Guantánamo not closing after all: 777th detainee arrives from Afghanistan


Demonstrating either that the administration’s left hand does not know what the right hand is doing –- which would be apt –- or, more probably, that they don’t give a damn what anyone thinks, the foolish rumors of Guantánamo’s imminent closure, which I mocked here this morning, were comprehensively swept away a few hours later when the Department of Defense announced that it had transferred a brand-new detainee –- “a dangerous terror suspect” –- from Afghanistan to Guantánamo.

Guantánamo’s 777th detainee is Haroon al-Afghani, who, according to the DoD, was “captured as a result of our ongoing efforts in the Global War on Terror.” The DoD also declared that he was “known to be associated with high-level militants in Afghanistan, and has admitted to serving as a courier for al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL),” and reported that there was “significant information available” that he was a senior commander of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), an anti-US militia led by renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who, ironically, was one of the major recipients of billions of dollars of American money in the 1980s, which was channeled to him through his supporters in Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI. According to the DoD, al-Afghani “commanded multiple HIG terrorist cells that conducted improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Nangahar Province” (centered on Jalalabad) and “is assessed to have had regular contact with senior AQ [al-Qaeda] and HIG leadership.”

No details of al-Afghani’s capture were provided –- either the date or the location –- probably to prevent the kind of furore that arose after senior al-Qaeda operative Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi was transferred to Guantánamo in April, when the administration let slip that he had been held for several months by the CIA –- in one of the secret prisons that the President declared empty on 6 September 2006 –- but from the DoD’s comment that he “admitted serving as a courier for al-Qaeda,” it’s clear that wasn’t picked up yesterday, and probable that he was held for some time in one of the many US-run prisons in Afghanistan.

Expect months to go by before we learn any more, when he will go through a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), which will confirm that he was an “enemy combatant” –- as designated by the President when he was captured –- so that he can progress to trial by Military Commission, if –- and it’s a big if –- the administration can actually breathe life into their Frankenstein-like substitution for a real court of law.

For more on Guantánamo, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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