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Context of 'November 24, 2001: Foreign Taliban Fighters Sent to Qala-i-Janghi Fortress'

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Five days before the 9/11 attacks, US citizen John Walker Lindh arrives on the front line of Taliban forces in the region of Takhar in the north of Afghanistan in order to engage in battle against the Northern Alliance. [Prepared Statement of John Walker Lindh to the Court. United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 10/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Northern Alliance, John Walker Lindh, Taliban

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

The Northern Alliance, under the direction of General Dostum and with US support, manage to break through the Taliban line in Kunduz, eventually leading to the surrender of Taliban forces. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Abdul Rashid Dostum, John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

When asked under what terms the US might be willing to accept a surrender from Taliban Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld responds: “The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders, nor are we in a position, with relatively small numbers of forces on the ground, to accept prisoners.… Any idea that those people in that town who have been fighting so viciously and who refuse to surrender should end up in some sort of a negotiation which would allow them to leave the country and go off and destabilize other countries and engage in terrorist attacks on the United States is something that I would certainly do everything I could to prevent. They’re people who have done terrible things.… The idea of their getting out of the country and going off to make their mischief somewhere else is not a happy prospect. So my hope is that they will either be killed or taken prisoner [by the Northern Alliance].” [US Department of Defense, 11/19/2001; London Times, 11/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Uzbek Northern Alliance leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum meets with Mullah Faizal, the Taliban commander in Kunduz, to discuss what should be done with the Taliban’s fanatical “foreign legion.” They agree that the 5,000 Afghan Taliban fighters “would be given safe passage after surrender, but the foreign fighters would be handed over to General Dostum.” [Guardian, 11/27/2001; London Times, 11/28/2001] This is in line with orders from Washington, which has demanded that the foreign fighters not be freed. Top US officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have publicly opposed any plan that would allow the foreign Taliban troops to be freed in exchange for their surrender (see November 19, 2001). John Walker Lindh, an American Muslim, is among the legion of foreign fighters (see September 6, 2001). [Guardian, 11/27/2001; London Times, 11/28/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001; Prepared Statement of John Walker Lindh to the Court. United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 10/4/2002]

Entity Tags: John Walker Lindh, Donald Rumsfeld, Mullah Faizal, Abdul Rashid Dostum

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Foreign Taliban fighters agree to be transported to Erganak, located 12 miles west of Kunduz. But to their surprise they arrive in a desert on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif. According to some sources, the “foreigners [were] tricked into going to Mazar on the understanding they would attack it.” Tension increases when they realize they have actually surrendered. After some negotiating, a second agreement is made with Amir Jan, a Northern Alliance commander with Pashtun roots. The foreign fighters are told by their Taliban commander to disarm—but are not told that they will later be detained as prisoners. Amir Jan tells the Guardian of London: “The foreigners thought that after surrendering to the Northern Alliance they would be free. They didn’t think they would be put in jail.” [Guardian, 11/27/2001; London Times, 11/28/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Amir Jan, John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters being transported to Qala-i-Janghi fortress.Taliban fighters being transported to Qala-i-Janghi fortress. [Source: CNN/House of War]The foreign Taliban fighters, who surrendered in Kunduz the day before (see November 23, 2001), are taken into custody by General Dostum who wants to send them to a Soviet-built airfield in Mazar-i-Sharif. But US Special Forces say the runway might be needed for military operations. A last minute decision is then made to transport the prisoners to Dostum’s 19th Century Qala-i-Janghi fortress. Prior to leaving for the compound, all of the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters are supposed to be disarmed, but for some reason fighters in only three of the five transport vehicles are actually checked. [Guardian, 11/27/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001] The foreign Taliban fighters arrive at the Qala-i-Janghi fort early in the morning. When some of Dostum’s men attempt to frisk the group of fighters who have not yet been disarmed, one of the Chechen prisoners detonates a hand grenade, killing himself, several other prisoners, and two Northern Alliance commanders. As a result, the weapons search is abandoned and the prisoners are herded into a stable area north of the fort. Between two and eight of the prisoners in the stable area blow themselves up that night. As a result, the Northern Alliance decides to relocate them into the basement of the fortress. [London Times, 11/28/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001; Newsweek, 12/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Abdul Rashid Dostum, Taliban, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Qala-i-Janghi fortress.Qala-i-Janghi fortress. [Source: CNN/House of War]After a sleepless night in the overcrowded basement in Dostum’s fortress, a group of Taliban prisoners, including John Walker Lindh, are led out, one by one, by the guards. They are searched, tied up and later seated in rows on an open lawn. [Newsweek, 12/1/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001] Simon Brooks, head of the International Committee for the Red Cross in northern Afghanistan, arrives at the Qala-i-Janghi compound seeking an assurance from Said Kamal, Dostum’s security chief, that the prisoners will be treated in accordance with international law. He also wants to write the prisoners’ names down and get messages for their families. [Guardian, 12/1/2001] Another official from the Red Cross, Olivier Martin, is also inside Qala-i-Janghi making sure that the prisoners are being cared for in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. [Independent, 11/29/2001] Meanwhile, Northern Alliance fighters are tying up prisoners at the south end of the fortress. [London Times, 11/28/2001; Guardian, 11/29/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001] The prisoners are scared and think the Northern Alliance is preparing to execute them. They believe that the two television crews—from Reuters and the German station ARD—present intend to film their deaths. One of the prisoners recalls, “Our hands were tied, and they were beating and kicking some of us. Some of the Mujahedin [Taliban] were scared, crying. They thought we were all going to be killed.” [New York Times, 11/28/2001; Newsweek, 12/1/2001; Guardian, 12/1/2001] One guard hits Lindh in the back of his head, so hard that he “nearly [loses] consciousness.” [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Northern Alliance, John Walker Lindh, Simon Brooks, Olivier Martin, International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

The Northern Alliance assaults Qala-i-Janghi fortress.The Northern Alliance assaults Qala-i-Janghi fortress. [Source: CNN/House of War]Northern Alliance General Abdul Rashid Dostum returns to the Qala-i-Janghi fortress from Kunduz. Three health officials attempting to enter the basement where Taliban survivers are still holding out are shot by armed Taliban who refuse to surrender. Several Taliban mullahs brought in by Dostum are unable to convince the holdouts to surrender. [CNN, 8/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Abdul Rashid Dostum

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Taliban survivors who have been holding out in the basement of a one-story building in the Qala-i-Janghi fortress surrender. [Newsweek, 12/1/2001] John Walker Lindh is found “with approximately 15 dead or dying persons on the floor.” [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] Of the more than 300 prisoners who arrived with Lindh a week before, only 86 survive. “Everyone was in poor health, and most of them were traumatized, with absent looks on their faces,” Oliver Martin, chief of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation at Mazar-i-Sharif, later recalls. “It must have been hell and horror for them.” [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] For around six hours, Lindh and many other wounded and dying prisoners are locked in an overcrowded dark container. He is then moved to the back of an open-air truck, from where he notices ICRC officials and members of the media. It then appears that Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum intended to suffocate the prisoners inside the container, but that the presence of the ICRC and journalists has prevented that. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] Lindh and the other surviving but wounded Taliban are taken to the town of Sheberghan. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Taliban, John Walker Lindh, International Committee of the Red Cross, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Oliver Martin

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

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