On July 20, 2002 American Special Forces raided a house near Khost, Afghanistan. They were acting on a tip from a source who said someone living in the house was hiding anti-tank mines to be used against US and coalition forces. They found 23 active anti-tank mines and 7 empty mine shells with the explosives removed outside the house, buried beneath three feet of dirt. Also during the raid, US forces seized Obaidullah, who was carrying a notebook containing detailed written instructions and schematics explaining how to prepare and activate command-detonated explosives.
During the raid they also found a Toyota Corolla with Taliban propaganda and dried blood in the back seat. During Obaidullah’s Habeas Corpus Case in 2010 Judge Richard Leon cited an intelligence report that said Obaidullah had been seen taking injured militants, “from the scene of an allegedly premature IED explosion,” to a hospital.
Obaidullah was held in US military prisons in Afghanistan where he admitted that about a month before his capture, Karim Bostan, who is also a prisoner at Guantanamo, convinced him to join Bostan’s Al Qaeda cell. Obaidullah said they developed plans to attack US and Coalition forces with landmines.
Obaidullah was sent to Guantanamo in October 2002. After he arrived at Guantanamo, he changed his story. He said he gave a false confession in Afghanistan because he was abused by US forces.
Obaidullah said his family went to Pakistan in 1983 due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He said they returned after the war. He said that during the war Ali Jan, a local communist commander, lived in their home. He said that Ali had left mines and explosives behind after he left. He said that he had buried the mines outside his house with his uncle.
Obaidullah said that the Taliban forced him to take explosives training in August 2001 and that he took the notes in his notebook during the two days he was there. He said he left after he realized the training was dangerous and hid from the Taliban. He also said he didn’t understand most of the notes he took. He said he was using the blank pages in the notebook for other purposes.
In September 2008 Obaidullah was charged in a military commission with conspiracy and material support for terrorism.
In Febrary 2011 Obaidullah’s military defense team sent military investigator Richard Pandis to Afghanistan to obtain evidence.
Pandis’s investigation lasted through Spring and Summer 2011 and corroborated all of Obaidullah’s claims. Pandis talked to witnesses who confirmed that Obaidullah was subjected to sleep deprivation and physically abused by soldiers in Afghanistan. American witnesses said that, “one service member was punished for having another service member photograph him as he struck Obaidullah in the head with a rifle.” The camera was destroyed by US personnel.
McClatchy reported that torture was rampant at Bagram, one of the US military prisons in Afghanistan where Obaidullah was held, during the time he was there.
A witness identified the mines buried around Obaidullah’s house as the same kind that were there when communist commander Ali Jan lived in the house during the Soviet invasion. Family members and other witnesses confirmed Obaidullah’s claim about being forced to attend military training by the Taliban and leaving after a few days. They also said Obaidullah was not connected with Al Qaeda.
But what of the blood in the car?
Pandis found that the report about Obaidullah transporting wounded militants to the hospital was the result of an inference made after the blood was discovered in the car. He had not been identified driving the injured militants. Pandis also found that Toyota Corollas are very common in that part of Afghanistan.
Pandis also learned that the Toyota Corolla was borrowed for the sole purpose of transporting Obaidullah’s wife to the hospital for the birth of his first child, a daughter. Due to having to stop at several militia checkpoints, Obaidullah’s wife gave birth in the Toyota Corolla. His daughter was born about two days before he was captured by US forces. The bloodstains were from the birth of Obaidullah’s daughter.
Why didn’t he tell this to his interrogators? Pashtun tribal customs consider it taboo to discuss childbirth.
Obaidullah has been in US custody for the entire life of his only child, his 11-year old daughter, save for a few days.
Pandis tried to find the car in order to do forensic testing. He learned that the car had been seized by US forces during the raid where Obaidullah was captured. The US military gave the car to local Afghan militias working with them. The family tried to get the car back, but failed. For several years they tried to raise the money to pay back the person they borrowed the car from. Eventually they had to sell part of the family farm to pay the lender back. Pandis was unable to find the car.
In June 2011 the charges against Obaidullah were dismissed without prejudice. He remains at Guantanamo to this day.