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

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Since the Bush administration came into office in January 2001, it has been slow to develop an approach on how to deal with Pakistan. In February 2001, President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf exchanged formal letters, but to little impact. The Bush administration is working on a regional policy review, but will not complete it before 9/11 (see January-September 10, 2001). The first substantial diplomatic contact between the US and Pakistan takes place in June 2001, when Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and ISI Maj. Gen. Faiz Jilani visit Washington, Canada, and Britain. Jilani is accompanying Sattar because it is well known that the ISI controls Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban. Sattar and Jilani meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in early June. Another Pakistani diplomat who attends the meeting will later recall: “She told us that the Taliban were dead in the water and we should drop them. It was a very rough meeting.” But Rice does not give any specific threats or incentives, presumably because the Bush administration has yet to make much progress with its policy review. Despite the harsh words, the Bush administration actually is more conciliatory than the Clinton administration had been. Later in June, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says in an interview: “I don’t want to see Pakistan only through the lens or the prism of Osama bin Laden. We want to look at Pakistan and see what Pakistan thinks about Pakistan’s future.” Bush writes another letter to Musharraf in August, but it simply repeats previous warnings (see August 4, 2001). Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, author of the 2000 book Taliban, will later comment: “There was now even less incentive for Musharraf to change his policies toward the Taliban and there was no extraordinary US pressure to go after al-Qaeda. Dealing with Bush was going to be much easier than dealing with Clinton. Whereas Clinton resisted the wool being pulled over his eyes, the Bush administration simply closed their eyes themselves.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 56-58]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Abdul Sattar, Bush administration (43), Faiz Jilani, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Richard Armitage, Condoleezza Rice, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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

Mike Spann.Mike Spann. [Source: CIA]In the morning, CIA agent “Dave,” US Special Forces, SAS soldiers, and an additional 200 Northern Alliance troops arrive at the Qala-i-Janghi fortress to fight the remaining ten or so Taliban fighters who are still resisting. One of the US soldiers warns journalists not to be inside the compound at night. [London Times, 11/28/2001; BBC, 12/1/2001; CNN, 8/3/2002] “To clear the last pockets of Taliban resistance in the afternoon, Alliance soldiers approached the houses in the middle of the compound and fired at random into basement windows,” the London Times later reports. “Some 20-liter petrol canisters were thrown in, then grenades.” [London Times, 11/28/2001] Alliance soldiers roaming the complex shoot at the bodies to make sure there are no survivors. They also loot corpses, stealing rifles, boots, clothing, and even gold fillings from their teeth. [Independent, 11/29/2001] According to an escaped prisoner, a Northern Alliance tank runs over the bodies of injured survivors. [Pakistan News Service (Newark, CA), 12/3/2001] A tank attacks the western half of the compound and reportedly kills the last two remaining holdouts who are still fighting. By noon, “the ground was littered with countless mangled bodies,” the London Times reports. [London Times, 11/28/2001; BBC, 12/1/2001] Foreign reporters are allowed in the compound. One Associated Press photographer sees Northern Alliance soldiers removing the bindings from the hands of the dead Taliban fighters. [Independent, 11/29/2001] In the afternoon, it is discovered that there are about 100 survivors in the basement of a one-story building at the center of the compound. US Special Forces order Northern Alliance soldiers to pour diesel fuel into the basement and ignite it. [Newsweek, 12/1/2001] General Dostum’s men pour fuel down several air ducts, two of which lead into a room where John Walker Lindh is sitting, drenching him. Unable to walk, he has to crawl away from the air ducts. Some minutes later, the fuel is lit and fire spreads quickly throughout the basement. “People were being burned alive,” an eyewitness will recall. Lindh loses consciousness in the smoke-filled air, while Dostum’s soldiers fire rockets amidst the surviving Taliban. The report by Lindh’s defense will say, “Human remains litter the entire basement floor.” [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] At dusk, US soldiers recover CIA agent Mike Spann’s (see September 10, 2001) booby-trapped body. [CNN, 8/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, John Walker Lindh, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mike Spann, Taliban, “Dave”, Northern Alliance

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

Author Robert Pelton, working as a freelance CNN contributor, learns that one of the survivors of the siege of Qala-i-Janghi fortress (see Morning, December 1, 2001) is an American and is being treated at a hospital in Sheberghan. He goes to the hospital with video cameras and a few members of the US Special Forces. John Walker Lindh allegedly refuses, at least twice, permission to film him and be interviewed, but the CNN cameramen start filming anyway. Pelton asks him if he wants to deliver a message to his family through CNN, but Lindh declines, saying he prefers to send a message through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file; CNN, 7/4/2002] Pelton offers him some food; then offers to have a Special Forces medic treat his wounds. Fearing torture and death if he remains in the custody of the Northern Alliance, Lindh finally accepts Pelton’s offer and agrees to be interviewed. Lindh is then moved to another room, with Special Forces personnel present, and receives medical treatment, with CNN cameras rolling. At this point, as US government papers confirm, “John Walker Lindh comes into the custody of the United States military forces.” [CNN, 12/20/2001; New Yorker, 3/3/2003] According to the US medic, Lindh is “malnourished and in extremely poor overall condition.” He does not remove the bullet in Lindh’s leg, deciding to leave it in “for later removal as evidence.” [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] Another Special Forces officer says Lindh is acting “delirious.” While Lindh is administered morphine through an IV, Pelton starts to interview him. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] Following the CNN interview, a Special Forces officer interrogates him, even though Lindh is “delirious,” under the influence of morphine and seriously wounded. Lindh is not read his Miranda rights. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] The “Miranda” rights are what a police officer is required to inform an arrested person before questioning. It follows from the Fifth Amendment which provides civil protection against being “compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself.” If this warning is not given before the interrogation takes place, statements made by the accused are considered involuntary and become inadmissible in a trial.

Entity Tags: John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Around the third day at the school (see December 2-5, 2001), probably on December 5, accused terrorist John Walker Lindh, unaware of the fact that a lawyer has been hired for him, is interrogated by two military officers. The questioning goes on for two or three days in sessions lasting several hours at a time. Again no Miranda warnings are given (see December 2, 2001). [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file] There is some discussion, however, among military personnel about whether Lindh should be advised of his right against self-incrimination. An Army intelligence officer is advised that instructions have come from “higher headquarters” for interrogators to coordinate Lindh’s interrogation with military lawyers. The intelligence officer asks to be faxed a Miranda form, but, according to the documents, “he never [gets] it.” The officer, however, adds that he is “in the business of collecting [intelligence] information, not in the business of Mirandizing.” After the first hour of interrogation, according to the documents, the interrogator provides the admiral in charge of Mazar-i-Sharif with a summary of what the interrogators have so far collected. The admiral tells him that the secretary of Defense’s counsel has authorized him to “take the gloves off” and ask whatever he wants. The unnamed counsel in question may well have been Defense Department chief counsel William J. Haynes. The initial responses Lindh gives to his interrogators are, according to the documents, cabled to Washington every hour. [Los Angeles Times, 6/9/2004] After the interrogations are ended, Lindh is told his conditions will improve. From then on, he is given a third meal a day and no longer held at gunpoint 24 hours a day. [United States of America v. John Walker Lindh, 6/13/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: William J. Haynes, John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

Finally, John Walker Lindh has the bullet in his leg (see November 25, 2001) surgically removed. Lindh’s government prosecutors later claim the military “provided him the very same medical treatment provided to wounded United States military personnel.” However, as one commentator will observe: “It is difficult to believe that the United States military would delay for more than two weeks surgery to remove a bullet from a leg from one of its own soldiers or sailors.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/15/2001; World Socialist Web Site, 4/1/2002]

Entity Tags: John Walker Lindh

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

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