Once in Guantánamo, Afghan Now Leads War Against Taliban and ISIS
Hajji Ghalib, the governor of Achin District in the province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, was once imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Credit Andrew Quilty for The New York Times
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN, NYT
NOV. 27, 2015
KABUL, Afghanistan — Hajji Ghalib did just what the American military feared he would after his release from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp: He returned to the Afghan battlefield.
But rather than worrying about Mr. Ghalib, the Americans might have considered encouraging him. Lean and weather-beaten, he is now leading the fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State across a stretch of eastern Afghanistan.
His effectiveness has led to appointments as the Afghan government’s senior representative in some of the country’s most war-ravaged districts. Afghan and American officials alike describe him as a fiercely effective fighter against the insurgency, and the American military sometimes supports his men with airstrikes — although Mr. Ghalib complains that there are too few bombers and drones for his taste.
Accounts of former Guantánamo detainees who went on to fight alongside the Taliban or Islamic State have become familiar. So are those of innocents swept up in the American dragnet and dumped in the prison camp without recourse or appeal. But this is a new one: the story of a man wrongly branded an enemy combatant and imprisoned in Guantánamo for four years, only to emerge as a steadfast American ally on the battlefield.