By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
KABUL, Afghanistan — Ghulam Mohammed Farhad said that he knows all about the background of a man named Aminullah: He fought against the Taliban, but was sent to Guantanamo because of false information fed to American troops.
Mohammed Daoud Daoud said that he was equally certain that he knew who Aminullah was: a ruthless Taliban leader who deserved to be locked away for a long time.
Both should know what they're talking about. From late 2001 to 2003, Farhad was the police chief in Kunduz, where Afghan soldiers pulled Aminullah out of his home in October 2002. Daoud, now a deputy interior minister, was the head of the Afghan army corps in Kunduz and much of the rest of northeastern Afghanistan.
Their disagreement about Aminullah reveals a lot about how hard it was for the U.S. military to distinguish militants from innocents in Afghanistan. More than 20 years of Soviet invasion and occupation and a much longer history of British colonialism, civil wars and rivalries left a land so fragmented that it often was impossible to find the truth amid all the feuds.
When U.S.-led forces arrived in late 2001, the warlords who'd come together in a loose coalition known as the northern alliance to fight the Taliban began jockeying for power and position.
Daoud is an ethnic Tajik who was closely aligned with Ahmad Shah Massoud, also a Tajik and one of the most prominent northern alliance commanders before al Qaida assassinated him two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Farhad, like Aminullah, is a Pashtun, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, many of whom resent the Tajiks' political clout. He's also a follower of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a warlord who some think helped set up Massoud's murder.
Farhad said in a phone interview that Daoud orchestrated Aminullah's detention by giving U.S. officials false information. He did so, Farhad said, because he wanted to remove any local Sayyaf representatives who might threaten his power.
Daoud, in an interview in his Kabul office, said that Aminullah "was a Taliban commander, he was a very bad guy . . . he killed people, he beat people."
Wazir Gul Rahman, the head of the Afghan government's peace and reconciliation commission for northeast Afghanistan, said that Aminullah was detained because of "some feuds." Bryan Lessley, an American attorney who represented Aminullah, said that he, too, thought that Aminullah was shipped to Guantanamo because of local infighting, but he never went to Kunduz to track down the details.
The U.S. military accepted Daoud's version and accused Aminullah of being a low-level Taliban commander and later assembling a team to hijack and blow up a United Nations aircraft with a suicide bomber.
Lessley, who works for the federal public defender's office in Oregon, said the military dropped the hijacking charge, which, he said, "was not the basis of his detention." The lawyer said that he couldn't give any further details because they were based on classified reports
Aminullah denied involvement with the bombing plot during his military tribunal at Guantanamo but admitted that he'd been with the Taliban, although he said he was coerced to join after they killed his brother-in-law and imprisoned him twice.
Aminullah commanded 10 Taliban soldiers at a small post in Takhar province, Daoud's home. After the northern alliance, backed by the U.S. military, swept into Takhar, Aminullah surrendered and began fighting alongside the northern alliance, he told the tribunal.
The Afghan government considered Aminullah a possible security threat. After he was released from Guantanamo in 2007, he was held for about eight months in a maximum-security wing of an Afghan prison, Pul-i-Charki.
In an interview in Kabul this April, on the day he was released from Pul-i-Charki, Aminullah said he was looking forward to going home to Kunduz.
Asked why the Americans had detained him, Aminullah shook his head and said, "Only God knows."