Guantanamo secret files show U.S. often held innocent Afghans
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: April 27, 2011 12:21:04 PM
WASHINGTON — Naqibullah was about 14 years old when U.S. troops detained him in December of 2002 at a suspected militant's compound in eastern Afghanistan.
The weapon he held in his hands hadn't been fired, the troops concluded, and he appeared to have been left behind with a group of cooks and errand boys when a local warlord, tipped to the raid, had fled.
A secret U.S. intelligence assessment written in 2003 concluded that Naqibullah had been kidnapped and forcibly conscripted by a warring tribe affiliated with the Taliban. The boy told interrogators that during his abduction he'd been held at gunpoint by 11 men and raped.
Nonetheless, Naqibullah was held at Guantanamo for a full year.
Afghans make up the largest group by nationality held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, an estimated 221 men and boys in all. Yet they were frequently found to have had nothing to do with international terrorism, according to more than 750 secret intelligence assessments that were written at Guantanamo between 2002 and 2009. The assessments were obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to McClatchy.
In at least 44 cases, U.S. military intelligence officials concluded that detainees had no connection to militant activity at all, a McClatchy examination of the assessments, which cover both former and current detainees, found. The number might be even higher, but couldn't be determined from the information in some assessments, which often were just one or two pages long for Afghans who were released in 2002 and 2003.
Still, it's clear from the U.S. military's own assessments that beyond a core of senior Taliban and extremist commanders, the Afghans were in large part a jumble of conscripts, insurgents, criminals and, at times, innocent bystanders. Just 45 were classified as presenting a high threat level, and only 28 were judged to be of high intelligence value. At least 203 have now been released. In 2009, the Defense Department said that at least 11 released Afghans were confirmed or suspected of "re-engaging in terrorist activities."