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Context of 'January 22, 2009: Afghan, Pakistani Human Rights Officials Say Closing of Guantanamo Does Not Go Far Enough'

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Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), Representative Porter Goss (R-FL), and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) travel to Pakistan and meet with President Pervez Musharraf. They reportedly discuss various security issues, including the possible extradition of bin Laden. They also meet with Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. Zaeef apparently tells them that the Taliban wants to solve the issue of bin Laden through negotiations with the US. Pakistan says it wants to stay out of the bin Laden issue. [Agence France-Presse, 8/28/2001; Salon, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Porter J. Goss, Pervez Musharraf, Osama bin Laden, Abdul Salam Zaeef, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Jon Kyl

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, is approached by his US counterpart and warned that Osama bin Laden is planning an attack on the US. According to Zaeef’s 2010 memoir, at some point before 9/11 Zaeef is contacted by William Milam, the US ambassador to Pakistan, who “unexpectedly asked for an appointment that very same day. (The Americans occasionally got agitated over small things.)” Milam insists on the meeting, although Zaeef is tired, and comes to visit him at his home, accompanied by Paula Thedi, political affairs officer to the US ambassador in Pakistan. According to Zaeef’s book, Milam “seemed worried and impatient and started to talk as soon as he entered the room.” He tells Zaeef: “Our intelligence reports reveal that Osama is planning a major attack on America. This is why we had to come immediately at such a late hour. You need to tell officials in Afghanistan to prevent the attacks!” Zaeef will write that he immediately forwards the ambassador’s concerns to Kabul, and Kabul responds 23 hours later with a letter that states: “Afghanistan has no intention to harm the United States of America now or in the future. We do not condone attacks of any kind against America and prevent anyone from using Afghan soil to plan or train for any such attacks.” Zaeef will say he personally translates this statement from Pashtu and passes it to the American ambassador. Immediately after 9/11, Zaeef will issue a similar statement to the media on Kabul’s stance, which says: “We strongly condemn the events that happened in the United States at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We share the grief of all those who have lost their nearest and dearest in these incidents. All those responsible must be brought to justice. We want them to be brought to justice, and we want America to be patient and careful in their actions.” Zaeef will be detained after the US invasion of Afghanistan and held for several years, including a spell in Guantanamo, before his release without charge. [Zaeef, 1/20/2010, pp. 138]

Entity Tags: Abdul Salam Zaeef, William Milam, Paula Thedi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

An array of Afghan and Pakistani human rights representatives and former Guantanamo inmates say that President Obama’s plans to close the detention camp (see January 22, 2009) do not go far enough. Other US detention centers should also be shut down and former inmates should be compensated, they say. Obama “is closing it in order to put an end to the criticism from human rights groups and also to get rid of the bad image it created for the Americans,” says Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan who spent more than three years imprisoned at Guantanamo. “But he needs to restore justice for prisoners who were persecuted there during investigations. There were innocent people imprisoned there. He needs to put on trial those who were involved in the persecution of inmates.” Lal Gul Lal, the head of the Afghanistan Human Rights Organization, calls the Guantanamo prison “a flagrant violation of international and American laws.” He continues: “If Obama’s administration wants to get rid of the criticism and wants to implement justice then it should hand over to their respective countries all the prisoners it has in various prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. If that does not happen the closure of Guantanamo will have no meaning.” Some 250 prisoners are still being held in Guantanamo, around 600 prisoners still remain in custody at the detention facility at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and more are being held in camps at Kandahar and Khost. Many of the detainees have never been charged with a crime. Amina Masood Janjua, a Pakistani campaigner for the release of detainees, says while the closing of Guantanamo will be a positive development, “those governments which are running illegal torture cells and safe houses set up by intelligence agencies and militaries should be forced to close them too.” Khalid, a former Pakistani security agent who now heads the Defense of Human Rights organization, calls the closure “nothing… a media stunt.” He adds: “After brutally and inhumanely treating inmates, now they’re pretending that they believe in justice and human rights. What about the human rights crimes committed there? What about those who have seen the worst time of their lives there? Is it that easy to ignore or forgive?” [Reuters, 1/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Abdul Salam Zaeef, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization, Amina Masood Janjua, Barack Obama, Obama administration, Lal Gul Lal

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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