Mohammad Kamin (ISN 1045):
- Date of birth: 1978
- Place of birth: Plasai Inzarkai village, Khost
- Detained 14 May 2003 (by unknown forces); transferred to Guantanamo 21 November 2003
- Transferred to UAE 16 August 2016
- Guantanamo Documents: Quotes from Gunatnamo documents (Assessment, Combatant Status Review Tribunal and Administrative Review Boards) can be read here.
Kamin, a 25 year old imam, and alleged al Qaeda militant, chose to stay silent during military review boards and did not try to petition for habeas corpus. This means we only have the US version of events, but it is full of holes. For example, according to his secret Joint Task Force Guantanamo Detainee Assessments (published by Wikileaks), he was reportedly detained on 3 May 2003, at a checkpoint in downtown Khost with a handheld GPS device with “stored grid points of key target locations along the Afghan/Pakistan border.” An analyst noted: “It is rare for an Afghan or a lower level individual to possess a GPS device.” Kamin reportedly said he was transporting the device for someone else, an Abdul Manan. The Assessment notes: “No further capture information is available.”
We do not know who captured Kamin – his Assessment uses the passive voice here: “…detainee was stopped… he was detained.” However, pieces of information in other documents, show he was picked up by Afghan forces and handed over to the US military. His later Administrative Review Boards in 2006 and 2007 reported that Kamin “led an Afghan Army Unit to the buried location” of rockets which were “originally intended to be used on the attack of a coalition force compound.” His defence lawyer at a military court, held years later in Guantanamo, would also reveal a little more information about his initial capture:
Captain Clay West, who acts as co-defense counsel, raised yet another thorny issue: two Afghan men who initially interrogated Kamin can not be found by the U.S. government for questioning. West suggested that these men, who were on the U.S. payroll, may have “softened up” Kamin and they ought to be questioned by investigators to determine what role any abuse may have played in subsequent statements.
The most likely Afghan force was the 25th Division of the army which, at this time, was made up of former PDPA communist soldiers. The 25th escaped the national campaign to disarm demobilise and reintegrate (DDR) militia forces because of its strong ties to US forces. It was rebranded as the ‘Khost Protection Force,’ one of the ad hoc militias known as Campaign Forces which answered to US Special Operations Forces or the CIA, rather than to an Afghan government chain of command. The Khost Protection Force has been the subject of numerous accusations of human rights abuses, including the torture of detainees (this according to the United Nations), up until the present day. (1) Kamin’s place of origin is in the Zazi Maidan district of Khost, the same district and tribe of the two senior men in 25th Division, Khail Baz and Habib Nur, pointing to possible local rivalries behind his detention.
Allegations and Evidence
In his Assessment, Kamin is accused of affiliation with a multiplicity of terrorist organisations, not all of which exist.
It is assessed detainee is a key member of the Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) and/or the Al-Qaida Network. Detainee has participated in weapons trafficking, explosives training, operational planning, and attacks against US and Coalition forces in support of the Al-Qaida network. Detainee is affiliated with Al-Qaida, the North African Extremist Network (NAEN), Taliban, and Jayshe-Mohammed (JEM) terrorist Organizations and leaders; furthermore detainee has admitted ties to the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM).
Even leaving aside the fact that neither NAEN or ACM are actual groups (although the use of acronyms gives the appearance of this), the allegation that one individual was a member of multiple, disparate organisations is perplexing (although not unusual in the files). Afghanistan is a country where membership of an organisation is almost always grounded in a solidarity grouping – tribe, ethnicity, clan or former comradeship – even more so during an insurgency where personal links are crucial for trust. Multiple membership makes no sense, either from an intelligence perspective where it is precise chains of command which form one of the prisms for understanding an enemy like Al Qaeda or the Taleban, or a legal one, where again, chains of command are fundamental for making a case that war crimes have been perpetrated. It suggests rather that the US military did not know who they had picked up or why exactly they might be dangerous and had to formulate cases against detainees, later on, to present at the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
Reading on through the detail of Kamin’s Assessment and the other Guantanamo documents, it becomes clear that the evidence for all the detail of his alleged involvement in terrorism lies almost entirely in his own statements made under interrogation. It is this which places him as having been working with al Qaeda, the Taleban, JEM, HUM, NAEN and ACM, as buying and selling weapons to and from “ACM personalities,” learning to make IEDs, looking over maps with al-Qaeda commander Abu Laith al-Libi, receiving payment for carrying out attacks and so on. The lack of any corroborating evidence aside from the alleged GPS device and his make of watch (2) make the allegations look, at best, flimsy and vague, and, at worst, fantastical.
Curiously, the minutiae of allegations made against Kamin grew while he was in Guantanamo. By 2006, the summary of his Administrative Review Board hearing (which he did not attend) has all sorts of new details about him which are so far-fetched, one wonders if he was deliberately making them up as a form of private resistance. For example: “The individual met with the Taliban Supreme Leader after the war against the Soviets…” (2007 Administrative Review Board). Kamin, at this time, was aged between 11 and 16; Mullah Omar was a village mullah in Sangisar, Kandahar, several days’ journey away through a war zone. Kamin also apparently told his interrogators that, in about March 2003, he and four others bought “eight BM-12 Russian made rockets” for five dollars each (extraordinarily cheap) and then: “… stated that he and three individuals wore women’s burqas to smuggle the rockets through a checkpoint before traveling to Landar Village.” (2007 Administrative Review Board). Each a metre-long, it is difficult to picture how a burqa could have helped conceal them.
Legal Proceedings: the Military Commission Trial
Kamin’s Military Commission trial (under the Bush era 2006 Military Commissions Act) was a slipshod affair legally, but did offer the only opportunity to hear a little of his side of the story. Forcibly extracted from his cell to attend a pre-trial hearing on 22 May 2008, as Jamil Dakwar from the American Union of Civil Liberties (AUCL) reported, he arrived in the court room with minor bruises across his face and neck, cuffed and in shackles; the judge said Kamin had tried to spit and bite one of the guards.
Throughout today’s hearing… Kamin asserted in his native language, Pashto, that he is innocent, that he has no links to al Qaeda, and that all the allegations against him are false. Kamin said at his hearing that before his arrival in Guantánamo he was held in Bagram, the notorious U.S. military air base in Afghanistan. He also said, surprisingly, that he came to Guantánamo of his own free will. He explained that he made this decision after he was told that people at Guantánamo would help him. Soon after Kamin’s arrival at Guantánamo, he realized that his situation had gone from bad to worse. He told his military lawyer that it was like moving from under the pouring rain to being placed under the gutter.
Three months earlier, Kamin had been charged:
… that between January and May of 2003, [he] provided material support to terrorism by joining the terrorist organization al Qaeda and receiving training at al Qaeda training camps on making remote detonators for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), in modifying military ammunition, and on use of small arms for attacks against American and Coalition forces.
The charge of ‘providing material support to terrorism’ always looked like an attempt to get round the fact that the US had no evidence that detainees like Kamin had actually carried out any specific criminal attack, whether harming civilians or US forces. That year and the next, pre-trial issues rumbled on amid continuing confusion as the court tried to sort out rules and procedures. On 27 October 2008, the judge gave the state more time to produce the documents, saying, “‘This is not a situation where you have a guy in pre-trial confinement or awaiting charges so he can get on with his life.’” It highlighted “the bizarre nature of the proceedings,” reported another representative from the ACLU, “in which Kamin has been detained for more than five years and can remain detained even if he were found not guilty.” A year later, at another pre-trial hearing, on 18 November 2009, the defence was still waiting for state evidence.
The prosecution, more than 1.5 years into formal legal proceedings against Kamin, recently provided an interrogation log which shows that he has been interrogated 17 times, yet summaries and/or transcripts of what was said at those meetings have only been provided to the defense for four sessions. “This is elemental stuff,” [Kamin’s defence attorney, Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard] Federico told the court. Moreover, as one observer, described it, rules were unclear so there was, “a making-it-up-as-we-go feel to these proceedings which is inevitable for a system of trials for which the Congress, courts and executive keep changing the rules.”
On 11 December 2009, the charges were dropped (without prejudice, meaning the case could be re-opened). Pentagon officials said they would re-file the charges, but never did. It is not known why the charges were dropped, or why they were not re-filed. The charge of ‘providing material support to terrorism’ would be thrown out as non-indictable in a 2012 ruling by an Appeals court which said it was not a war crime and new laws could not retrospectively punish actions not illegal at the time (Hamdan v USA)
US Plans for Kamin
The Task Force set up by President Obama in 2009 to review all the remaining detainees decided Kamin should be held indefinitely and without trial. In 2015, he became the first Afghan to go in front of the Periodic Review Board which heard the same allegations against him, of belonging to al Qaeda and other groups and of being a cell leader and explosives expert. Here though was as an acknowledgment, finally, that “[i]nformation about AF-1045’s activity before detention is derived entirely from his own statements, some of which contradict each other.” Rather than challenge the ‘facts’ of his case, however, his lawyers had taken the tactic of humanising Kamin, emphasising his weakness and absence of threat and the support he had received from family, Afghan politicians and US military officers. The strategy worked.
… the Board appreciated the detainee’s high degree of candor regarding his past activities and acknowledgement of mistakes that led to his detention. The Board noted that the detainee has been one of the more compliant detainees at Guantanamo and there is an absence of evidence that the detainee has expressed extremist views while in the camps. The Board also considered the presence of family and tribal support available to the detainee upon transfer, the detainee’s strong desire to return to his family, the absence of information that the detainee harbors anti-American sentiments, and found him credible in his desire to pursue non-extremist goals.
Kamin is a man who, in the words of one of his defence attorneys, “almost no one in the western world has ever heard of.” Yet, he spent more than a third of his life in US incarceration. According to one of his other lawyers, he desires nothing more than to “return to life with his extended family, his elderly father, and wife and young son in Afghanistan.” He hopes, she said, to become a grocer.
(1) In its 2015 report into the torture of conflict-related detainees, UNAMA said it “found that five detainees who had been arrested by the Khost Protection Forces (KPF) together with international military forces and detained at the US military base in Khost (CIA Base Camp Chapman) were subjected to ill-treatment by the US-created and funded local security force.” The group is still operating under CIA command, reported The Washington Post, “The highly secretive paramilitary unit has been implicated in civilian killings, torture, questionable detentions, arbitrary arrests and use of excessive force in controversial night raids, abuses that have mostly not been previously disclosed.” See also this New York Times report.
(2) The final piece of evidence against Kamin was the make of his watch, a Casio F_91, which said his Administrative Review Board in 2007, “has been used in bombings that have been linked to al Qaida and radical Islamic terrorist improvised explosive devices. This model of watch has been cited as evidence in the cases of more than fifty of the Guantanamo detainees, as it can be used as a timer in bomb-making. It is also a global bestseller, a cheap watch owned by millions. (See this BBC report, for more detail.)
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020