims that he had turned against them. Pointing out that political
rivalries were to blame for his arrest, and that someone had made false
allegations, Haider said, "Afghanistan has many problems -- between
tribes, Communists, the Taliban. That's why people like Abdullah, who are
completely innocent, end up in jail."

While I wait to find out if any of these men will be released from
Pol-i-Charki -- and if others like Bostan Karim, Obaidullah and Mohammed
Sohail will be released from Guantánamo -- I have to conclude that Gul
Haider's comment could serve as an epitaph for most of the Afghans in

Andy Worthington (www.andyworthington.co.uk) is a British historian, and
the author of 'The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in
America's Illegal Prison' (to be published by Pluto Press in October
He can be reached at: andy at andyworthington.co.uk

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