Guantánamo

Guantánamo parole board: Afghan captive good to go

Afghan Haj Hamdullah at Guantánamo in a U.S. military photo from his April 2008 prison profile provided to McClatchy Newspapers by WikiLeaks.
Afghan Haj Hamdullah at Guantánamo in a U.S. military photo from his April 2008 prison profile provided to McClatchy Newspapers by WikiLeaks.

The Guantánamo parole board has approved the release of an Afghan veteran of his country’s 1980 war against the Soviet occupation, describing him as a non-ideological, well-behaved captive.

Haj Hamdullah, in his 50s, “does not support a jihadist ideology, has been highly compliant and has sought to moderate the behavior of others,” the board wrote Feb. 11 in a decision obtained by the Miami Herald. It also cited, more than a decade after he got to Guantánamo, “lack of clear information regarding his involvement with al-Qaida or The Taliban.”

With this approval, 36 of the 91 captives currently at the prison are formally cleared to leave to security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Hamdullah’s attorney, Stephen D. Brown, asked the board Jan. 12 to release Hamdullah to a Muslim country other than Afghanistan or Pakistan “so that he can spend the remainder of his years with his two wives in peace, and without concern for his own safety.”

Brown made the request before a Yemeni captive refused to leave the terror prison for resettlement in Europe, citing fear of going to a country where he didn’t have family. After that Jan. 20 episode, the special State Department envoy for Guantánamo closure remarked, “We’re not a travel agency.”

Latest decision means 36 of currently 91 captives are cleared to go with security agreements

Hamdullah’s leaked 2008 intelligence profile called him a medium- to high-risk prisoner who had fought the Soviet occupation of his homeland in the 1980s, hunted Soviet troops and was at one point imprisoned in Kabul then exchanged for a Russian soldier.

By the board hearing, however, U.S. intelligence cast him as definitely a fighter but more of an opportunist who fought the Soviets on behalf of the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, HIG, and “probably collaborated with the Taliban and possibly with al-Qaida, although the nature of the relationship remains unclear.”

A U.S. military officer assigned to help him make his case for release cast him as entrepreneurial before capture. He would buy cheap houses and cars, fix them up and sell them, the U.S. officer said. A U.S. intelligence profile released on the eve of his board hearing said his family had a history of anti-coalition and criminal activities.

Spend the remainder of his years with his two wives in peace, and without concern for his own safety.

Attorney Stephen Brown on Hamdullah’s goal

The officer said the captive, also known as Ahmid al Razak or Detainee 1119, spent his 12 years at Guantánamo learning to read and memorizing the Quran. He got here Nov. 21, 2003, was never charged with a crime and was listed as a “forever prisoner,” too dangerous to release, in January 2010.

At the January hearing, his attorney advised the board members in the Washington, D.C., area by video link from Guantánamo about Afghan life expectancy. The attorney noted he had become diabetic in detention and equated him to a U.S. man in his 70s. Board members in Washington represented the Departments of Defense, Justice, State and Homeland Security as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Mr. Hamdullah has a large and supportive family with whom he has remained in contact during his period at Guantánamo Bay,” Brown told the board. “His family will support him wherever he goes. He has never alleged to be part of any anti-U.S. efforts preceding 9/11, and has had no extremist or radical, religious contacts.”

In custody, the latest intelligence estimate said, Hamdullah has “acted as a leader of the other Afghan detainees and probably has sought to moderate their behavior, demonstrating that he is willing to cooperate with U.S. officials when it serves his or his fellow detainees' interests.” There are currently eight Afghan captives here, down from a high of at least 214.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

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