Sunday, September 25, 2005

This hasn't appeared anywhere else but my local paper Newsday, according to my recent search.

A strong case is made that we are allowing ex-communists with a grudge against those they fought in Afghanistan to tell us implausible stories about them.

In his hearing, Ali Shah noted that, after graduating from medical school in the late 1990s, he was unable to get a job as a doctor and, like many Afghan refugees in Tehran, took low-paying jobs, tailoring and driving a taxi, to survive. Especially given the difficulties of refugee life, he said, if he had been a Taliban supporter, he might have been expected to return to Afghanistan under their rule and take some position in the bureaucracy.

"You know that during the Taliban regime no Shiite had the right to express their opinion, while during the [post-Taliban] democracy Shiites had candidates in the presidential election," Ali Shah told the Marine colonel who presided at his hearing. "With which motivation do you think I would oppose the democratic government and associate with the Taliban and their like-minded people?"

The transcript shows that U.S. officers did not respond. Last month, Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman, also declined to address any specific question about Ali Shah, declaring simply that "no mistake" was made in his detention or that of others being investigated by Newsday.

On March 22, Ali Shah has said, his military judges ruled that he is an "enemy combatant" of the United States, meaning he should be held indefinitely. In August, the State Department announced that it would hand about 100 Afghans at Guantanamo to the custody of the Afghan government, perhaps beginning within six months. None of the prisoners was named, leaving it unclear whether Ali Shah will be among them.

It could still be that there is classified information which makes the decision reasonable - but in the article that claim is not made. If not, we need a crash program in the language and culture of the area we are trying to rebuild. It would be easier to tell if more details were included about this:

Afghans familiar with Ali Shah's case say they think he has been accused by former communists whom Ali Shah fought during the Soviet occupation of this country in the 1980s. U.S. officials often use ex-communist military and police officers as informants in southeast Afghanistan, and a number of cases of mistaken imprisonment have been blamed on them.

Been blamed by who, investigated how, Afghans with what relationship to the accused?

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