Down and Out in Afghanistan

Posted on April 26, 2011

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Just looking through the Wikileaks Gitmo-Leak and noticing what seems like an inordinate number of foreign national detainees who were in Afghanistan because they pretty much had no place else to go.  Obviously, this is little more than anecdotal–because the current list on the Wikileaks website is incomplete and I’ve only read through about fifteen or so of the files available. And, of course, some of this information has already been public for some time. But I think it’s worth noting these cases, all, of course, according to the  detainee’s own story as it appears in the Gitmo files [most of this information has been independently corroborated since].

Amhad Bin Saleh Bel Bacha: An Algerian who served in the military, but later ran into trouble with a local Islamic group, traveled to France, where he acquired a fake French passport, and then to London where he applied for political asylum. Denied political asylum, Bel Bacha was apparently destitute and accepted an offer to travel to Afghanistan ahead of imminent deportation, where papers were not necessary to enter. He claims that he was never involved in combat, and indeed, fled into the mountains as soon as hostilities began–the US has no proof that he did. Incredibly, though he is considered of low intelligence value, he is still in Gitmo to this day, demonstrating the completely arbitrary detention rubric there.

Sameur Abdenour: Also from Algeria, Sameur ended up in the UK illegally after being involved in the Bosnian conflict [in subsequent reports, it appears Abdenour had refugee status in Great Britain]. According to his own account, he went to Afghanistan from the UK to “seek a better life”, due to what he considered poor treatment from the UK government and people. Sameur claims he was not involved in any violence towards Americans, nor does the US have any proof that he was.

Khalil Mamut:  A Uighur studying abroad, who like others on this list, found himself with nowhere to go. After spending three years in Pakistan, his passport was about to expire, and he claims he would have been tortured and imprisoned in China for his associations in Pakistan. With nowhere to go and no money, he traveled to Afghanistan–the one country in the world at that time which virtually turned no one away–and literally became an indentured soldier of the Taliban. He never saw combat and was arrested by Pakistani officials in a Uighur camp that put up no resistance. Mamut was released, along with several other Uighur prisoners to Bermuda in 2009. The US never claimed to have any evidence against Mamut.

Ahmad Abd al Rahman Ahmad: An ethnic Moroccan Spanish citizen, who was by his own account a petty thief and drug dealer who seems to have become involved in jihad movements for simple lack of opportunity. When given the choice to leave Afghanistan after the events of 9-11, Ahmad chose to leave but was apprehended as he tried to do so. He was in Guantanamo for two years before being transferred to Spanish authorities, where he was tried for links to terror and released for good behavior after three years of a six year sentence in 2007. Which by itself, is simply an incredible indictment of Gitmo.

Ali A Motalib: Motalib’s story may be the most horrendous of these. Motalib served in the Iraqi military, but after going AWOL, was forced to leave the country. He sought asylum in several embassies in Tunisia and even tried to sell Iraqi secrets to a US consul in Pakistan as a way to make money. With few opportunities, and nowhere else to go, it’s not surprising that Motalib ended up in Afghanistan, a literal “wild west” with no passport control or secure borders, looking for a way to support himself. He was a driver and mechanic for the Taliban by his own account–an account which the US does not dispute. In a final irony, Motalib surrendered to unindicted Afghan war criminal, mass murderer and US ally, Abd Dostum. Motalib spent seven years in Guantanamo and was only released in 2009.

Some of these men were stateless, others fleeing from institutionalized injustices in their homelands, or just plain broke and uneducated looking for work. That’s how they ended up in Guantanamo.

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