US deports Guantanamo prisoner back to Afghanistan after court ruled he was illegally detained

The prisoner, Asadullah Haroon Gul, also known as Haroon al-Afghani, was born in Afghanistan and has been lodged in Guantanamo prison since 2007.

“The DoD, backed by other parts of the US government, relocated him out of Guantanamo Bay to facilitate his repatriation to his country of origin, Afghanistan,” the administration official said. “He took a US plane to Doha and then we worked with the Taliban and the Qatari government to facilitate his transfer to Kabul.”

The transfer comes even as the Taliban leadership in the country has barred girls above the sixth grade from going to school, and the country is facing an economic and food crisis that is expected to kill thousands.

The official said US diplomats working in the US Office for Afghan Affairs in Doha held talks with Taliban officials on the topic – which they considered an area of ​​mutual interest – to work out the logistics of how to do this. To find out, the officer explained. The official said there was no need for any high-level contact with the Taliban.

at the end of last year, a federal judge ruled that Gul’s detention was unlawful and the Periodic Review Board, a panel of officials from various US national security agencies, also approved her transfer. Those two decisions prompted the Biden administration to begin work on bringing Gul back.

Gul, an Afghan national who grew up in a refugee camp in Shamshato, Pakistan, was accused of being a member of an extremist group called Hizb-e-Islami/Gulbuddin, then known as HIG. was. Since then it is known as Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA). The HIA was considered by the US government to be an “affiliated force” of al Qaeda.

Gul admitted that he was a member of the HIA at the time, now known as the HIA, but his defense lawyers argued that the group entered into a peace treaty with the Afghan government in 2016.

Gul has been detained in Guantanamo since June 2007.

A source familiar with the matter said, “A court decided that we need to relocate this person elsewhere and the most viable option, the most realistic option is usually going to be repatriation and here it seems that repatriation is proven. Maybe.” ,

Certain factors played a role in the administration’s efforts to bring Gul back to Afghanistan, while the Taliban are currently in control of the country. One of those factors: There are no American service members in Afghanistan even after the US withdrew from the country last fall.

The US official said the Taliban also assured the US government that Gul would not pose a threat to the American homeland or to American allies.

“We talked about how important it is that this person is not a threat to the US or our allies. We got the assurance back,” the official said.

Gul’s transfer to Afghanistan comes as tensions between the US and the Taliban remain high over Mark Frerichs, a veteran and contractor who was kidnapped in Kabul in late January 2020, believed to be by the Haqqani network. is held, which is a close ally. of Taliban.

The official explained, “We also have to find a way to bring Mark home. We’re working diligently on that. We hope there’s good news to bring him home in the coming weeks.”

The Periodic Review Board, which previously determined that Gul should be cleared to leave, is a government entity created during the Obama administration to determine whether prison inmates were convicted. Biden continues to rely on the administration board to decide which prisoners should be sent home.

With Gul’s transfer, 36 detainees have been jailed while over a dozen have been cleared for transfer.

“They will make constant efforts to do what comes after those recommendations, which is to contact those countries, whether their countries of origin or where this is not possible or available or advised to other countries and mutually Let us seek satisfactory repatriation or transfer arrangements,” said a source familiar with the matter.

CNN’s Eli Kaufman contributed to this report.